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Public Roads - Nov/Dec 2007

Nov/Dec 2007
Issue No:
Vol. 71 No. 3
Publication Number:
Table of Contents

Training Update

A Framework for Freight Analysis

by Brittany Boughter

The National Highway Institute (NHI)

In 2002 the U.S. transportation system moved 17 billion metric tons (19 billion short tons), worth more than $13 trillion. By 2035, the volume will nearly double to 34 billion metric tons (37 billion short tons), worth about $38 trillion.

Recognizing the significant direct and indirect effects of freight movement on U.S. roadways and communities, the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Office of Freight Management and Operations developed the Freight Analysis Framework (FAF) to provide a comprehensive picture of commodity flows in the United States. The tool covers local and long-distance domestic shipments as well as imports and exports of all commodities — from coal to electronics to municipal solid waste — by all modes of transportation.

The FAF was developed to raise awareness of freight issues and provide freight forecasts for policy studies of investment needs, truck size and weight limits, and cost allocation. The current version, FAF2, includes estimates of values and tons of freight movement for 1997 and 2002, with forecasts through 2035. FAF2 also includes estimates of commodity movements by truck volumes over specific highways for 2002 and 2035, and provisional estimates of values and tons for 2006. To educate freight, transportation, and planning professionals about trends and growth in trucking, the National Highway Institute (NHI) offers two courses, Integrating Freight in the Transportation Planning Process (FHWA-NHI-139001) and Uses of Multimodal Freight Forecasting in Transportation Planning (FHWA-NHI-139002). Both courses employ the FAF as a teaching tool.

Integrating Freight in the Transportation Planning Process is a 2-day course designed to help public sector transportation planners incorporate freight data into their planning processes. "Incorporating the FAF helps attendees learn to anticipate trends and react accordingly," says Dr. Tianjia Tang, FHWA's program manager for the FAF. "Planners can download and manipulate the database to track the origin and destination of goods, thereby computing and illustrating various modes of transportation. FAF trend analysis determines transportation infrastructure needs in order to accommodate the goods movement."


NHS Estimated Peak Period Congestion: 2035

According to a preliminary analysis of FAF2, in 2002 approximately 11 percent of National Highway System (NHS) roadways (based on roadway length) approached or exceeded their capacity, and 3.4 percent of roadway links exceeded their capacity. In 2035, approximately 40 percent of NHS roadways and 25 percent of the links will approach or exceed capacity, as shown on this map. Source: FHWA.

Upon completing the course, participants will be able to do the following:

  • Identify stakeholders
  • Explain the role of modes in freight transportation
  • Describe trends and their impacts on a State's transportation system and communities
  • Discuss issues surrounding the use of freight data in the planning process
  • Identify resources to help freight planning efforts at the State and metropolitan levels

The 3-day course, Uses of Multimodal Freight Fore-casting in Transportation Planning, demonstrates the use and value of various forecasting techniques, discusses economic trends that influence freight growth, and explores the role of intermodal terminals and their impacts on local traffic.

Upon completing the course, participants will be able to do the following:

  • Explain why freight forecasting is important in the transportation planning process
  • Discuss the roles of freight transportation modes
  • Describe the influence of economic trends
  • Describe the role of intermodal terminals and their impacts on local traffic
  • Identify the impacts of freight on travel demand forecasts
  • Identify publicly and privately available sources of freight data

Other NHI freight-related courses under development include Advanced Freight Planning (FHWA-NHI-139003), Principles of Effective Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) Size and Weight Enforcement (FHWA-NHI-139004), and Freight Planning and Environmental Considerations (FHWA-NHI-139005).

For more information on the FAF, visit Visit for the latest information about NHI's freight courses.

Brittany Boughter is a contributing editor for Public Roads.