Infrastructure, congestion cost carriers billions in fuel
- Nationally, congestion is estimated to have increased the trucking industry’s fuel consumption by 6.87 billion gallons in 2016. This results in an additional $15.74 billion in fuel spend, according to a new study by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI).
- In the study, ATRI estimated fuel consumption and emissions impacts at an Atlanta highway intersection considered one of the country’s worst. The study found that increasing average vehicle speeds — currently as low as 14 mph — to 55 mph could save 4.5 million gallons of fuel annually and reduce emissions for fine particulate matter, smog-forming oxides of nitrogen and carbon dioxide.
- "Fleets today consider not only their bottom line, but also their environmental performance," Mack Guest, president of LAD Truck Lines, said in a statement. "This case study highlights how investing in our nation’s infrastructure can serve the dual purpose of lowering transportation costs and air pollution."
It’s easy to see how the intersection of Interstate 285 and Interstate 85, just northeast of Atlanta — known to locals as Spaghetti Junction — can serve as a petri dish for studies like ATRI’s. I-285 is the beltway around Atlanta and I-85 is a major traffic corridor from the northeastern suburbs into downtown Atlanta. The interchange is a five-level stack with additional ramps to accommodate traffic on four nearby side roads. It has 14 bridges, the highest rising 90 feet, and handles approximately 300,000 vehicles each day.
Only the intersection of Interstate 95 and state Route 4 in Fort Lee, New Jersey topped Atlanta in ATRI’s annual list of top trucking bottlenecks.
The analysis was based on truck GPS data from nearly 1 million heavy duty trucks, several customized software applications and analysis methods, along with terabytes of data from trucking operations to produce a congestion impact ranking.
Other studies have borne out the need for infrastructure rehabilitation. According to National Geographic, vehicles are America’s biggest air quality compromisers, producing about one-third of all U.S. air pollution. "The smog, carbon monoxide and other toxins emitted by vehicles are especially troubling because they leave tailpipes at street level, where humans breathe the polluted air directly into their lungs. that can make auto emissions an even more immediate health concern than toxins emitted high in the sky by industrial smokestacks," National Geographic reported.
Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) issues a Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, grading condition and performance in the form of a school report card—assigning letter grades based on the physical condition and needed investments for improvement. Its most recent report card in 2017 gave America’s roads a grade of D.
"More than two out of every five miles of America’s urban interstates are congested and traffic delays cost the country $160 billion in wasted time and fuel in 2014," ASCE 's report stated. "One out of every five miles of highway pavement is in poor condition and our roads have a significant and increasing backlog of rehabilitation needs."
- American Transportation Research Institute New ATRI Research Quantifies Impacts of Congestion on Fuel Consumption and Emissions
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