Beyond Traffic 2045 is a Must Read

There are probably fewer more important documents coming from the outgoing Obama Administration than the final Beyond Traffic 2045 report highlighting transportation challenges the United States faces over the next three decades. It was recently released by outgoing U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx.

This report is the most comprehensive report issued by the DOT since 1977 when then U.S. Secretary of Transportation William Coleman issued a national transportation study entitled “National Transportation: Trends and Choices (to the year 2000).” The new study, which builds on that 1977 report, finds that the U.S. transportation system, and its current planning and funding mechanisms, will not meet the demands presented by trends including population growth, climate change and new technologies like driverless cars and automated trucks.

Download the report and give it a read. It will take some time to review since it’s about 230 pages long. But for those of us involved in the transportation industry, we believe it is simply a must read. Then let us know what you think.

Click here to read the report.

Below are some of the interesting questions and trends for the trucking industry posed by the report, broken down under several topic areas:

Growth of freight moved by trucks

  • In 2014, more than 10 million trucks moved more than 10 billion tons of freight across America’s highways;
  • By 2045, freight volume will increase by more than 40 percent from 11.5 billion tons to 16.5 billion tons;
  • Trucking is the primary mode of travel for most freight and is the dominant mode for distances under 750 miles. Commercial trucking accounts for about 9 percent of all highway vehicle miles traveled. Trucks are the dominant mode for freight because the extensive public road network allows for point-to-point delivery;
  • As online shopping captures a large market share, it will reduce travel associated with shopping trips, and reduce the need for private vehicle ownership. But it may also increase truck traffic in urban areas as goods are delivered to residences;
  • Trucking firms are now using mobile technology to connect truck drivers to last-mile freight orders that can fill excess truck capacity. By matching supply and demand, these companies have the potential to improve the efficiency of independent operators. These efficiency innovations may also help to reduce the impact of growing demand on the capacity of our freight transportation system.

Infrastructure challenges

  • Of the 611,845 public road bridges, 58,791 were classified as structurally deficient in 2015, and another 84,124 were classified as functionally obsolete;
  • Due to aging and physical deterioration, select major facilities and infrastructure experience weight restrictions or emergency repairs with greater frequency; this leads to congestion on existing alternate routes. Drivers, especially truck drivers, are used to being rerouted frequently due to closed facilities and other emergency restrictions, such as weight limitations applied to bridges while critical repairs are conducted. Travel times generally increase, and become less reliable. Freight shipments are often delayed.

Congestion

  • Clogged highways are not the product of poor design per se. Sometimes they choke with unanticipated traffic flows brought about by unforeseen zoning and land use decisions, regional population growth, or deferred maintenance caused by inadequate budgets or perhaps misplaced priorities;
  • Current annual cost of truck congestion system wide is $28 billion;
  • Freight bottlenecks on highways throughout the United States cause more than 243 million hours of delay to truckers annually, a loss of about $6.5 billion per year.
  • By 2040, nearly 30,000 miles of our busiest highways will be clogged on a daily basis;
  • Congestion in several metropolitan population centers is already severe and could become more extreme. Increasing freight demand in these densely populated areas will complicate first mile movement of goods out of ports and the last mile movement of goods from freight hubs to their final destinations, which is often the least efficient portion of the supply chain for many consumer goods;
  • Freight bottlenecks on highways throughout the United States cause more than 243 million hours of delay to truckers annually, a loss of about $6.5 billion per year.

Port traffic

  • Intermodal shipments are concentrated in the top 10 to 12 deep-water ports with the requisite infrastructure;
  • 84 percent of America’s containerized freight (as measured by cargo value) flows through just 10 ports – Tacoma, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Houston, New Orleans, Savannah, Charleston, Norfolk, Baltimore, and New York/New Jersey;
  • The ports of New Orleans, Los Angeles, Long Beach, and New York/New Jersey accounts for more than two-thirds of the containerized freight that moves through those 10 ports;
  • The Port of New Orleans moves nearly as much containerized freight per year, about 97 million tons, as Los Angeles, Long Beach and New York/New Jersey, combined – 111 million tons.

Intermodal transportation

  • Memphis is a major freight and logistics hub. Five major railways converge in the area and railroads have invested heavily in intermodal facilities there. Memphis is also home to the second-largest cargo airport in the world, Memphis International Airport, and the FedEx Global Operations Control Center. Memphis is also home to hundreds of trucking companies and services barge traffic on the Mississippi River. Nearly 30 percent of regional employment is concentrated in the transportation and warehousing sector;
  • The number of intermodal rail shipments increased from 2 million in 1980 to 13.5 million in 2014;
  • Chicago is the busiest rail hub in the United States. Approximately one quarter of all U.S. rail traffic and nearly half of intermodal rail traffic passes through rail lines in or nearby Chicago. Six of the nation’s seven largest freight rail carriers operate in the region;
  • Today a train can traverse the country from the ports in Los Angeles to Chicago in as little as 48 hours, but the same train may spend 30 hours just to travel across the Chicago region.

Big Data

  • GPS is increasingly yielding benefits for transportation. GPS and smartphones enable automatic no-hands tracking, replacing the frequent written journal entries traditionally used by shippers and carriers;
  • GPS may play a large role in enabling the deployment of connected and automated vehicles and payment systems;
  • For truck safety enforcement, GPS allows inspection sites to be mobile;
  • Apps using real-time traffic data allow vehicle drivers to change their routes on the fly to avoid congestion or traffic crashes;
  • 68 percent of American adults own a smart phone;
  • Mobile-phone apps are being used by public agencies to monitor air and vessel traffic and infrastructure conditions.
  • Freight companies use mobile phones and tablets to log driver hours and monitor packages. Phone-based location data are used to collect and provide real-time information on traffic conditions;
  • Many vehicles are equipped with on-board computers and GPS navigation systems. These systems can be used to access detailed maps, real-time travel conditions, and up-to-the-minute service schedules that help travelers make decisions about how, when, and where to travel.