By now, many Americans have heard about the collapse of the northbound I-85 bridge in metro Atlanta. People familiar with Atlanta traffic know that the already dreadful transportation issues in this area just got worse. Given the fact that the fire and subsequent collapse appears to be the result of arson, we are thankful nobody was seriously injured.
What is the impact on the trucking community from this unfortunate event? Let us start with a few facts about traffic flow on and within the I-285 loop. According to the most recent numbers available (2015) from the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), the average daily northbound traffic flow on I-85 in the area of the bridge collapse is 243,000 vehicles, of which 7,761 are trucks. Conventional trucking wisdom says that, despite the route dispatched, truck drivers prefer to stay on I-285. This is supported by the GDOT’s vehicle count survey of I-285 travelers that shows around 200,000 vehicles per day with approximately 17,500 of those being trucks.
In our trucking consulting practice, we work with fleets to improve profitability, so we thought we would try to quantify the impact of this incident on the miles driven by our client fleets. The following is our methodology and analysis of the results:
- Data Set
62,254 loads from 14 client carriers with different geographic footprints. Only loads with no intermediate stops (one pickup and one delivery) were utilized.
Base miles and time were calculated at the five digit zip-to-zip level using both ALK PC*Miler 30 using practical route and short miles for 53-foot trailers with no toll or other avoidance.
Base miles and time were recalculated at the five digit zip-to-zip level using ALK PC*Miler 30 using practical route for 53-foot trailers with no toll or other avoidance instructions besides those to avoid the I-85 bridge. This was issued in an e-mail we received on March 31, 2017.
Of the 62,254 loads that were analyzed, only 50 loads had a mileage difference as a result of the “avoid” parameter set for the I-85 bridge. All 50 loads either originated or terminated inside the I-285 loop and had either 10 or 11 extra miles.
Based on our findings, this mega event and hassle for the residents of and visitors to the Atlanta area is a non-event for the majority of carriers based on miles. That being said, a lot of four-wheel traffic has switched from the I-75/I-85 connector to the I-285 loop and the already congested I-285 may create increased time and driver fatigue.
If you are a carrier with a high volume of Atlanta pass-through, you may need to take a look at the impact of the I-85 bridge closure on your fleet using the process above.
Our findings show the importance of reviewing and analyzing all available data and resulting numbers to prove or disprove a belief or hypothesis. At first thought, it seemed that some over-the-road carriers might be able to charge a surcharge due to an impact to billable miles. However, the fact that most carriers actually run on I-285 and that the PC*Miler practical routes support this practice has provided a more accurate understanding of the situation and potential issues.
Editor’s Note: Since posting this article, it has come to our attention that through-trucks are not permitted at all on I-85 inside of the I-285 loop. This supports our original analysis and conclusion and reiterates the importance of using fact-based research to validate a hypotheses or belief.
About the Author
David Roush is president of KSM Transport Advisors, LLC, part of the Katz, Sapper & Miller Network. With 30-plus years of experience, David’s focus includes freight networks, financial management, operational metrics, and optimization strategies. Connect with him on LinkedIn.
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