Fast-Forward: Key Issues in Modernizing the U.S. Freight Transportation System for Future Economic Growth

Fast-Forward: Key Issues in Modernizing the U.S. Freight Transportation System for Future Economic Growth

Fast-Forward: Key Issues in Modernizing the U.S. Freight Transportation System for Future Economic Growth

Fast-Forward: Key Issues in Modernizing the U.S. Freight Transportation System for Future Economic Growth

Synopsis

Efficient movement of freight within the United States and across its borders is a critical enabler of future U.S. economic growth and competitiveness. Such efficiency is now threatened by capacity bottlenecks, inefficient use of some components of the freight infrastructure, interference with passenger transport, the system's vulnerability to disruption, and the need to address important emission and energy constraints. In this volume, the authors provide a broad overview of U.S. freight transportation, discuss its role in the supply chains of various types of businesses, and provide data about its capacity in relation to demand for goods movement. They conclude with a discussion of the need to modernize the freight-transportation system and the overarching issues this involves: increasing capacity through operational improvements and infrastructure enhancement, making the system more adaptable and less vulnerable to disruption, addressing the energy and environmental concerns associated with freight transportation, and building support for public and private investment in the system.

Excerpt

For years, improved reliability in timely delivery and the low cost of freight transportation in the United States and across its borders and ports kept logistics costs low and permitted internationally distributed manufacturing and supply with complex supply chains to operate efficiently and with minimal inventory. Projections of continuing increases in freight movement, however, indicated that, to meet future freight transportation needs, parts of this transportation system would probably need to expand capacity and increase efficiency. Since 2007, logistics costs appear to be increasing. Freight-transportation costs are an important part of the reason. In addition to concerns about future capacity, reliability, and productivity, freight transportation’s robustness to natural or human-created disruptions and increasing attention to the environmental impacts of freight movement are issues to be considered.

Using publicly available data and observations of many stakeholders in the U.S. freight-transportation system, this monograph describes the current state of the system, shows projections of freight growth, discusses the determinants of capacity, examines the robustness of the system, and describes the social issues, including safety, congestion, and environmental effects. It concludes with a discussion of key freight-transportation issues that we think should be the focus of nearterm attention and study to help position the United States for future economic competition.

The primary intended audience for this monograph is those involved in making choices about the U.S. transportation infrastruc-

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