Where are the worst freight bottlenecks in the U.S.?

Feb. 24, 2021
ATRI's annual Top Truck Bottleneck List measures how intense freight congestion is in more than 300 locations on the U.S. highway system. The list is based on GPS data gathered from more than one million trucks in 2020.

Even COVID-19 couldn’t make hauling freight into Manhattan much less of a headache. For the third straight year, the eastbound entrance to the George Washington Bridge, which connects Fort Lee, N.J., to New York City, was ranked the top freight bottleneck in the U.S. by the American Transportation Research Institute.

Trucks were able to travel at greater speeds for much of 2020, the data shows. But other factors such as road construction and the reopening of local economies in the second half of the year the pandemic-plagued year still meant that freight wasn’t immune to congestion in major metro areas.

The annual list, which debuted in 2002, highlights the most congested trucking bottlenecks in America based on GPS data from more than one million freight trucks. The 2021 Top Truck Bottleneck List measures the level of truck-involved congestion at more than 300 locations on the U.S. highway system.

“While everyone else sheltered in place in 2020, trucks kept rolling, delivering essential goods to communities large and small,” said Hugh Ekberg, president and CEO of CRST International. “Unfortunately, congestion continues to impact our operations and affect our drivers’ ability to deliver for America.” 

While the average truck speed at some of the worst U.S. bottlenecks improved in the spring, according to ATRI, other freight was slowed back down by roadway construction that increased during the economic shutdowns of the pandemic. ATRI found that once the economic shutdowns eased in the second half of 2020, traffic levels increased and those construction projects led to even more congestion. 

In 2020, the average truck speed during peak hours was 43 mph, which is a 33.9% increase over the 2019 speeds recorded by ATRI. A quarter of the Top 100 freight bottlenecks saw average truck speeds slower than 45 mph, the non-profit reports. 

The George Washington Bridge entrance is one of 10 clogged roadways in the New York tri-state area that made ATRI’s Top 100 worst freight bottlenecks — the most for any metro area in the country. 

The Top 100 features bottlenecks in 29 states, matching up with major north-south and east-west freight corridors such as I-95 on the East Coast, I-5 on the West Coast, and I-75 in the Midwest and South. With 12 spots on the Top 100 list, Texas has the most freight bottlenecks of any state. Eight of those are in Houston and three are in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. 

California and Washington each have eight freight bottlenecks appearing in the Top 100. Connecticut, Georgia and Pennsylvania each have seven; New York and Tennessee each have six. 

Based on 2020 truck GPS data from more than one million freight trucks, the ATRI analysis uses several customized software applications and analysis methods, along with terabytes of data from trucking operations, to produce a congestion impact ranking for each location. ATRI’s truck GPS data is also used to support the U.S. DOT’s Freight Mobility Initiative. The bottleneck locations detailed in this latest ATRI list represent the top 100 congested locations, although ATRI continuously monitors more than 300 freight-critical areas.

ATRI’s data showed that while there were COVID-related impacts on traffic across the country as car drivers stayed at home, the year was not without severe congestion. Average truck speeds at a quarter of the bottlenecks on ATRI’s list were 45 MPH or less, reflecting both a return to pre-pandemic freight demand throughout the year and the impact of numerous roadway construction projects in 2020.

“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,” said American Trucking Associations’ president and CEO Chris Spear. “ATRI’s bottleneck report highlights where our most critical issues are and should be a guide for policymakers at the state and federal level. The cost of doing nothing is always higher than the cost of fixing these problems and we cannot wait any longer to address this mounting crisis.”

To check out the 10 worst freight bottlenecks in the U.S. (along with stats such as average speeds for trucks and comparisons to 2019’s numbers) click on the Start Slideshow button below.

About the Author

FleetOwner Staff

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