Continuing road construction in the I-94 corridor between Chicago and Detroit, a high-traffic lane for Maverick, has intensified the congestion issue for the company. It’s “been horrible for us and for any trucker that traverses that stretch,” Wood says. “There’s an old joke about there being two seasons in Michigan: winter and road construction. It’s not as funny as it used to be.”
And not much can be done about it, other than attempting to plan trips to avoid peak times. “But that’s usually just wishful thinking” due to daily business cycles, Wood says.
Owner-operator Dick McCorkle, who’s leased to Perkins Specialized Transportation, estimates traffic congestion costs him at least 10 hours a week, sometimes much more. Occasionally, he will turn down a load if it’s bound for a highly congested area, such as Chicago. “I lose revenue each week,” he says.
McCorkle, who figures he drives into a congested area every other day if not daily, says the congestion problem is worsened by the lack of safe parking facilities for trucks (see “Fewer Places to Park,” page 60). He says many truckstop parking spaces are filled by late afternoon, and he tries to avoid parking at highway rest areas. He often delivers to shopping malls, but most of them prohibit truck parking.
Drivers say that in certain areas of cities such as Washington, D.C., as well as New York, trucks are restricted to where they can go since 9/11 due to security concerns, adding to congestion headaches. McCorkle says many truck routes have been changed, leaving fewer alternates. “We can’t use Pennsylvania Avenue [in Washington, D.C.] at all, and if you’re anywhere near a federal building, police will ask what you’re doing,” he says.
Owner-operator Shawn Cavanaugh delivers at least 60 percent of his loads into the New York area, where truck routes are limited. “There are usually only one or two ways to get into a place,” he says.
A 47-year truck driver, McCorkle says he often calls ahead to where he’s delivering to see if he can park if he can’t deliver the load early. “Sixty percent of the time they can accommodate me,” he says. “I try to go in before rush hour and come out after rush hour.”
McCorkle adds that Perkins has begun working with some of its regular customers to allow an extra day in the shipping schedule.
Cavanaugh, who’s leased to Camel Express, says many of his New York trips are set up for him to pick up at night and deliver in the early morning. He says companies and New York are working to route more trucks through the city at night and other off-peak times.
Top 5 Congested Areas
Total-person hours of delay (millions)
Los Angeles metro area 485
New York metro area 379
Dallas-Ft. Worth 141
San Francisco-Oakland 129
Source: Texas Transportation Institute data, 2007
How has highway congestion changed in recent years?
It’s gotten worse — 80%
It doesn’t seem as bad — 10%
It’s remained the same — 105
Based on survey of 157 respondents at eTrucker.com
Carriers speak out on congestion
We asked three representatives from trucking companies to answer questions about highway congestion. Following are a few of their responses.