Traffic congestion on U.S. highways added $94.6 billion in costs to the trucking industry in 2021 according to the latest Cost of Congestion study published by the American Transportation Research Institute.
ATRI said it utilized a variety of data sources including its unique truck GPS database to calculate trucking delay impacts from 2017 through 2021 on major U.S. roadways.
While year-over-year congestion costs decreased in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, they rose sharply in 2021 with a total of 1.27 billion hours of lost productivity.
This increase in costs reflects the dramatic post-Covid economic recovery, with high GDP growth and freight demand borne from record levels of consumer spending.
This level of delay equates to more than 460,000 commercial truck drivers sitting idle for one work year, and the 2021 figure represents a 27% increase from the report’s baseline year of 2016 – an increase that is twice the rate of inflation.
Costs by State
In addition to the national findings, ATRI’s analysis also documented state and metropolitan delays and related cost impacts.
The top 10 states each experienced costs of more than $3 billion. Those states are:
- California — $9 billion
- Texas — $7.26 billion
- Florida — $7.16 billion
- New York — $4.91 billion
- Louisianna — $4.21 billion
- Georgia — $4.02 billion
- New Jersey — $3.83 billion
- Illinois — $3.37 billion
- Pennsylvania — $3.26 billion
- Tennessee — $3.15 billion
These 10 states combined ultimately account for more than half, 53%, of trucking’s congestion costs nationwide.
Nevada saw the largest percentage increase in truck congestion costs, rising from $293 million in 2016 to $636 million in 2021, an increase of 117.2%. Louisiana had the second-largest increase, growing from $2.3 billion to $4.21 billion. Georgia, which ranked sixth overall, increased from $2.21 billion to $4.02 billion.
The New York City metropolitan area ranked highest for cities in terms of truck congestion costs, with costs approaching $5.5 billion annually. The top 10 metropolitan areas by total cost of congestion are:
- New York City Metro — $5.49 billion
- Miami Metro — $2.61 billion
- Chicago Metro — $2.57 billion
- Philadelphia Metro — $2.1 billion
- Los Angeles Metro — $1.8 billion
- Dallas Metro — $1.79 million
- Houston Metro — $1.63 billion
- Washington DC Metro — $1.61 billion
- Nashville Metro — $1.44 billion
- Atlanta Metro — $1.39 billion
Miami, Dallas, Houston, and Nashville all moved up one spot, the Washington D.C. metro fell two spots, and Chicago and Atlanta each fell one spot. New York, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles saw no change.
The report also documents transportation investment by states through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which could provide as much as $350 billion in funding to address congestion.
"Over the last several years, our industry has experienced some of the most dramatic increases in operating costs, including fuel, labor and equipment,” said Michael Lasko, vice president of EHS and Quality at Boyle Transportation. “Imagine how those costs are magnified by sitting still in traffic. We all should keep in mind that those costs are passed down directly to consumers resulting in higher prices for goods and services throughout the economy. Hopefully we can leverage the new infrastructure spending to get our supply chains moving again.”
ATRI’s analysis also found that the trucking industry wasted over 6.7 billion gallons of diesel fuel in 2021 due to congestion, resulting in more than $22.3 billion in additional fuel costs.
A copy of the full report is available on ATRI’s website here.