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Congested traffic adds $95 billion to trucking industry costs

ATRI releases the results of its Cost of Congestion study for 2021

Posted October 27, 2023

U.S. roadway traffic delays cost the trucking industry $94.6 billion in 2021 — the highest costs historically recorded by the American Transportation Research Institute’s (ATRI) Cost of Congestion study.

The increased congestion resulted in a total of 1.27 billion hours of lost productivity between 2020 and 2021, which equates to:

  • Over 460,000 idle commercial truck drivers (over the span of one work year),
  • Over 6.7 billion gallons of wasted diesel fuel,
  • Over $22.3 billion in fuel costs, and
  • A 27 percent overall cost increase that is twice the rate of inflation.

ATRI, a non-profit trucking research organization, also analyzed the cost impacts of state and metropolitan traffic delays, which resulted in billions of dollars of trucking congestion expenses. The costs of the top 10 states exceed $3 billion per state, which accounts for about 53 percent of total nationwide trucking costs. California ranked as the top highest state at $9 billion and New York City ranked as the top highest metropolitan area at $5.5 billion annually.

These increased trucking industry costs come in the form of operations, fuel, labor, and equipment expenses, which rose dramatically in response to the post-COVID recovery of 2021. Each of these costs increase when drivers are stuck sitting in high-congestion traffic, which are then passed down to consumers for goods and services.

ATRI used its own truck GPS database and other data sources to calculate the impacts of trucking delays between 2017 and 2021, using 2016 as a baseline year. The sharp 2021 increase is a direct result of post-COVID recovery efforts that led to higher levels of consumer spending, freight demand, and high GDP growth.

ATRI also reports that state funding to address congestion could bring in as much as $350 billion from state transportation investment through the Infrastructure Investment and Job Act (IIJA).

This article was written by Lucero Truszkowski of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

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