Fleet News

Traffic jams costing businesses £4.5bn a year, say experts

Company car and van drivers are spending more than a tenth (13%) of their time on work-related journeys in traffic jams, research suggests.

Collectively, employees spend around 70 million hours per week using their cars for  work-related travel.

However, congestion on the UK’s road network is proving costly to the economy.

Lex Autolease, in its annual report on motoring, estimates that the delays equate to £4.5 billion per year in lost working hours.

Tim Porter, managing director of Lex Autolease, said: “Congestion is getting worse and is costing businesses millions of pounds every day in lost productivity. It is critical that the Government keeps investing in the road network to keep our workforce on the move.”

However, a successful economy and a multi-billion pound road improvement plan have had the effect of making the gridlock worse, at least in the short term, while work continues.

The UK economy grew by 2.8% last year – its highest rise since 2006, faster than any other major developed country and double the European Union average of 1.4%. Levels of unemployment also decreased in 2014 by 21% from 2013.

These factors, which are driving up consumer spending as well as spurring roadwork and construction projects nationwide, have had a big impact on traffic with an increase in private and commercial vehicles on the road and more people commuting to work by car.

Inrix, a provider of real-time traffic information and connected driving services, has revealed that UK drivers wasted an average 30 hours in congestion during 2014 in its Traffic Scorecard Report.

The UK also climbed one place to fifth in the list of Europe’s most congested countries, although UK motorists spent  21 fewer hours in traffic than those in Belgium, Europe’s most congested country, where drivers spent 51 hours stuck in gridlock in 2014.

The Inrix report claims traffic congestion was up in 14 of the 18 UK metropolitan areas in 2014, compared to nine the previous year.

The biggest increases in congestion were seen in North Staffordshire (+37%) and Greater Coventry (+33%) where drivers sat idle in traffic for 26 and 28 hours respectively.

“For the third year running, traffic in the UK is up,” said Bryan Mistele, president and CEO, Inrix. “Strong growth and a rise in urban populations have resulted in an increase in the demand for road travel, significantly driving levels of congestion up across the country.”

London is ranked as the UK’s – and Europe’s – most congested city, with drivers wasting 96 hours in gridlock during 2014, almost twice as much as the UK’s second-placed city, Manchester, with 52 hours.

Garrett Emmerson, Transport for London’s chief operating officer for surface transport, said: “We are seeing unprecedented increases in population and this, combined with strong economic growth and the consequent increase in building and construction, creates more traffic.

“To tackle this, we need continued, sustained investment to boost capacity and modernise London’s road network.”

Of the 13 European countries analysed in the report, more than half (53%) experienced a rise in levels of congestion in 2014 compared to 2013, reflective of economic growth.

But while both Inrix and Lex Autolease reports paint a picture of increasing congestion costing business billions of pounds, the Department for Transport’s (DfT) National Travel Survey suggests a downward trend in mileage and trips.

Comparing 2014 with 2002, the DfT survey shows the average number of trips per person has fallen by 12% and the distance travelled per person by nearly 700 miles (10%).

It’s a downward trend that’s also reflected in figures relating to business miles driven, and the number of trips made, from 1995 to 2014.

The National Travel Survey shows the annual distance travelled in the course of work has fallen by 13% since the mid-1990s and the number of trips by 16% (see graph).

Company cars have an annual mileage more than double that of private cars – 18,600 compared to 7,500 – but account for only 3% of the total vehicles. The proportion of company cars has fallen from 6% in 2002.

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