Last month, New York City Dept. of Transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan announced that a four-month pilot program conducted with trucking industry partners found that trucks making off-hours deliveries experience fewer delays, easier parking, reduced congestion, and significant savings for the 33 participating delivery companies and receiving businesses. Now this would surely come to most of you as no surprise whatsoever.
Still, it did deliver some hard numbers that helped to draw new attention to the potential benefits of off-hours trucking. The program found, for example, that receiving businesses “overwhelmingly” supported the benefits of the program, which included travel speeds improved by as much as 75% and a sharp reduction in parking fines, that had apparently been exceeding $1,000 per truck previously. Several participants have continued to make off-hours deliveries after the test period ended and DOT is now hoping to develop ways to build upon the pilot.
New York City is not the only place where off-hours trucking is either being considered or is in full swing. When the sun goes down over the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, the OffPeak program initiated by PierPASS goes to work to reduce daytime traffic congestion, help clean up air pollution, and improve throughput at the nation's busiest marine terminals.
The timing is certainly right to be looking for ways to increase throughput on the transportation infrastructure that already exists. The American Transportation Research Institute and the Federal Highway Administration released the findings of their 2009 “Bottleneck Analysis of 100 Freight Significant Locations” this spring. It is easy to tell from the title alone where future freight movement is headed — nowhere very fast anymore.
The American Assn. of State Highway and Transportation Officials also released its own report this July called “Unlocking Freight,” an analysis of the country's freight system. “Our highways, railroads, ports, waterways and airports require investments well beyond current levels to maintain, much less improve, their performance,” the report notes.
Therein lies the rub. Desperately cash-strapped states and the post-stimulus federal government are turning over the sofa cushions looking for spare change these days to keep existing programs running — not exactly a propitious time for gigantic new infrastructure development projects.
So how on earth will trucking manage to keep freight moving in the next decade when there will be an additional 1.8 million trucks on the road, not to mention millions more passenger vehicles? More off-hours trucking may at least help. It might also be an opportunity for companies hoping to gain a competitive edge.
Private and for-hire fleets willing and able to work with their customers to develop delivery schedules that take advantage of the off-peak hours may be able to bring considerable benefits to everyone in terms of reduced time and cost. Of course, that is while there are still such things as “off-hours.”
Wendy Leavitt is Fleet Owner' s director of editorial development. She can be reached at [email protected]