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1.448 million kilometers of traffic jams on German motorways

Record traffic jams create new challenges for logistics firms

More than just a nuisance for commuters and HGV drivers: the number of kilometers of traffic jams has risen, according to a current study by German motoring organisation ADAC. The main cause is construction sites.

The HGVs are loaded, customers are waiting for a prompt delivery. But stop-start traffic conditions, with traffic sometimes at a complete standstill, prevents progress. In 2017 alone, 1.448 million kilometers of traffic jams were measured on German motorways, according to ADAC’s traffic survey. Which is a rise of around 5% over the previous year.

Both the overall length and duration of these traffic jams have increased considerably. The worst months for traffic jams are June and September. In these two months, on peak days up to 400 kilometers of jams were reported, particularly in North Rhine Westphalia (NRW). Experts expect new negative records in 2018. Traffic jams of less than 10 kilometers are no longer even mentioned in traffic reports, is a criticism voiced by the Westdeutsche Zeitung (West German newspaper).

50% of traffic jams are caused by traffic jams

There are many reasons for this poor traffic situation. Increased volume due to commuters and holiday periods, accidents or poor driving often cause kilometer-long traffic jams. 50% of jams are caused by roadworks alone, according to the ADAC traffic department analysis. Bridge work and full closures of motorways, in particular, are to blame for delays in the flow of traffic.

“The volume of traffic is constantly growing. This year there is also increased roadwork activity, which will continue over the next few years. After holiday traffic in the summer, increased commuter traffic during the winter months was next on the list. Many traffic jams are very much the result of commuter traffic,” according to the ADAC. Car drivers often have the impression that no workers are to be seen on many motorway sites. According to research by Die Welt, poor planning by the authorities is responsible for the slow progress. Frequent breaks in activity at these roadworks are made necessary by contracts being divided up between various contractors.

Bridge work and full closures of motorways, in particular, are to blame for delays in the flow of traffic. Photo: © Petair - stock.adobe.com

“Traffic jam out of nowhere”

As well as these obvious causes, there is one further explanation for a traffic jam: a traffic jam can arise on motorways even without blockages. In these cases, research into traffic jams talks about the butterfly effect, or the “traffic jam out of nowhere”. According to this theory, one individual driver can be responsible for creating the traffic jam. His or her behaviour causes a chain reaction, which unfolds as follows: a braking mistake or overtaking manoeuvre by one driver forces other drivers also to reduce their speed. Excessive braking causes a chain reaction, which gradually increases from vehicle to vehicle until the first car actually comes to a standstill. There is then a “traffic jam out of nowhere”.

“Future department” to find solutions

Traffic jams are not only irritating and harmful to the environment, but according to official government data damage the German economy to the tune of 250 million euro per day. This is why the NRW Ministry of Transport is planning a “Future department” which is to work out solution-orientated measures to prevent never-ending traffic jams and alleviate overstretched transport networks. External experts will be brought in to optimise the traffic system with new transport concepts and intelligent traffic management. “The most important measure to avoid traffic jams is to expand motorways, even if this initially causes more traffic jams. Allowing use of the hard shoulder and competitive pricing for public transport should also relieve the situation on the roads,” according to the ADAC.

Header photo: © Rainer Fuhrmann - stock.adobe.com

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