Impacts of Policy-Induced Freight Modal Shifts Report Now Available

Freight transportation networks must offer rapid, reliable, and efficient service to meet customer demands for today’s global marketplace. If a transportation supply chain becomes uncompetitive, it quickly loses market share and suffers immediate economic consequences. Global supply chains also have significant impacts on the environment and local communities.  The increased recognition of the environmental and human impacts of supply chain activities, such as air emissions, noise, and congestion has led to public pressure for action, but these can often lead to fragmented, conflicting, and multi-layered regulatory structures. In recent public policy debates, much emphasis has been placed on proposals to shift freight from highways to rail (e.g., European policies to shift traffic from highways to rail and waterways, public investment in rail intermodal facilities, proposals to subsidize rail operations, truck size and weight restrictions, truck model age restrictions at ports, tax subsidies). This interest is based on the goals of reducing emissions and highway congestion. However, prudent planning requires an understanding of the basics of mode choices, what could change those choices, and what will be the impacts. Modal shift initiatives also require a full understanding of the impacts before enacting the plans, especially the availability of modal capacity.  Negative consequences are frequently misunderstood or overlooked. Without such understanding, public officials could make uninformed decisions that have decades-long impacts on transportation infrastructure and business supply chain procurement as well as the economic competitiveness of the United States.

The team at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Polytechnic has completed the research project on the Impacts of Policy-Induced Freight Modal Shift. This project is funded by National Cooperative Freight Research.  The objective of this research is to develop a handbook for public practitioners that describes the factors shippers and carriers consider when choosing freight modes and provides an analytical methodology for public practitioners to quantify the probability and outcomes of policy-induced modal shifts.

To download the handbook, click here

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