Study: Bottlenecks cause nearly '75,000 years' of freight delays annually

Bottlenecks cost the U.S. economy more than $42 billion in 2019, according to a review of Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) data, and freight shipments suffered almost 660 million hours of delay on the nation's roadways.

"Our examination brings into sharp focus the continued costs of congestion on America's highway network," American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) Chief Economist Dr. Alison Premo Black said of the agency's recent study, Throttled: The Economic Costs of Freight Bottlenecks. "Legislation to address freight mobility through increased federal transportation investment would help alleviate these bottlenecks, increase business productivity, and power the economy for the next generation."

"Highway freight shipments collectively experienced over 27 million days of delay in 2019 – the equivalent of nearly 75,000 years – with over one-third of the lost time occurring on the Interstates." Dr. Alison Premo Black, American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) Chief Economist

Unsurprisingly, the study found New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Austin, Houston, Nashville, San Francisco, Seattle, Philadelphia, and Atlanta are among cities hardest hit by freight bottlenecks.

"Highway freight shipments collectively experienced over 27 million days of delay in 2019 – the equivalent of nearly 75,000 years – with over one-third of the lost time occurring on the Interstates," Black noted in the report. 

It was also the top spot ranked by FHWA for hours of delay per mile, logging 263,116 hours at a cost of $76 million. The intersection of I-95 and State Route 4 near the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, New Jersey, was the worst freight bottleneck in the country last year for the second year in a row, according to data compiled by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI). The average truck speed at the G.W. Bridge interchange is 29.7 miles per hour, according to ARTI's report released earlier this year, with an average truck speed during rush hour of 22.4 miles per hour. 

The cost of congestion on the Interstate Highway System alone has grown 25% over the last two years – from $12 billion in 2017 to over $15 billion in 2019, while the cost of congestion on the top 10 bottlenecks increased by 11% in just one year (from $761.8 million in 2018 to $848.4 million in 2019), and 26 states face $500 million or more in congestion costs annually, according to Black.  Highway freight shipments experienced over 658,854,025 million hours of delay in 2019, with over one-third of those hours (36%) on the Interstate Highway System.

Almost 73% of the value of domestic freight is shipped via truck and the value of truck shipments is expected to more than double by 2045, according to ARTBA's analysis of FHWA's data.

ATRI pegs congestion costs notably higher than FHWA, noting the trucking industry is hit with $74.5 billion each year and 1.2 billion lost hours of productivity – the equivalent of 425,533 trucks sitting idle for an entire year.

delays by state map