Freight transportation enables economic activity, and trucking is a key element of freight transportation. Trucks carried 70 percent of the value and 60 percent of the tons of commodities shipped in 2002, not including shipments moved by truck in combination with another mode.
Trucking is both a critical component of the Nation's economy and a concern to the traveling public, who share increasingly crowded highways with freight-hauling vehicles. Commercial truck travel doubled over the past two decades. On one-fifth of the mileage of the Interstate Highway System, trucks account for more than 30 percent of all vehicles. Truck travel has been exceeding the growth in passenger travel over time, suggesting that the percentage of trucks in the traffic stream is likely to grow substantially if current trends continue. Freight tonnage is forecast to increase by 70 percent between 1998 and 2020, and trucking is expected to account for the majority of the projected increase.
Highway congestion affects motorists, freight carriers, and freight shippers. Shippers are affected through an increase in logistics costs made up of transportation costs, inventory costs, and order costs (involving the size and frequency of an order of goods). Slower and more unreliable transportation increases transportation costs directly, but also increases order costs and inventory costs.
A recent study for FHWA has identified over 2,000 truck bottlenecks throughout the United States, which cause more than 243 million hours of delay to truckers annually, translating into direct user costs of $7.8 billion per year. Of the four major types of bottlenecks analyzed, 227 urban freeway interchange bottlenecks accounted for an estimated 124 million truck hours of delay. Other types of bottlenecks include 859 steep grades (66 million hours of delay), 517 signalized intersections (43 million hours of delay), and 507 lane drops (11 million hours of delay).