Hey truckin' activists, the 2017 Pocket Guide to Transportation is here

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 1/19/2017

Researching key info, major trends and transportation stats can be a challenge. Annually, several government agencies compile a wealth of data related to transportation for public access, but where do you find that handy roundup?

Fortunately, every year the Bureau of Transportation Statistics releases the Pocket Guide to Transportation. It’s available online in a downloadable file, plus it’s available as a free mobile app. You can also request a physical copy.

It organizes a load of stats into an easy-to-read package. The latest year of data gathered varies but overall, the guide provides a good picture for stat seekers. Importantly, it’s a source for professional truckers who want to use verified stats in letters to lawmakers or pertinent data for comments on issues on the federal docket.

This week, Land Line features compiled information on critical areas from the Pocket Guide.

The latest data is from 2014. From 2004 to 2014, public roads grew by nearly 200,000 miles and road lanes increased by more than 400,000 miles. In that same time frame, nearly 17,000 bridges were added to the infrastructure.

Within that 10-year period, nearly 3 million more trucks were on the road for a total of nearly 11 million. Passenger vehicles in 2014 totaled more than 240 million, an increase of nearly 12 million compared with 2004.

Compared with 2009, pavement conditions did not improve in 2014. Only 61 percent of roads on the National Highway System were considered “Good,” down from 64 percent in 2009. Conversely, 10 percent of the roads were deemed “Not acceptable,” double the percentage in 2009 when only 5 percent were “Not acceptable.”

Bridges appear to be in better shape over the past 15 years. From 1990 to 2015 nearly 40,000 highway bridges were added. However, the number of structurally deficient bridges was reduced from 137,865 in 1990 to 58,791, a decrease of 57 percent.

Moving people
Vehicle-miles traveled for trucks decreased in 2014 compared with 2007, from 304 billion miles to 279 billion miles. VMT for light-duty vehicles increased slightly to 2.7 trillion miles.

Official numbers only go up to 2014, the same year fuel prices began to dramatically decrease, resulting in more driving. A February 2016 Federal Highway Administration press release estimated a total VMT of 3.148 trillion miles in 2015, beating the previous record set in 2007. Those numbers are not reflected in the 2017 pocket guide.

More than three-quarters of commuters drove alone in 2015. Approximately 9 percent carpooled, and even fewer used transit at 5 percent.

Moving goods
The value of freight has been steadily increasing and is expected to continue doing so. In 2015, trucks carried more than $13 trillion of freight, nearly $1 trillion more than in 2012. Trucks are expected to carry more than $24 trillion of freight in 2045, approximately twice as much as 2012.

As expected, there was positive correlation with freight value and freight weight. Trucks carried approximately 11.5 billion tons of freight in 2015, nearly 1 billion tons more than in 2015. Around 16.5 billion tons of freight is expected for trucks in 2045.

The Atlantic Coast continues to hold the highest trade value in 2015 at $943 billion dollars, followed by the Canadian Border at $760 billion. Close behind the Canadian border is the Pacific Coast at $742 billion in U.S. trade value. Trade values dramatically decreased in 2009 and sharply increased in 2011, with the Atlantic Coast trending downward since then.

As usual, trucks carried the lion’s share of NAFTA freight in 2015. More than 60 percent of NAFTA freight value was hauled by trucks, accounting for more than a quarter of NAFTA freight weight. Rail carried the second highest value at 15 percent, whereas water freight carried the most weight at 27 percent.

Not accounting for the years immediately following the Great Recession, fewer trucks are crossing the Canadian border. Nearly 7 million truck crossings at the border were reported in the first several years of the century but started to taper off in 2005. By 2015, approximately 1 million fewer truck crossings occurred at the northern border. The most popular port of entry in 2015 was Detroit, with a 0.6 percent decrease in crossing compared to 2014. The Champlain-Rouses Port experienced a 6.2 percent increase.

Meanwhile in Mexico, truck traffic has steadily increased. More than 4.4 million truck crossings were reported at the southern border in 2002. Unlike the Canadian, traffic never stopped increasing with the exception of 2009. By 2015, truck traffic at the Mexican border had increased by more than 1 million crossings compared with 2002. Per usual, the Laredo port of entry experienced the most crossings in 2015. Laredo’s land port was also the third largest international trade gateway in the U.S., followed only by the Los Angeles and New York/New Jersey water ports.

Over an 11-year period, heavy-truck occupant fatalities have decreased from 766 in 2004 to 667 in 2015, but increased slightly from 656 in 2014. The one-year increase may be partially attributed to increased VMT due to low fuel prices. In fact, fatalities among passenger cars and light trucks followed a similar pattern. Fatalities for motorcyclists, bus occupants, pedestrians and pedal cyclists increased from 2004 to 2015.

Alcohol-impaired fatalities have been dropping, with the percentage of all highway fatalities staying stagnant. In 2014, there were nearly 10,000 alcohol-impaired deaths, down significantly from nearly 18,000 in 1990 and down slightly from just above 10,000 in 2013. Drunk driving deaths as a percentage of all highway deaths remained at approximately 30 percent. According to Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, there were more than 21,000 drunk driving deaths in 1982.

From 2010 to 2015, distracted driving deaths have hovered around the 3,000 mark, approaching 4,000 deaths in 2015. Distracted driving fatalities account for approximately 10 percent of traffic deaths. Injuries from distracted driving have fallen from 600,000 in 2005 to about 400,000 in 2015.

Road congestion has been getting progressively worse since 1985, with a temporary reduction in annual hours of delay during the Great Recession. In 1985, the average car commuter was delayed around 20 hours each year. By 2013, that delay doubled.

Nationally, the average annual delay is just above 40 hours, but in Washington D.C. the delay is twice as bad at 82 hours, the worst in the nation. Just behind D.C. is Los Angeles (80 hours), San Francisco (78 hours) and New York, N.Y.-N.J. (74 hours).

Transportation is a major expenditure in the U.S., accounting for 9 percent of GDP spending. With the exception of the time-period of the economic crisis around 2008 and 2009, that cost has been rising. In 1995, nearly $775 billion dollars was spent on transportation. That more than doubled by 2015 when approximately $1.6 trillion was spent.

Per average annual household expense, transport made up 17 percent of expenses, the second-highest expense behind housing at 33 percent. The average household spent $9,500 on transportation in 2015, up nearly $500 from 2014 despite gas and oil spending dropping more than $400.

Employment in the trucking industry experienced a slight increase from 2005 to 2015 at nearly 1.5 million jobs, a 4 percent increase. In 2016, the trucking industry experienced a net loss of 2,500 jobs.

Want even more? To view and download the complete Pocket Guide to Transportation 2017, click here.

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