How Interstate Traffic Jams are affecting the Trucking Industry’s Bottom Lines

If there are no Trucks, America will come to a standstill!
A single truck going down an Interstate Highway might not seem that big of a deal to many of us, but collectively, these very trucks move around 70% of the total freight tonnage across the United States. That means that every seven tons of goods out of ten came to you by a truck that drove miles to get there. Everything from Gasoline to Bread and from Fish to Branded T-shirts are moved by trucks, showing the immense flexibility that they provide over other modes of transportation.

The truck will deliver that consignment of beer just outside a Wall Mart Center in Washington or New Jersey, from there it can be jettisoned almost instantaneously to take a load of gasoline to a gas station in the middle of nowhere in Idaho or California. The Truck literally takes the goods to wherever they are required and this is their primary USP, making it the most overwhelmingly preferred goods transportation mode by manufacturers, retailers, and suppliers nationwide.

But Do all of those goods get there on time?

No, they don’t. They could reach there a lot faster.

How? Quite Simple. If only we could reduce Traffic Jams on the Interstate System.

According to the latest study by the American Transportation Research Institute, Traffic Congestion caused a whopping $63.4 billion in additional industry operational costs in 2015.

And the costs are not the biggest problem, the more crucial problem is the time lost in handling those traffic jams by the trucking industry.

This huge increase in cost signals a spectacularly large amount of delays that, if avoided, would have allowed goods of all types to reach their consumers faster and allowed the trucking industry to clock more miles and fill more orders than was possible with this persistent problem.

There are only 365 days in a year and any unnecessary delays will definitely eat up valuable time, making it hard for trucking companies to increase their profits through growth. Growth can only be certain if there is room to grow more and in the case of the trucking industry, traffic congestion problems have made the accessibility to that room to grow, a lot lesser, with each passing year.

When a trucking company wants to grow, it does two things. Firstly, it starts looking for more orders and secondly, it starts to include more trucks to its fleet and add more drivers. Traffic congestion affects the viability of both of these immensely crucial growth factors.

If goods reach faster, they are consumed faster, hence more orders can flow, but if there are already delays amounting to a crippling 996 million hours (2015 figures by the ATRI Report), due to traffic congestion, the trucking firms will not indulge in generating more costs through the delays caused by extra orders. Those lost hours are equivalent to 362,243 commercial drivers sitting idle, all year round. And Surprisingly, the over talked and over discussed, truck driver shortage amounts to just 100,000 drivers missing in 2017. If the current traffic congestion problem is even halved, we could not just send the truck driver shortage problem into oblivion but we could even get out extra driving hours amounting to 81,000 more truck drivers working for the entire year, and that too from the existing driver pool. Profitability could sky rocket and business could boom like never before and the price of goods could be reduced substantially across the industries. The opportunities to be realized are endless.

What options are available to end the problem?

From Phantom Jams to Cascading Failure Jams, the Problem finds itself related to Saturation!

Traffic Congestion’s basic reason is quite easy to understand – A higher volume of traffic on a space that has lesser available capacity to deal with the amount of traffic coming its way.

Every truck and car can move along as fast as their operational speed capacity can bear or how much the street speed limit allows and everyone wants to move. The latter part is where most of the problem is caused and where the answer must lie.

When everyone with an able truck or an able car wants to move, and that too all at once, there is no room left to move. For e.g. consider a single km stretch of a 3-lane highway and there are only 6 meters long each. The number of dump trucks on each lane is 200, which means they will occupy space of 1400 meters in a single lane, which includes the 1200 meters of collective length of the trucks and a 1m safety buffer between each. The single km stretch only has 1000 meters, which means that there is an additional 200m left for the road to manage. And it’s this extra amount of length that is not possible which cause traffic jams and congestions.

The only plausible solution, which can be offered is to upgrade the infrastructure across the entire Interstate Highway system. But the costs involved are too huge to make the commencement of the project a reality. The country’s surface transportation could require an investment to the tune of $1.7 trillion, to keep it going, according to one figure estimate by The American Society of Civil Engineers

The Administration has definitely shown signs of planning to go with the overhaul process and just last month, President Donald Trump unveiled a $1trillion plan to “Rebuild America” at Cincinnati, Ohio. But he has promised just $200 billion on part of the Federal Government’s part and has asked private sector investors and state administrations to come up with the rest of the amount. Trucking firms are the ones who will be hit the hardest, whether the decision goes as planned or does not make progress. The losses of traffic congestion to the trucking sector were approximately $63.4 billion in 2015, is only a part of how much every sector, whose goods are required to be transported by truck, loses out in terms of additional costs and the dent to each consumer’s purchasing power due to the price trickle down from manufacturing and trucking industries.

Traffic jams are definitely affecting the bottom lines of the trucking industry by bloating up the unnecessary costs exponentially and the problem seems to be persistent unless there is a an attempt by the Federal Government, Individual States and Private Investors combined, to revamp the whole system and ensure that economic growth is powered forward with a huge uplift.

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