With highway travel on the rise – thus increasing the potential for schedule-busting traffic congestion – new emphasis is being placed on more “real-time” routing strategies for trucking.

“Real-time routing is a necessity in order to keep up with the demands of this fast-paced [freight] environment and it’s definitely an evolving, global phenomenon,” Erin Cave, director of product management for Telogis Navigation, told Fleet Owner.

“Especially in an enterprise environment, companies need to be able to route more efficiently in order to meet the changing needs of their own customers,” Cave said.

Cave added that the ability to receive road condition status from drivers impacts routing immediately and also makes businesses more efficient and ultimately increases safety – not only for commercial drivers, but also for everyone else on the road.

Those benefits are becoming more critical as the U.S. is beginning to experience a surge in highway travel. According to new data released today by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) vehicles traveled 2.95 trillion miles on U.S. roads in 2011 – the eighth-highest level ever recorded, and nearly double the amount traveled in 1980.

FHWA added that based on traffic volume data from 2011 – the most recent year available – California’s I-5 highway is the nation's busiest interstate, with 21.4 billion miles traveled that year. The neighboring I-10 and I-110 interstates in the Golden State followed as the second and third busiest, respectively, with the Los Angeles' section of I-405 – carrying an estimated 379,000 vehicles per day – ranked as the busiest interstate in any American city.

In terms of state highway volume, FHWA said California is ranked number one with 84.7 billion miles of highway travel, followed by Texas at 55.7 billion miles, Florida at 34.7 billion miles, and Ohio at 31.4 billion miles.

"Data like these help us better understand the highway system and its needs," noted FHWA Administrator Victor Mendez in a statement. "Analysis of the nation's traffic patterns and areas of changing traffic volume will lead to safer, less congested roads and greater mobility for all Americans."

Traffic volume is only expected to increase for the upcoming Labor Day holiday in the U.S., with AAA projecting that 34.1 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home between Friday August 30 and Monday Sept. 2 – a 4.2% increase from the 32.7 million people who traveled during the Labor Day holiday in 2012.

AAA also noted that 85% of those travelers (some 29.2 million) will travel by automobile; an increase of 4.3% from 28 million last year.

That’s why Christian Schenk, senior VP of product and market strategy for XRS, points out improving the ability to navigate around rising traffic congestion is one of the major benefits of real-time routing, as such technology allows for what he called the “further optimization” of current day trucking activities based on unplanned or unforeseen circumstances.

Schenk added that the use of real-time routing is already taking place in high-volume industries like package delivery, with leading courier companies able to change service levels and delivery dates dynamically while a package is still in transit – allowing users to login via the Internet and see their package’s location at anytime in the shipping process.

“Trucking is a couple of years behind where small package delivery is, but only based on the volume and cost that is takes to deploy,” he stressed. “The large barriers to entry will be on the ownership from end to end of the supply chain. End-to-end transparency on the supply chain is not where it needs to be yet for real-time routing to be mainstream in trucking, but advancements in technology will drive costs down and make it available to more firms in more industries.”