Omnitracs' Road Ahead blog

Inside ATRI's 'Top 100 Truck Bottlenecks' analysis — plus insights for your business

Michael Ahart
Michael Ahart
Vice President of Regulatory Affairs

As the trucks kept moving goods during the pandemic, traffic congestion continued to slow down deliveries of those much-needed consumer and manufacturing goods.

On February 24, the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) released its highly anticipated analysis, the Top 100 Truck Bottlenecks - 2021 report. For nearly 20 years, ATRI has collected and processed truck GPS data from over one million freight trucks. It converts this data into digestible data to measure the impact of traffic congestion on freight. With these datasets, policymakers, freight organizations, and stakeholders can advocate for and decide where infrastructure investments should be made on our nation's highways.

Defining bottlenecks

As defined by the U.S. Department of Transportation, bottlenecks are specific physical locations on highways and interstates that routinely experience recurring congestion and traffic backups because traffic volumes exceed highway capacity. Importantly, these roadways' conditions — with ample construction and lower-quality infrastructure — contribute to the bottleneck definition.

Truck bottlenecks are areas experiencing a high amount of freight volume. On a federal level, truck bottlenecks can threaten our transportation system's efficient movement, disrupt commerce, and jeopardize public safety.  

ATRI's report breakdown

For the third consecutive year, I-95 and SR 4 in Fort Lee, New Jersey, is the number one truck bottleneck in the U.S.

Here are the top ten, in order of ranking:

  1. Fort Lee: I-95 and SR4
  2. Cincinnati: I-71 at I-75
  3. Atlanta: I-285 at I-85 (North)
  4. Atlanta: I-20 at I-285 (West)
  5. Houston: I-45 at I-69/US 59
  6. Chicago: I-290 at I-90/I-94
  7. Chattanooga, Tennessee: I-75 at I-24
  8. St. Louis: I-64/I-55 at I-44
  9. Rye, New York: I-95 at I-287
  10. San Bernardino, California: I-10 at I-15

You can find the full list here. Other close contenders include highways and interstates in Dallas, Los Angeles, Nashville, and Denver.

Most interestingly, this data was compiled throughout 2020. As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic drastically impacted many of our day-to-day lives — but trucks kept moving. The pandemic affected traffic, with some car drivers remaining at home, but severe congestion remained a reality. At a fourth of the bottleneck areas, trucks were moving at speeds of 45 MPH or under.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) emphasized the severity of this study, with ATA President and CEO Chris Spear saying, "For decades, ATA has been sounding the alarm about how the condition of our highways is contributing to congestion — which slows down commerce, contributes to pollution, and reduces safety." Spear then reaffirmed the need to invest in our nation's highways to address these issues on the state and federal levels.

Protect your drivers and keep your operation flowing smoothly

While you may not be able to fix the nation's roadways instantly, you can take concrete actions for your operation that keep drivers safe and your freight loads moving safely and steadily.

Freight leaders increasingly understand the significance of accurate navigation built for commercial motor vehicles. Unlike standard GPS technology, enhanced navigation for freight takes bridge heights, road weight limits, and biohazard restrictions based on individual vehicle type into account. Drivers can see turn-by-turn instructions on their route, remain on the most convenient roads, and rest easy knowing they're on the safest and most convenient route, while avoiding as many unnecessary bottleneck areas as possible.

In instances that drivers find themselves in bottlenecks, you can still prioritize driver and customer satisfaction. With optimal dispatching, drivers can easily stay in contact with dispatchers, providing and receiving real-time updates. This way, drivers and dispatchers remain aware of obstacles like bottlenecks, so highway congestion and route delays feel less like disastrous surprises and more like minor inconveniences. Additionally, you can utilize proactive alerts to help customers remain aware of their delivery ETAs and unplanned delays. While hurdles to their receiving schedules may not be enjoyable, many customers are appreciative of enhanced visibility.

ATRI's report and research efforts contribute to a clear shift in federal and public thinking, where streamlined freight transportation is becoming more gradually linked with market value, safety, and overall convenience for all drivers. With the right fleet management solutions by your side, you can help drivers drive smarter — not harder.

Read ATRI's full report and find other beneficial resources here.