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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-17-003     Date:  March/April 2017
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-17-003
Issue No: Vol. 80 No. 5
Date: March/April 2017


Guest Editorial

Overhauling Policies and Programs for Freight Transportation

Photo. Headshot of Martin Knopp, Associate Administrator, Office of Operations, Federal Highway Administration. A new era is underway for freight transportation in the United States. The movement of freight is changing, and the Nation’s transportation system needs to keep up with those changes to assure the continuing economic growth of the United States.

The U.S. Department of Transportation anticipates that by 2045, the volume of freight transported in the United States will increase by 45 percent. Preparing for this unprecedented growth is one of the major challenges facing USDOT, the Federal Highway Administration, and State and local transportation departments and authorities.

The role of USDOT is to ensure safe, efficient, and effective use of the Nation’s entire transportation network--road, rail, water, and air. Developing new approaches to cope with the growing impacts of freight transportation, including traffic congestion, is essential to ensuring the network’s ability to support the U.S. economy.

To address the challenge of this new reality, the transportation community is shifting away from looking at freight movement in terms of separate modes. Instead of stove-piping individual highway, rail, air, and water systems, the new multimodal approach involves strategic solutions aimed at developing a seamless network with all modes interacting efficiently.

Under this perspective, USDOT is fostering multimodal strategic planning and Federal investments, plus improving efficiency through a seamless system. The national freight network includes not only highways, railways, and waterways, but also airports, other intermodal facilities, and hundreds of ports of entry from Canada, Mexico, and across the oceans.

Kicking off with this issue of PublicRoads, a series of five articles will discuss this emerging era. To begin, an article titled “The Times They Are Definitely Changing” (page 11) examines the multimodal approach in detail. Future articles in the series will focus on new initiatives within FHWA, including truck parking, State freight plans, freight performance measures, and reducing the impacts of freight movements on communities.

Truck parking shortages are a national safety concern because weary drivers may continue to use the road whenever they have difficulty finding a place to park. Or they may choose to rest at unsafe locations, such as road shoulders, exit ramps, or vacant lots.

Another article in the series will focus on the requirement under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act that each State develop a comprehensive 5-year freight plan, which must include a list of priority projects for the investment of matching funds.

In addition, the FAST Act elevates the requirements for freight planning and performance measurement. FHWA has a number of initiatives underway to improve freight data on reliability, truck speeds, and bottlenecks, and to develop performance measures for freight planning.

To complete the series, the final article will focus on the impact of freight movement on communities, especially downtown urban areas. It will examine noteworthy strategies implemented in urban areas and provide available resources for planning urban freight movements.

With the nexus between the societal changes in the way that goods are purchased, delivered, and used, and the multitude of new and emerging technologies to improve the efficiency of freight movement, transportation is entering a whole new era. For example, connected vehicle and information sharing technologies are preparing to help the transportation community meet the huge challenge of the growth expected over the next three decades.

Martin C. Knopp
Associate Administrator
Office of Operations
Federal Highway Administration




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