U.S. trucking companies incurred a record-high $94.6 billion in congestion costs in 2021, a 22.4% increase from 2020, according to a new report by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI). Four states saw especially steep congestion cost hikes compared to 2016. The rising costs highlight the need for further infrastructure investments to improve road capacity and traffic flow.
Rising Costs Outpace Inflation
ATRI’s congestion cost analysis incorporates truck volumes, average highway speeds, and hourly truck operating costs. From 2016 to 2021, congestion costs grew 27% for trucking, more than double the 12.9% Consumer Price Index inflation rate over the same period. Key factors were escalating diesel prices, higher industry costs, increased truck volumes, and congested roads in 2021.
Four States See the Biggest Increases
While congestion exacted a high toll nationwide, Nevada, Louisiana, Georgia, and California experienced the steepest percent increases in costs since 2016, at 117.2%, 83.3%, 81.3%, and 77.9% respectively. Conversely, Alaska, Wyoming, and Hawaii saw substantial decreases over the five-year period.
High Costs Concentrated in Major Hubs
The country’s four most populous states – California, Texas, Florida, and New York – unsurprisingly recorded the highest total congestion costs in 2021, ranging from $4.9 billion in New York to $9 billion in California. However, congestion costs were relatively low in less densely populated states like Alaska ($62 million).
Impact on the Industry’s Bottom Line
Spread across all U.S. registered tractor-trailers, congestion costs averaged $6,824 per truck in 2021. This equals approximately 3% of average annual per-truck revenue in the truckload sector, highlighting congestion’s toll on the industry’s bottom line.
Infrastructure Funding – A Cause for Optimism
ATRI plans to update its congestion study annually to inform infrastructure investment decisions. While federal fuel taxes have remained unchanged since 1993, the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provides over $350 billion in dedicated transportation spending. With over $74 billion in projects already approved in the first two years, the bill presents opportunities to improve traffic flow and reduce trucking’s congestion costs through strategic capacity expansions.
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