Increases in truck and passenger vehicle traffic now impact 10% of the 161,000-mile National Highway System—and the Department of Transportation warns that by 2040, that figure could rise to 34% unless steps are taken. Fleet managers have been dealing with congestion forever, but it seems that construction, especially in the summer months, is impacting fleet efficiencies more than ever before, and the losses come in the form of both time and a significant amount of money.
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.
And it is not just the trucking industry that is losing money. The U.S. economy suffers significantly from road construction and congestion that cause delays, fuel inefficiencies, and trigger mechanical failure. 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.
It is clear that the U.S. has a critical need for better transit options, greater transit connectivity, and more deployment of information technologies to help address the congestion problem. As the DOT lobbies for legislation that would fund the federal transportation system for multi-year periods, fleet management efforts are focused on fleet efficiencies in every aspect of operation, and most of the strategies include tech. Tech has been responsible for putting computers on forklifts, scanners systems into 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.
Transit Plans Costly for the DOT and Fleet Management
The U.S. DOT investment strategies include education, recruitment, and training for freight workforces as well as freight data resources and analytics to help fleet management make smarter and more informed decisions. Fleet management is following suit especially where data is concerned. The data received through GPS truck locations and congestion patterns are invaluable in maximizing fleet efficiencies on the road.
How Does GPS Work to Combat Congestion?
Techwalla describes GPS as follows: The Global Positioning System, or GPS, is a “constellation” of more than 24 satellites, known as Navstar, operated by the U.S. Department of Defense. These satellites are about 11,500 miles above the earth, traveling at 9,000 mph, and each has an atomic clock with the exact time. These satellites are synchronized to broadcast a signal simultaneously. GPS receivers, like those in a car or truck, passively monitor these broadcasts. Although the signals travel at the speed of light, the great distances involved mean that each signal arrives at a slightly different time. Calculating the time differences between each satellite, a GPS receiver can pinpoint its own location.
Fleet managers rely on these systems to define and track the fastest route between delivery locations. But not all GPS routing algorithms are accurate, due to unexpected weather conditions, traffic accidents, or lane closures. The more robust the GPS system, the more variables the system has to consider when proposing a route. Wireless data that can calculate routes based on information like physical road conditions, traffic flow, location of intersections, time of day, or average speed is paramount to an effective GPS system, but it can also come at considerable expense. Fleet managers understand the long-term value of these systems in sustaining fleet efficiencies and are making the expense a priority. While many large companies have the resources to invest, small and medium-sized companies struggle with fee structures and cash flow. Fortunately, fleet factoring has become a reliable way to access financial resources quickly to accommodate the technology and planning necessary for reliability and efficiencies on the roadways.
Trucking GPS data can literally fuel mobility insights and forecasting methodologies to better assess travel time and reliability, particularly during heavy peak periods in the most congested areas and times of day. GPS can also be used to support freight and route planning based on route choice, toll rates, and speed. A research study in Washington state indicated that travel time, travel time reliability, and toll rate are all influential factors during both peak and off-peak periods. Fleet cards offered by companies like WEX Fleet One Factoring can also streamline processes and deliver discounts to help with fleet efficiencies both on and off the road.
- Largest nationwide fuel discount network with more than 3,600 sites
- No fuel transaction fees in the Fleet One EDGE network**
- Universal acceptance at more than 8,000 truck stops nationwide
- Free fuel card funding with Fleet One Factoring
In short, when the trucking industry is efficient, the nation is better off. Efficiencies along with dependable and consistent service from the trucking industry are crucial for economic success and the livelihood of the nation. Congestion may never end, but with technology to help in planning and financial resources to help access that technology, fleet managers will be executing routes with much better information, enabling fleet efficiencies for long-term growth.