Office of Operations Freight Management and Operations

Urban Freight Case Studies - Washington, DC

District of Columbia Motor Carrier Management and Threat Assessment Study

DDOT commissioned the District of Columbia Motor Carrier Management and Threat Assessment Study to address concerns about truck traffic, regulation and enforcement of commercial vehicle parking, and security requirements. The Study recommended the establishment of a Motor Carrier Office within DDOT, the creation of designated truck routes in the city, and the development of short-term and long-term parking strategies.

According to the study, trucks constitute approximately five percent of total vehicle traffic in the District. Many trucks enter the District via Georgia and New York Avenues, where the majority of industrial activity and goods warehousing is concentrated. As a result, these two streets carry high volumes of truck traffic. Trucks constitute approximately 15 percent of traffic on Georgia Avenue and about 12 percent of traffic on New York Avenue.

Small trucks such as courier vans and pickup trucks dominate truck traffic in the District, accounting for almost 90 percent of the truck traffic in the downtown area. The lack of parking spaces for loading and unloading is a major issue for these smaller vehicles.

Motor Carrier Office (MCO)

The Metropolitan Police Department the Motor Carrier Office with the following responsibilities:8

  • Serve as the single point of contact for motor carrier-related inquiries.
  • Staff the multi-stakeholder Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.
  • Act as the lead office in designating preferred motor carrier routes and motor carrier restrictions.
  • Oversee the issuance of special permits.
  • Work with the DDOT Chief Information Officer on motor carrier technologies, including the implementation of Commercial Vehicle Information Systems & Networks (CVISN).
  • Work with the Transportation Security Administration, Infrastructure Project Management Administration, DDOT's Traffic Operations Administration, and DDOT's Mass Transit Administration on issues relating to motor carrier traffic, including construction trucks.
  • Coordinate with, and provide input to, other government agencies on motor carrier-related issues.
  • Coordinate with other local, regional, and Federal agencies as appropriate.
  • Identify and manage motor carrier-related funding sources.

Designated Truck Routes

There are no officially designated truck routes in Washington, DC. Instead, there are a number of de facto truck routes that drivers prefer because of roadway geometry, traffic conditions and location relative to trip origins and destinations. Passenger vehicles are heavy users of the de facto truck routes, leading to congestion for both cars and trucks.

The formal designation of truck routes in the District would address many longstanding concerns such as noise and vibration complaints from residents, security concerns around high-risk facilities, congestion, and the need for better information and services for truck operators and their customers. The Motor Carrier Management and Threat Assessment Study recommended several trucks routes and restricted truck zones applicable to trucks and rail cars hauling certain categories of hazardous materials (Figure 3). However, the legislation creating the restricted zones was overturned.

Figure 3: Preferred Truck Routes and Restricted Zone

Figure 3 is a map that illustrates preferred truck routes and restricted truck zones applicable to trucks and rail cars hauling certain categories of hazardous materials.

Source: District Department of Transportation, District of Columbia Motor Carrier Management and Threat Assessment Study (Washington, DC: 2004), figure 23.


Many truck parking problems occur in the District's central business area. They include:

  • Insufficient loading zone space on- and off-street,
  • Loading spaces that are too small for large trucks to use,
  • Inconsistent enforcement of parking regulations, especially double parking, and
  • Low turnover of metered passenger-vehicle spaces; and time-of-day loading zone designations that do not coincide with heavy courier and truck deliveries.

To address these issues, existing parking conditions were analyzed, truck activity was examined, and major stakeholders were interviewed. Based on the results of these efforts, short-term and long-term actions were identified. The following actions are either under review or have been implemented.


  • Increase the number of dedicated loading/unloading spaces per block, both on- and off-street. Require one loading space be provided for every 100,000 square feet of commercial space.
  • Expand morning parking restrictions to 11 a.m. to accommodate couriers and deliveries of perishable goods.
  • Modify curbside signs so that loading zones are reserved for vehicles that are actively loading or unloading goods.
  • Implement a maximum time that vehicles can occupy loading zones.
  • Encourage building owners to reserve off-street parking spaces for commercial vehicles that are expected to be parked for several hours.
  • Step up enforcement of parking regulations, especially those that apply to vehicles that are blocking a traffic lane or that are illegally parked in a commercial vehicle zone.
  • Eliminate multiple and confusing signs to clarify parking regulations.
  • Publicize the DPW tow-away hotline, which accepts complaints about illegally parked vehicles.


  • Restrict parking of trucks larger than 2-axle, 6-tire vehicles to off-peak hours.
  • Install parking meters for commercial vehicles in restricted spaces to encourage turnover.
  • Increase fines for parking offenses.
  • Implement a fee system whereby couriers pay a premium to have parking spaces reserved solely for their vehicles during their peak delivery times.
  • Implement a permit system for commercial vehicles that occasionally need space all day for doing maintenance and other work in area buildings. These vehicles would be allowed to occupy on-street loading/unloading spaces with a permit even if they are not actively loading or unloading goods. Building owners would be given a limited number of permits for such vehicles.

8 Metropolitan Police Department, Motor Carrier Safety Unit, personal communication, May 21, 2009.

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