In 2012, President Obama and his administration established the National Freight Strategic Plan or NFSP, which aimed to centralize regulatory controls over the multi-billion-dollar commercial freight industry in the USA. However, the NHSP never materialized, and eventually phased into the FAST Act of 2015 – which likewise failed to gain much momentum in the US House of Representatives.
On December 27th, 2019, the US Department of Transportation announced they would reopen the NFSP for public comment and issued a Request for Information. Meanwhile, the FAST Act or Fixing America’s Surface Transportation is scheduled to expire in September 2020.
As regulatory improvements with the transportation industry as a whole is a major policy issue of the current President Trump administration, stakeholders from local and state governments, carriers large and small, shippers, and trade groups are asked to submit their input to the DOT prior to February 10th, 2019.
According to the US DOT, “The trucking industry experienced almost 1.2 billion hours of delay in 2016 because of traffic congestion on the National Highway System, at a cost of $34 billion in truck driver wages, not including wasted fuel and increased inventory carrying costs for affected shippers and beneficial cargo owners. More than ever, transportation planning and infrastructure investment, particularly for freight, must be considered within the broader systems context that accounts for all modes and both public- and private-sector actors to retain the United States’ global competitive advantage.”
Additionally, the DOT estimates that nearly 18-billion tons of freight moves across the US each year and is expected to increase by 44 percent by 2045 – which puts a major strain on current infrastructure – specifically state and interstate highways.
The Impact of eCommerce Growth
The rapid growth of eCommerce sales has also led to the new public comments for the NFSP. Additional shipping lanes, the constant movement of supplies, raw materials, and finished goods has led to extra pressure on distribution hubs, expanding urban traffic congestion, and the increase in intermodal traffic – even with an apparent driver shortage.
The DOT has indicated that air cargo transportation has become a sought-after movement for expensive commodities including pharmaceuticals and electronics – and is expected to increase its annual tonnage at a rate close to 5 percent each year.
Information Asked by the DOT
The FAST Act currently addresses multiple areas within infrastructure and transportation management. However, the US DOT is seeking input from those involved in the transportation industries, along with state and local officials addressing the 10 following questions:
What are the three most important challenges facing the U.S. freight transportation system?
What should be long- and short-term national freight system goals?
How can states, local agencies, and private stakeholders most effectively advance these national goals?
How should DOT measure freight transportation system performance?
What industry freight-specific knowledge is critical to understanding supply chains and how economic trends impact freight logistics and cargo movements? Are there technological innovations, such as blockchain and the Internet of Things (IoT), that DOT should know about?
What should be considered regarding vital operational or equipment innovations, emerging technology advances from research communities, as well as infrastructure or facility concepts in freight transportation?
What approach should the federal government use to invest in the multimodal freight system?
What barriers (such as regulatory, technological, institutional, statutory) are critical to freight efficiency that DOT should better understand?
What information is critical to understanding the unique infrastructure and operational freight impacts faced by local communities?
How would you define a bottleneck in your industry?
What else should DOT consider or do to improve freight transportation in the U.S.?