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Freight Economy

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What is the Freight Economy?

It is an interconnected network enabling the movement of food, energy, fabricated goods, and raw materials to keep citizens employed, communities healthy, and the Nation competitive on a global scale. Together, these components make up the freight economy.

Our freight transportation network is one of the great strengths of our country. Millions of Americans wake up in the morning and go to work operating trucks, trains, aircraft, ships, and barges. The system moves 55 million tons of goods worth more than $49 billion each day. In addition, freight supports 44 million jobs. It is a critical force in our economy made up of a vast, complex network of almost seven million miles of highways, local roads, railways, navigable waterways, and pipelines.

Beyond Traffic: 2045 Final Report

Watch the Virtual Freight Economy Roundtable that was held October 13, 2016.

United States of America Freight Economy Overview

Key Transportation Facilities

HIGHWAYSTotal Public Roads: 4,092,730 miles
National Highway System: 222,946 miles
National Highway Freight Network (excludes CUFCs and CRFCs): 51,029
Note: CUFC (Critical Urban Freight Corridor), CRFC (Critical Rural Freight Corridor)
RAILROADSTotal : 138,447 miles
Class I: 95,264 Class II : 10,355 Class III : 32,858
AIRPORTS122 Airports landed all-cargo operations greater than 50,000 short tons annually in 2014.
WATERBORNENavigable Channels: 11.000 miles
Great Lakes-St Lawrence Seaway: 2,342 miles
PIPELINEOil: 181,353 miles
Gas: 1,567,000 miles

Freight Facilities

Map of the United States showing border crossings, airports, ports, rail connectors, highways, railways, marine highways, waterway connections, inland and costal waterways, and ubanized areas.

Source: U.S. DOT (Comment period for the Interim NMFN (National Multimodal Freight Network) ended Sept 6, 2016 and comments made to the docket are currently under review).

What the future of freight will look like for the United State of America:

Top 5 Commodities by Value 2045

Commodity Value (millions $) % of total
Electronics 5,181,998 14%
Machinery 3,066,414 8%
Pharmaceuticals 2,477,753 7%
Mixed freight 2,435,188 7%
Motorized vehicles 2,140,823 6%
All commodities 37,079,927 100%

Top 5 Commodities by Weight 2045

Commodity Tons (thousands) % of total
Natural gas (Coal-n.e.c.) 4,177,757 16%
Gravel 2,463,547 10%
Nonmetal min. prods. 1,740,402 7%
Cereal grains 1,418,370 6%
Other foodstuffs 1,211,927 5%
All commodities 25,344,760 100%

Trading Partners 2045

Outbound by Weight of Shipment
(thousand tons)

Trade partner Tonnage % of total
Eastern Asia 595,123 27%
Canada 357,474 16%
Rest of Americas 343,656 16%
Mexico 292,647 13%
Europe 260,009 12%
Total Exports 2,189,644 100%

Inbound by Weight of Shipment
(thousand tons)

Trade partner Tonnage % of total
Canada 745,874 33%
Eastern Asia 363,341 16%
Rest of Americas 304,279 14%
Mexico 282,685 13%
SW & Central Asia 191,262 9%
Total Imports 2,241,059 100%

Sources: Freight Analysis Framework 4 (FAF4.2), 2045 data
Note: Includes all modes and both domstic and international flows. *Other export =340,735/16% **Other import =353,618/16%

Modal Freight Share by Tonnage, 2012 and 2045

2012: Truck 63.6%; Rail 10.7%; Water 3.9%; Air	0.0%; Multiple mode/Mail 2.3%; Pipeline	17.3%; Other/unknown 2.2%.  2045: Truck 65.3%; Rail 9.1%; Water 3.7%; Air 0.1%; Multiple mode/Mail 2.5%; Pipeline 18.0%; Other/unknown 1.3%.

Freight Facts

In 2014, the U.S. current- dollar GDP was $17.4 trillion, with freight and other transportation-related purchases and investment accounting for 8.9%, or $1.5 trillion, of the total.

In 2015, freight-intensive industries generated 47%, or 62.13 million, of 132.2 million total U.S. jobs.

Between 2012 and 2045, the U.S. will see freight activity grow by about 50% in tonnage to 17 million and more than double in value to $37 trillion.

By 2045, U.S. annual international freight value will reach $15 trillion, representing a 40%, or $6 trillion, freight value share that increased from 20% in 2012.

Trucks represent the U.S. predominant freight carrier mode now and into the future. Trucks currently carry 64% of U.S. freight tonnage.

Trucks carry the largest shares by value, tons, and ton-miles for shipments moving 750 or fewer miles. Rail is the dominant mode by tons and ton-miles for shipments moved distances that range 750 to 2,000 miles.

The top two U.S. commodities by value, electronics and machinery, will reach $8.2 trillion in 2045, representing about a 30% share of the total freight value.

Over the next 30 years, forecasters expect the U.S population to grow by about 70 million and the economy to increase by 115% to $36.7 trillion.

In 2014, the commercial truck sector lost an estimated $27 billion dollar as the result of highway congestion delays.

Nearly 12 million trucks, locomotives, rail cars, and vessels move goods over the U.S. transportation network.

Sources for Freight Facts: FAF4 Data, Freight Facts and Figure U.S. DOT BTS, Beyond Traffic 2045, U.S. DOT, Bureau of Economic Analysis, TTI 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard

FHWA's Freight Economy Roundtables

Click on map to see individual rountable details.

More Information on Freight Transportation

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