F**k the Truck
November 2, 2012 9:58 AM   Subscribe

Every weekday my commute is either easy -- because there are almost no big trucks on the road -- or terrible -- because the freeway is packed with a solid line of big trucks. Why is it like that? What do I not understand about shipping, trucking and/or logistics that makes this such an either/or proposition?

This is on the 5 freeway in L.A, and I travel in the Burbank/Glendale/Elysian Park area.

Mondays and Fridays, anecdotally, seem to be the easy days. Today I literally saw one, solitary large truck, and my commute was a breeze. Other days -- without exaggeration -- feature a solid wall of large trucks. Semis and containers, that sort of thing. Often there will one or two lanes solidly packed with a line of trucks as far as the eye can see.

Why is it like that? What do I not understand about shipping rhythms? Is it different at different times of the year? This is the commute I do to take my kid to school, so I don't do it during the summer and vacation periods. Is it different then? Or is my thesis wrong altogether and it's just some weird coincidences involving the section of freeway I travel, and the days/times of the week I do so. Edumacate me, please!
posted by BlahLaLa to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Are you always driving at the same time? In Oregon and Washington, at least, there are restrictions on the times when the largest trucks can go through urban areas -- so they tend to hit the road right after those restrictions end.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:01 AM on November 2, 2012

Response by poster: I am always driving this stretch of freeway between 7:30 - 8am, on weekdays only.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:05 AM on November 2, 2012

Best answer: Sometimes shipping companies do not let drivers keep freight out over the weekends if they aren't moving it somewhere - maybe they are having to pick it up somewhere on Monday, and taking it to somewhere else that causes them to be going through there on Tues-Thurs?

I used to work for a place that would get shipments from overseas, and we could never have a delivery first thing Monday morning, because it would require the trucker to keep the container over the weekend, which they didn't allow.
posted by needlegrrl at 10:16 AM on November 2, 2012

Which direction are you going on the freeway in the morning? Is it only your side of the freeway that's packed with trucks Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday?
posted by Dansaman at 10:22 AM on November 2, 2012

Response by poster: I'm traveling south, and I haven't spent too much time looking at the other side of the freeway.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:40 AM on November 2, 2012

That freeway links to the 710 to the Port of Los Angeles; especially with trucks with containers, maybe it has to do with when a ship comes in with cargo that has to go north?
posted by akgerber at 10:43 AM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When I was still in shipping, and it's been several years since I left the industry, the majority of our vessels had deadlines for container delivery at the ports on Thursdays (for overnight vessel loading and Friday sailing dates). This was for freight bound for Asia and Aus/NZ.
posted by vignettist at 11:32 AM on November 2, 2012

Do you know if they are mainly trucks with removable 20' and 40' ocean shipping containers, or are they just standard tractor trailer trucks?
posted by Dansaman at 11:48 AM on November 2, 2012

Response by poster: It's a mix of trucks and containers -- not sure of the percentages.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:27 PM on November 2, 2012

Best answer: There are a lot of distribution warehouses all along the 5 and 605 freeways, and trucks heading south on a weekday morning are presumably returning from night time delivery runs to points north. So to me this sounds more like tractor trailers than ocean shipping containers, which you see heavily on the 710 freeway but it doesn't seem that such trucks would be heading south on the 5 on weekday mornings.

Why not on Monday: presumably no deliveries were made to northern points on Sunday, thus no trucks coming back on Monday morning.

Why not on Friday: harder to say but I would guess if these drivers don't deliver on Sunday, then maybe they need one other day of the week they don't deliver, and maybe that's Thursday (if they didn't deliver on Saturday, then the two day gap on the weekend would be too long, so maybe they mostly deliver on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday and that's why you only see southbound weekday truck traffic on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday). Just a guess though.
posted by Dansaman at 1:01 PM on November 2, 2012

Response by poster: Well the only thing I've really noticed since asking this question is that I'm seeing more semis and fewer container trucks. I marked a few best answers just because they seemed logical.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:38 PM on December 2, 2012

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