The increase in freight tonnage over the next 30 years will require adding capacity to marine, highway, rail, air and pipeline modes, according to the United States Department of Transportation.
The Department of Transportation estimates freight volumes in the United States will increase 40 percent to 69 million tons in the next 30 years, while the value of freight hauled will almost double during that same time period.
The projected rate of growth is down slightly from 45 percent in the DOT’s Beyond Traffic framework study of future conditions.
By 2045, total freight on all modes – including pipelines – is projected to reach 25 billion tons and be worth $37 trillion, according to the latest projections by the department’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics and the Federal Highway Administration.
The analysis shows that nearly 18.1 billion tons of goods worth about $19.2 trillion moved through the transportation system in 2015. That translates into 49 million tons per day.
The mix of commodities is also projected to continue evolving. Energy commodities were 38 percent of total tonnage in 2015, but are projected to decline to a 31 percent share by 2045 mostly due to increases for other goods. Tonnage for energy goods is projected to increase 14 percent by 2045, while non-energy goods are projected to increase by 56 percent.
Federal Highway Administration, Freight Analysis Framework, version 4.1, 2016.
Trucks remain the single most-used mode to move freight, moving 64 percent of tonnage in 2015 and 69 percent of the value. Tonnage for trucking is forecast to grow 44 percent by 2045, and value is forecast to grow 84 percent.
The DOT’s Freight Analysis Framework provides information on national-level freight flows. Planners use the data to help decide where to target infrastructure investments so traffic moves smoothly.
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx reiterated that the projected freight growth reinforces the need to invest in additional freight capacity.
He noted in his FastLane blog that President Obama has proposed $98 billion for transportation programs in the fiscal year 2017 budget, an increase of $30 billion above the levels authorized in the recent FAST Act transportation bill.
The FAST Act, for the first time, places more emphasis on freight-related infrastructure. It creates two new programs to channel $11 billion over five years to states and other entities for highway and intermodal improvements that support freight traffic.