Truckers know how stressful traffic congestion can be, but up until recently there wasn’t much we could do about it. The world seems to want to operate on a 9 to 5 schedule no matter how impractical it is, despite traffic congestions that have turned many freeways into perpetual log jams.
In mid-June the Federal Highway Administration announced their intention to use $450,000 in taxpayer money to fund research that will investigate “off hour deliveries”. These grants will study the effects on traffic of making deliveries and pickups when the heaviest traffic congestion times are avoided.
The goal of these studies is to see how much time and money off-hour deliveries can save trucking companies, as well as how much it would improve the air quality in large and medium-sized cities.
Critics of the proposal point out many unintended consequences of shifting delivery schedules. The produce industry would have to be largely reorganized to harvest fresh crops at different times in order to optimize freshness at the points of local delivery. This would necessitate whole work forces to switch from daytime to nighttime work and increase the use of natural resources to light their work areas whereas daylight has previously been sufficient. The freeways would have to bear the brunt of these workers plus the personnel necessary to pack and load the produce and run the docks at origin and delivery points. In heavily agricultural areas this could create an entirely new “rush hour”.
Another unintended consequence of shifting delivery times would be trucks idling outside cities when they reached them too late or too early to enter the flow of traffic. Reefers would have to be kept running, costing fuel and contributing to pollution. Ports and other points of entry would need extra space to “store” trucks that could not leave on time to avoid the restrictions.
In short, while off hour deliveries could significantly ease the stress and congestion of traditional rush hours there could possibly be an entirely new rush hour created as big rigs flood the highways at off delivery times. While the new study proposal has some constructive ideas, many critics have doubts about its practical aspects both in alleviating traffic congestion and the cost it might present to businesses that rely on the trucking industry.