Roads and highways can only take so much use and abuse before they need repairs. And they’re getting plenty of traffic these days to wear them down. According to State Highway Agencies, travel during July 2013 on all roads and streets in the United States increased nearly 2 percent, resulting in an estimated 263.6 billion vehicle-miles moving across U.S. roads during this one month. That’s the equivalent distance of driving from the sun to Neptune, the furthest planet away from the sun, and back again — 47 times!
When our heavily travelled roads require repair, plans are laid out, orange cones sprout up and traffic slows to a crawl. And this impacts everyone who uses them. Earlier this year, USA Today reported that American drivers wasted an average of 38 hours last year sitting in traffic. For vacationers, this use of time is annoying. For commuters, it often leads to missed meetings or embarrassing tardiness. For truckers, it can be devastating. That is, traffic problems hit truckers where it hurts the most — in the wallet.
The High Cost of Sitting Still Affects Everyone
Because truckers get paid by the mile (often between $0.19 and $0.44) and are allowed only a certain number of hours on the road behind the wheel, traffic jams means drivers get paid less for the hassle. In fact, time spent sitting in traffic is essentially non-paid. At best, it’s a fraction of what drivers can earn when they’re able to sustain full speed.
But drivers aren’t taking the financial hit of increased traffic alone. Road congestion also increases expenses for trucking companies, which leads to higher costs for consumer goods. So it’s in everyone’s best interest to figure out how truckers can avoid the crowds.
Technology can Show the Way
The INRIX National Traffic Scorecard shows that traffic problems aren’t occurring evenly throughout the United States. Some areas are clearly worse than others. That’s why companies who rely on moving goods from one point to another on U.S. roadways are getting serious about acquiring technology to manage routes, monitor the location of company vehicles and analyze traffic patterns. There’s simply no way to compete in the trucking business without tools that help drivers and fleet managers find clear routes and minimize delays.
Trucking companies are increasingly using fleet management software and on-board equipment to manage fuel consumption, delivery times, traffic delays, routing efficiencies and other aspects of business that impact operation costs and start-to-finish transportation issues. The technology is also letting businesses increase capacity, which allows more goods to be moved with fewer trucks and minimizes the impact of traffic on deliveries.
Truck drivers face a wide range of workplace challenges that many people rarely consider — from truck stop fare and reckless motorists to pay scales and marital problems caused by working away from home. Regulatory agencies and trucking companies are working to alleviate some of the personal burdens that drivers carry, and hopefully emerging technologies will increasingly provide more well-deserved relief to the folks driving the U.S. economy.