Traffic congestion increased in 2002 over the previous year, according to the Texas Transportation Institute’s 2004 Urban Mobility Report, released today.
The report, which takes a slice of data from 85 urban areas to represent national trends, reported incremental year-over-year increases in congestion as well as dramatic data indicating that the traffic conditions have worsened nearly three-fold compared with 20 years ago.
In peak periods in 2002 travel time was 37% longer than in free-flow conditions, compared with 36% in 2001. Congestion comprised 7.1 hours of the day in 2002, which was the same as the previous year.
By comparison, in 1982 in peak periods travel time was 12% longer than free-flow conditions and congestion comprised 4.5 hours of the day.
In response to the report’s pending release, yesterday the DOT underscored its efforts to cut congestion. See DOT Touts Highway Relief Campaign
Chris Brady, president of Commercial Motor Vehicle Consulting, told Fleet Owner that congestion has a dampening effect on productivity for the trucking industry. This impacts two factors: economics and the environment, Brady said.
“The concern with traffic is that it dampens productivity— if it’s taking longer for a carrier to haul from point A to B, then that means the carrier will have to increase rates,” he explained. “That truck would be generating less revenue as compared to twenty years ago.”
In a fast-paced, on-demand industry, carriers simply drive up costs to offset productivity losses. “That implies you have to put more trucks on the road to haul the same amount of freight,” Brady said— which leads to more pollution.
Although the report didn’t draw any specific conclusions on the relationship between congestion and pollution, it did estimate that in 2002, vehicles wasted 5.7-billion gallons of fuel in stop-and-go traffic.
Although commuters on their “9-to-5” may reminisce about the ‘80s when there were fewer vehicles on the roads, carriers may not be doing the same, as higher rates and more trucks on the roads have overcome the inefficiencies of congestion.
“The “good ‘ol days” of trucking was when it was regulated back in the ‘70s,” Brady said. “It was like the way the airlines ran when they were regulated— the government gave you certain routes and other routes were assigned to someone else. That’s the same way trucking was. You didn’t have to be a savvy businessperson to make it through— competition wasn’t fierce and you were ensured a nice profit.”