DOT publishes latest pocket guide of transportation stats

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 1/12/2016

Every year, various government agencies compile a range of statistics to get a pulse on the state and progress (or lack thereof) of transportation. The Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics has condensed those numbers into an easy-to-swallow pill called the 2016 Pocket Guide to Transportation.

Information compiled in the guide derives from the bureau’s massive online document, which is culled from national transportation statistics. With many studies and surveys done periodically, some stats are only as recent as 2009. Put together in September 2015, the most recent numbers come from 2014. Below are the numbers relevant to the trucking industry.


Nearly every category for truck freight saw an increase in the pocket guide’s latest numbers. From 2002 to 2013 the value of truck shipments increased nearly 16 percent to approximately $13 trillion. Freight weight increased even more to 14.5 billion tons, a 22 percent increase. Ton miles increased from nearly 2.3 trillion ton miles in 2002 to more than 2.6 trillion ton miles in 2013.

Trucks carried 60 percent of U.S.-NAFTA value in 2014 and 26 percent of NAFTA freight weight. Water freight carried the most weight at 27 percent. Since the 2009 economic recession, incoming truck border crossing from Canada and Mexico have been steadily increasing.

The top five U.S.-Canada truck ports of entry in 2014 were:

  • Detroit – 1.6 million truck crossings
  • Buffalo-Niagara Falls – 1 million truck crossings
  • Port Huron, Mich. – 800,000 truck crossings
  • Blaine, Wash. – 400,000 truck crossings
  • Champlain-Rouses, N.Y. – 300,000 truck crossings

The top five U.S.-Mexico truck ports of entry in 2014 were:

  • Laredo, Texas – 1.8 million truck crossings
  • Otay Mesa, Calif. – 800,000 truck crossings
  • El Paso, Texas – 700,000 truck crossings
  • Hidalgo, Texas – 500,000 truck crossings
  • Calexico, Calif. – 300,000 truck crossings

From 2003 to 2013, more than 141,000 miles of highway roads were added to the landscape, a 3.5 percent increase. When factoring in each lane, nearly 341,000 miles of highway roads were added, a 4.1 percent increase. In that same period, nearly 16,000 new bridges have been constructed on the highways, an increase of approximately 2.6 percent.

The decade between 2003 and 2013 also experienced a surge in the number of trucks on the highways. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there were nearly 3 million more trucks – an increase of more than 36 percent – in 2013 compared with 10 years prior.

Structurally deficient bridges have been steadily declining over the past several years. In 2014, approximately 60,000 bridges were considered deficient, a dramatic drop from 1990 when about 140,000 bridges were deemed deficient. As Land Line reported this past December, nearly a quarter of U.S. bridges are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

Stats for highway pavement condition have not been updated since last year. In a study comparing pavement conditions in 2010 to those in 2006 and 2002, a rating of “Good” increased by 10 percent over six years and 3 percent over four years. Consequently the highway pavement condition of “Not Acceptable” decreased by 2 percent over 10 years, and conditions rated “Acceptable” dropped by 8 percent. Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and South Dakota had a bridge deficiency rate of more than 16 percent.

In 2013, truckers logged more than 275 billion vehicle-miles traveled. Those in light-duty vehicles – passenger cars, light trucks, vans and SUVs – drove more than 2.6 trillion vehicle-miles. According to the Federal Highway Administration’s latest numbers, which are not included in the pocket guide, Americans had more than 2.6 billion vehicle-miles traveled by October in 2015, a year-to-date increase of 3.4 percent.

A 2009 study revealed a decline in miles traveled per driver. From 2001 to 2009 daily vehicle-miles traveled, length of average commute and the number of trips declined. It is worth noting that the nation’s economy was in a recession in 2009. Since then, the country has rebounded and fuel prices are reaching seven-year lows, which is likely to affect the driving behavior of Americans.

Most people are still driving themselves, with 76.5 percent of commuters driving alone in their commute. About 9 percent carpool, 5 percent use transit, and 4.5 percent work at home. The remaining commute modes are by those who walk, ride a bike or use some other mode of transportation.

Road congestion has been progressively increasing since 1985. Hours of delay per commuter went down during the years of the economic recession, 2009-2010, and continued to increase. In fact, 2009 was the only year to see a decrease since records were taken in 1982. As of 2014, the average annual delay per commuter was 42 hours, which was estimated to cost $160 billion and which wasted more than 3 billion gallons of fuel.

The top five urban congested areas of 2014 were:

  • Washington, D.C.-Va./Md. – 82 annual hours of delay per commuter
  • Los Angeles – 80 annual hours of delay per commuter
  • San Francisco – 78 annual hours of delay per commuter
  • New York, N.Y./N.J. – 74 annual hours of delay per commuter
  • Boston – 64 annual hours of delay per commuter

Transportation consumes a good portion of Americans’ income. Approximately 10 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) was spent on transportation in 2013. Most of the GDP was spent on “other” (39 percent), followed by housing (19 percent), healthcare (16 percent), food (10 percent) and education (7 percent).

In terms of percentage of GDP, transportation spending was at a near-high of 9.3 percent since 1991, second only to the 9.5 percent that was spent in 1997. More than $1.5 trillion dollars of the GDP went towards transportation in 2013.

Per household, a bigger piece of the pie was spent on transportation. Approximately 17 percent of household expenses went towards transportation in 2014, only second to housing at 33 percent. Households spent an average of $3,301 on vehicle purchases, $2,468 on gas and oil, $2.723 on other expenses and $581 on public/other transit.

Trucking jobs are up, but not by much. From 2003 to 2013, employment for for-hire truck transportation went up 4 percent.

On a positive note, highway fatalities and injuries went down significantly from 2003 to 2013. Total highway deaths decreased by more than 23 percent, with a 4.8 percent decrease in heavy-truck occupant deaths. Motorcyclist, bus occupant and bicyclist deaths all increased.

Injuries were also down for the same time frame. Total highway injuries were down 20 percent, with nearly 11 percent in heavy-truck occupant injuries. Much like fatalities, motorcyclist, bus occupant, and bicyclist injuries increased.

Although traffic deaths are down over the span of a decade, more recent stats are showing an increase year-to-year. Earlier this month¸ Land Line reported that early numbers for 2015 reveal that at least 35 states reported more traffic fatalities last year when compared to the previous year. Due to an improving economy and low fuel prices, American are driving more miles, resulting in more opportunities for crashes. Deaths per vehicle-miles traveled, however, have been down in recent years.

Since 1990, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities and pedestrian/bicyclist fatalities have all decreased. Despite the increasing popularity of smartphones, distracted driving fatalities and injuries are down from 2005 to 2013.

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