Thousands of motorists have been caught up in a 60-mile tailback since August 14 – an incredible 11 days ago. And it could last a further three weeks.
While many motorists took detours, some ended up trapped for up to five days, sleeping in their cars and taking shifts behind the wheel.
Others played cards to pass the time and chatted by the roadside as 400 police were drafted in to ensure the communal road rage was kept in check.
And local traders made the most of the situation by setting up stalls and roaming from lorry to lorry selling their wares at exorbitant prices.
On Sunday, day eight of the gridlock, trucks moved less than a mile on the worst-hit section, said Zhang Minghai, a traffic director in Zhangjiakou, a city 90 miles north-west of Beijing.
At some points, the tailback reached 60 miles, roughly the same distance between London and Brighton.
Officials admitted that the jam could continue until mid-September, with accidents and broken-down cars hampering efforts to keep things moving on the National Expressway 110 between the capital Beijing and Inner Mongolia.
Traffic has become a serious problem in China but the 11-day jam is among the most chronic examples of a transport network which has been over capacity for years
Get your food and beverages here (at an exorbitant price): Vendors leap into action to sell their wares
Construction was ordered on the National Expressway, which travels from Beijing to Huai’an in Heibei Province, and on to Jining in Inner Mongolia, because of damage done by lorries.
An eight-tonne limit was imposed but this month there have been even more trucks carrying heavy loads of coal or fruit because the Beijing section of the other major route out of the capital – the Beijing-Tibet Expressway – has had stricter weight limits brought in.
Within hours, a mini-industry sprang up at points where traffic was at a standstill, with locals charging high prices for food and refreshments.
Many of the lorries contain unrefrigerated cargo, so much of fruit and vegetables on board are assumed to be rotting.
‘Instant noodles are sold at four times the original price while I wait in the congestion,’ he said. ‘Not only the congestion annoys me, but also those vendors.’
Wang, who was behind the wheel of a lorry containing coal, had been on the same section of the road for three days and two nights.
‘We are advised to take detours, but I would rather stay here since I will travel more distance and increase my costs,’ he said.
Such is the cynicism about traffic that the days when the roads are clear is cause for minor celebrations.
‘If there’s no traffic jam in the city, that would be news,’ said Niu Fengrui, director of the Institute for Urban and Environmental Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
A publicity officer with the Beijing Traffic Management Bureau blamed insufficient capacity as a result of the roadworks for the delays.
The construction is due to finish on September 13.
Walking along the highway: A driver returns to his truck after stretching his legs
A field day for truck spotters: A local observes the chaotic scenes from the side of the road