Phil Friedman's picture

Feb 24, 2017


Philip Friedman

Product Manager


You don’t have to just be a driver to be driven a bit mad by the persistent, seemingly incurable traffic jams around the nation. These gummed up roads affect everyone from dispatchers to managers.

But try being one of the trucking industry’s CFOs, or even CEOs, who work every day with this number: $50 billion.

That’s how much money the industry loses each year because trucks get stuck, frequently and for long periods, in just the 100 worst locations in the nation for traffic jams. 

That dollar amount comes from a recent study by the American Trucking Research Institute, and it’s actually $49.6 billion. But what’s $400 million out of such a large total? Besides, if you were to throw in losses from traffic jams in locations outside the Top 100, the total loss likely would zoom past $50 billion annually.

The ATRI’s study concluded that all that money lost as a result of trucks being stuck in the Top 100 traffic jam locations each year equals about 728 million lost hours of industry productivity. It’s also the same as taking 264,500 truck drivers off the road for a full year.

Not surprisingly, those areas with the largest and/or the most choke points tend to be around the nation’s biggest cities, like: New York, Boston, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. But almost every major market, and some second-tier markets, has choke points that landed on the Top 100. 

Sadly, there’s nothing much new about the situation. As much as the industry – and ordinary motorists – complain to political leaders about highway infrastructure shortcomings and the slow pace of road construction and expansion around the nation, the situation is not likely to change very rapidly. 

Divert around the traffic jams with technology

So, since jams will continue to be irksome and expensive facts of life for trucking companies, the key question will continue to be “How do we avoid them, or minimize their impact on our operation?”

While we’re tempted to say that modern trucking technology can solve the problem entirely, that would be an over-statement.  Technology can, however, greatly reduce the time that trucks–and their long-suffering drivers–have to waste in big traffic jams.  This will go a long way toward addressing that $49.6 billion cost suffered by the industry today.

Obviously, a simple GPS-driven mapping program like Google Maps can alert drivers to slowdowns, full-on traffic jams and big construction zones up ahead, giving clever drivers an opportunity to look for a way around the obstruction. But that’s not a very sure or efficient way of operating a truck with tens of thousands of dollars of time-sensitive goods onboard.

Plan for the traffic jams with better technology

These drivers and their managers need smarter technology to help them plan their routes in ways that will take them around or through common traffic jam locations as quickly as possible. Indeed, sometimes drivers learn the hard way that driving around traffic jams actually costs them more time than patiently working their way through such backups. Technology like our Roadnet suite of solutions has the ability to consider a wide range of factors to help drivers, dispatchers and managers make the most optimum routing decisions.

Are their viable alternative routes around major choke points? Are those alternative routes free-flowing or clogged with passenger cars, stop lights and lower speed limits? Do they take drivers so far out of the way that it would be quicker to just wade through the jam? 

And are their more efficient ways to build a truck’s delivery route that will naturally take it through common choke points on the highways at times when traffic is the lightest? Can the truck leave several hours earlier or several hours later to improve door-to-door times and reduce the cost of operating that route? 

Many of the advantages of using such technology are obvious: reduce fuel burn, reduce driver time wasted (and driver frustration and dissatisfaction), improve customer service in terms on-time delivery, and reduce maintenance costs on items like brakes, fuel systems and transmissions. Spending less time in traffic jams should also reduce the number of instances in which trucks get caught up in minor fender-benders, reducing both the repair and insurance costs tied to such events.

Less obvious are the capital cost savings and/or potential revenue gains. By reducing time lost in traffic jams, companies can choose to invest in fewer trucks and trailers, or they can deploy that equipment to haul more freight for existing or new customers. 

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