Watch Now

US DOT dusts off national freight strategic plan

Alleviating bottlenecks is highlighted in the plan. Credit: Shutterstock

A long overdue assessment of the ability of multimodal transportation networks within the United States to handle future freight demand has been opened once again for public comment.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issued on Dec. 27 a “request for information” for a National Freight Strategic Plan (NFSP), originally called for by the Obama administration in 2012. The original NFSP never materialized, but it was subsequently required under the following highway spending reauthorization known as the FAST Act in 2015. A comment period for a draft of the plan, opened by DOT in early 2016, was supposed to result in an official plan by the end of that year, but a final NFSP has yet to appear.

With the FAST Act set to expire by the end of September 2020, the Trump administration is attempting to put in place an NFSP that includes updated information from state and local governments, private owners and operators, trade groups and shippers.

To highlight the problem, the agency pointed out that the U.S. moves approximately 18 billion tons of freight every year across all transportation modes. The agency estimates that amount will increase by 44% by 2045 (compared to 2015), which will increasingly strain infrastructure, particularly highways.

“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,” the agency stated.

It noted that prior to 2005 crude oil typically moved by pipeline. Since then, however, rail shipments of crude have increased significantly. In addition, increased liquefied natural gas movements “will require more interplay between pipelines, rail and tanker/barge movements,” DOT stated. The agency also estimated air cargo transportation to be the fastest-growing freight mode with annual tonnage growth of 4.3%.

“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.”

In addition to commenting on 11 components defined under the FAST Act, DOT is asking the industry to address the following 10 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.?

Comments on the plan are due by Feb. 10.


  1. Marcel Chineke

    The delays at shippers and receivers put a huge strain on the carrier. And the brokers too who doesn’t pay for the delays until 3 hours elapsed needs to re-evaluate that trend. Also deadhead are a huge drain on the carriers which should be put into rate consideration too.

  2. dale defoe

    The majority of delays in the trucking industry is at shippers and receivers where most carriers pay very little or no detention pay!
    On the average two to four hours!

  3. Thagearjammer

    In my minds eye I view this as the freight movement marketplace. Removing the romance of trucking gives us better perspective. Trucking is an old tired industry rotting and ready for anew. Government is going to have to move the cash register. Elected officials need to be forward thinking to unleash innovation. Innovation creates jobs and industry not tax breaks u foolz! we won’t get anywhere with echao protecting family business and lobbyists flush with tax breaks. I always forget what 1% of a billion is. But hey that’s citizens united.

  4. Noble1


    “To highlight the problem, the agency pointed out that the U.S. moves approximately 18 billion tons of freight every year across all transportation modes. The agency estimates that amount will increase by 44% by 2045 (compared to 2015), which will increasingly strain infrastructure, particularly highways. ”

    How do “they” know ? Perhaps quantum physics will have evolved and fully developed quantum teleportation by then .

    And who says road “vehicles” as we know them today will still be dependant on gravity and “ground” ? And who is to say that even we humans will remain dependant on vehicles ? Warp drive first ? Perhaps !

    Quote September 2019
    “Scientists Are Starting to Take Warp Drives Seriously, Especially One Specific Concept ”

    Look at what the human species accomplished in the last 25 years in regards to technology . I believe what will be accomplished in the next 25 years is literally going to blow our minds . Let’s just make sure we’re still around to create and see it .

    August 2019
    “Quantum Teleportation Has Been Reported in a Qutrit For The First Time ”


    August 2019
    “Complex quantum teleportation achieved for the first time

    Austrian and Chinese scientists have succeeded in teleporting three-dimensional quantum states for the first time. High-dimensional teleportation could play an important role in future quantum computers.

    Researchers from the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the University of Vienna have experimentally demonstrated what was previously only a theoretical possibility. ”


    “Will we be able to teleport humans ever? Scientists explain not yet, but yes is possible by some other means may be. However, the quantum technology can be used to develop super-secure networks for communication.”

    “Beam” me up Scotty !

    In my humble opinion …………

Comments are closed.

John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.