Is there anybody out there who doesn't hate traffic? Of course not. When I'm in a hurry to get somewhere and I'm slowed down by a lot of traffic – and living in Los Angeles, that happens a lot – I know my temperature rises and I get angry, frustrated and impatient.
I remember a discussion with an equipment delivery driver for a rental company who told me how heavy traffic frustrates him because it keeps him from being as productive as he wants to be. He had recently quit smoking after several aborted attempts and he told me the only time the urge for a cigarette gets overwhelming for him was when he was stuck in traffic.
But bad traffic is a bigger problem than the urge to smoke or that equipment deliveries might be late, and that it's hard on your car's engine, or that you might get home late, or you might have to leave your house a few minutes earlier to get to work on time. According to a recent study by the Associated General Contractors of America, traffic congestion and the delays it causes are costing the nation's construction firms about $23 billion a year.
Construction companies report that traffic tie-ups delay the average construction project at least one day, and one in three firms report that traffic adds a minimum of three days to the length of the average project. According to the AGC study, three-quarters of contractors say congestion adds more than 1 percent to their total costs, and one in 10 say traffic adds 11 percent or more to their cost of doing business.
Obviously rental companies already know this. It takes you longer to deliver equipment, it costs more time and fuel and wear and tear on your delivery vehicles. While many rental companies have countered this problem with improved dispatching systems that cut delivery costs, those efficiency gains are being undermined by the simple reality that it takes longer to get places than it used to, and the situation is likely to get worse before it gets any better.
One great hope is Congress acting on long-delayed legislation that would set national surface transportation policy and funding levels over the next six years. The legislation is critical for allowing states to plan complex, long-term highway and transit projects designed to cut congestion. If those projects can't get off the ground, traffic will continue to worsen and, more significantly, construction companies will have less work and so will rental companies.
So next time you're stuck in traffic, remember – and I'm sure most of you already know this -- that a lot more is at stake than you getting home in time for dinner or to watch a game on TV. All of our livelihoods are at stake in this process.