Maximizing fleet efficiencies is the name of the game in the trucking industry. In the summer months when every route seems impeded by construction and congestion is at its peak, drivers face detours and delays while fleet management deals with interruptions and inefficiencies. Congestion can lengthen travel time, which in turn affects delivery, project timelines, scope of work, and operating costs.
In a recent report by the Department of Transportation’s National Freight Strategic Plan, the DOT announced that road traffic congestion costs the trucking industry nearly $27 billion annually due to lost time and excess fuel consumption.
Delays and fleet inefficiencies are not just a source of rising cost for the trucking company, they also impact the cost to consumers. The DOT suggests that shipping delays caused by congested roads and highways add billions of dollars in costs by raising prices on a vast range of consumer goods and products. Unfortunately, many of the “solutions” result in road construction that is then responsible for further delays. It seems like a catch 22, but both the federal government and many municipalities are developing plans to help ease the pain, while fleet managers are doing all they can to comply and contribute.
Recognizing Freight and GPS Data to Ease the Burdon
The U.S. Department of Transportation is developing plans that will explore more efficient transit options, as well as encourage the use of existing resources such as rail facilities to help the highway systems move more easily. Federal and local agencies along with fleet management will continue to monitor and study data brought in through GPS systems to inform strategies and smarter decisions on local and federal transit.
One city that exemplifies the growth in highway congestion is Chicago. Five of the 20 most congested stretches of road in the United States are in the Chicago area. In 2014, drivers endured an average of 61 extra hours on the road due to delays caused by gridlock, construction, and collisions. The cost of truck congestion in Chicago last year reached $1.5 billion, accounting for five percent of the national cost.
—Andrew Janson, president, Hanson Logistics
Most fleet managers are focused on travel efficiencies in an effort to ensure reliable deliveries, but frozen food shippers are under even greater pressure for obvious reasons. Delays in refrigerated transport lose money in the form of both time and product. The trucking and transportation industry contributes to the vitality of the economy both locally and nationally, and because trucks are often restricted to specific roadways, they are subject to highway construction closures and traffic congestion with no means of avoiding them. This means not only losses for the fleet but also losses to the economy overall.
All told, the annual cost of congestion, including passenger car delays on roads shared with trucks, is estimated at $1 trillion, or roughly seven percent of U.S. economic output.
— Department of Transportation
The increase in truck and passenger vehicle traffic now impacts 10% of the 161,000-mile National Highway System. The Department of Transportation warns that by 2040, that figure could rise to 34% unless steps are taken. A recent report calls for the implementation of more and better transit options, greater intermodal connectivity, and more deployment of information technologies to help address the congestion problem.
Fleet Managers Leveraging Existing Efficiencies for Relief
Because the Department of Transportation recognizes the critical need for solutions, it has called for a dedicated funding mechanism for freight projects exclusively. The initiative is part of proposed legislation to fund the federal transport system for a multi-year period. In the meantime, fleet managers across the nation are leveraging all the current efficiencies they can to streamline operations in response to the potential losses brought on by roadway inefficiencies.
Today technology accounts for most of the efforts to streamline operations. We now have computers on forklifts, and scanner systems for pallet IDs and inventory, satellite tracking, and energy management systems. Even warehouse and back office admin are paperless, and payment systems are digital as well. Many fleet managers rely on the expertise of partners to create efficiencies in aspects of the business where they may not be as fluent. Companies like EFS/WEX are helping to manage the money where it is most critical — payment. They are assisting fleet management in their ability to stay ahead of the unpredictable.
Fuel Cards and Fleet Management Solutions — 5 Ways to Reduce Spending
1. Fleet fuel cards with automatic expense tracking, enhanced security, and detailed reporting. Choose the best fleet card for your business.
2. Powerful mobile apps to access your account, help drivers find the cheapest nearby fuel, pay at the pump, and more.
3. Premium GPS telematics for tracking vehicle location, speed, fuel use, and more—to capture the data you need to keep improving your bottom line.
4. Advanced analytics software to keep you informed, help you find new ways to save, and streamline your overall fleet operations.
5. U.S.-based customer service team available 24/7, always ready to take your call and help you get the most value from your fleet card program.
So, even though the summer months and construction projects seem to bring the worst congestion to the roadways, the trucking industry can take some solace in knowing that the federal government is taking steps. And drivers can rely on trusted partners like EFS/WEX to provide fuel management solutions to help optimize fleet efficiencies even when the line of traffic in front of them shows no end in sight.