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Tolling Points

Truck Traffic During Pandemic Showed Communities Pulling Together

By: 
Bill Cramer, IBTTA

In the early days of COVID-19, the main storyline was that everyone was locked down in the face of a global health emergency, and we were all in this together.

A year into the pandemic, a finer-grained picture is coming into view. Yes, we’re (still) all in this together. But we’re all getting a better appreciation for the essential workers who stayed on the job, often at great personal risk, so that their fellow citizens could stay home and stay safe.

Those front-line stories include the long-distance truckers who didn’t miss a beat when so many other services and amenities were shutting down. In fact, many of them saw their business accelerate.

As a rule of thumb, just think back over every online order you’ve placed, every courier package you’ve signed for in the last year. Now think of the delivery chain that made any of that possible.

It turns out there’s another, equally powerful story to be told about the support systems that made all of that activity possible. New IBTTA data compiled from six major U.S. tolling agencies show an overwhelming difference in the behavior of passenger and commercial vehicle traffic in the course of the pandemic:

  • While passenger traffic declined by 50 to more than 60 percent in April 2020, trucking volumes generally fell by 20 percent or less.
  • By December, passenger volumes were still off by 10 to 30 percent, but truck traffic showed a healthy increase from the beginning of the year.

The numbers bear out some basic realities that tolling agencies have long understood: that trucking depends on efficient, reliable mobility; tolling thrives on large-volume, commercial accounts; and that common interest makes the two industries interdependent.

From the beginning of the pandemic lockdowns, tolling agencies stepped up to help keep truckers on the move.

The Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission was one of many agencies that kept service plazas open to make sure truckers had clean, safe facilities with hot showers, laundry and meals, at a time when rest stops along many highways had been shut down.

Out of that shared commitment to keep essential goods moving, truckers and tolling operators also found a new sense of common purpose. “If [COVID-19] has had unintended consequences, it’s been forging an even stronger relationship with our commercial traffic through the New Jersey Motor Truck Association,” said Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, chair of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, during a national media briefing organized by IBTTA.

That kind of working partnership will help both industries as the country moves into the “next normal” after the pandemic, and tolling agencies continue rolling out new solutions to keep freight moving swiftly and smoothly.

Newsletter publish date: 
Tuesday, April 13, 2021 - 08:15

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