Trucks at Work

Bigger cities, more urban freight

The U.S. Census Bureau delivered an interesting report last week before the holiday break; a report that, by inference, indicates urban freight demand is only going to keep increasing as the number of American cities with populations exceeding the one million mark continues to grow.

New York City remains the nation's most populous urban locale at just over 8.49 million residents, up by 52,700 people as of July 1, 2014, the time period for which the agency has the most recent data.

[As a side note, one filmmaker predicated one of his campiest films on the premise that NYC would be a gigantic maximum security prison by 1997. Let’s hope THAT particularly grim vision never comes to pass!]

San Jose, CA, by the way is now among the 10 U.S. cities with a population of one million or more, according to estimates by the Census Bureau at just over 1.015 million residents.

Here are a few other interesting tidbits from the agency’s “most populous U.S. cities” report:

  • California now has three cities with 1 million or more people (Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose) tying Texas (Houston, San Antonio and Dallas) for the lead among states.
  • Half of the 10 cities with the largest population gains between 2013 and 2014 were in Texas — Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Fort Worth. Each added more than 18,000 people. The Lone Star State also had six of the top 13 fastest-growing cities by percentage — San Marcos, Georgetown, Frisco, Conroe, McKinney and New Braunfels (which is home base for mega truck dealer Rush Enterprises by the way).
  • San Marcos, situated in Texas between Austin and San Antonio, was the fastest-growing city for the third consecutive year, with its population climbing 7.9% between 2013 and 2014 to reach 58,892.
  • The West is home to eight cities among the top 15 fastest-growing cities with a population of 50,000 or more, with four in California. Each of the 15 fastest-growing cities between 2013 and 2014 were in the South or West, as were all but two of top 15 numerical gainers.
  • The lone exception – aside from NYC – is Columbus, OH, which gained 12,421 people over the period to make it the nation's 13th largest numerical gainer. Ohio's capital is the nation's 15th most populous city in 2014, with 835,957 residents.
  • The only change in the rank order of the 15 most populous cities between 2013 and 2014 regards Jacksonville, FL, and San Francisco; each moving up one spot to 12th and 13th place, respectively, passing Indianapolis, which fell from 12th to 14th.
  • For the first time since Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, New Orleans (384,320) returns to the list of the 50 most-populous cities this year, with Arlington, TX, dropping off the list.
  • Irvine is one of four California cities among the 15 largest numerical gainers (Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose were the others). It’s also the only city in the U.S. to be among both the 15 largest numerical gainers and the 15 fastest growing. The Orange County municipality grew by 11,420 people, or 4.8%, over the period to reach a population of 248,531 in 2014.
  • Four areas crossed the 50,000-population mark for the first time since the 2010 Census; all of them were in the West. In alphabetical order by state, these areas were: Cerritos, CA (50,004), Commerce City, CO (51,762), Caldwell, ID (50,224) and Burien, WA (50,188). One area in the Midwest dropped below the 50,000 mark this year: Saginaw, MI (49,844).
  • Among the 50 largest places in the country, three moved more than one position on the total population ranking list since 2013. In addition to Indianapolis, Memphis, TN, (656,861 in 2014) fell three positions, putting it in 23rd place; and Louisville, KY (612,780) dropped two positions to 30th.
  • Of the 19,509 incorporated places in the U.S., around 76% (14,819) had fewer than 5,000 people in 2014. Only about 3.8% (749) had populations of 50,000 or more.

One reason such statistics are important is that such vast groupings of people means transportation and freight requirements increase significantly – a trend related to the global growth of “megacities” touched on in this space before.

Larger numbers of million-plus cities will also change what kinds of trucks will be needed to serve their freight needs.

Indeed, Frost & Sullivan’s Sandeep Kar noted in a report five years ago that medium-duty hybrids might be the ideal truck to serve such dense urban locales in the future.

[Or perhaps a fake Ferrari like the one driven by Ferris Bueller through the streets of Chicago.]

[And for those of you wondering … that car is a replica based off the 1961 Ferrari 250GT hand-built by Neil Glassmoyer of Modena Design and Development for the film. Plus, the song you hear in the background is “Beat City” by The Flowerpot Men.]

In sum, freight demand is not only poised to keep on growing in the U.S., it’s poised to perhaps grow most acutely in dense urban centers; trends that may change what kinds of trucks motor carriers will need to carry all of the goods folks living in such large cities will need on a daily basis.

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