Identification and Evaluation of Freight Demand Factors

From initial planning of the Interstate Highway System in the 1930s and 1940s through the national policy studies of the 1970s, forecasts of future demand for freight transportation substantially underestimated the subsequent growth in freight volumes and average lengths of haul. Among the consequences today are highways that are overwhelmed with trucks, the lack of rail capacity because of past abandonments, and a planning dilemma for sizing and pricing transportation infrastructure. More recent national freight forecasts predict enormous increases in the demand for freight transportation over the next two decades. These substantially higher forecasts reflect recent trends, most notably the explosive growth in international trade. But, given the underestimation of freight demand by forecasters in the past, are the dire predictions of huge freight growth in the future any more likely to occur? There is a need to consider the contributions of such factors as demographics, economics, environment, technology, and public policy decisions to freight demand. A better understanding of the contributions of such factors, as well as their trends and interrelationships, will greatly improve the accuracy of future freight demand models; may provide better estimates of how likely future freight demand will deviate from the forecasts; and may help identify leading indicators that should be tracked to anticipate freight demand shifts. The objective of this research is to develop a report that describes and analyzes such factors as demographics, economics, environment, technology, and public policy that contribute importantly to the future demand for freight (as measured, for example, by tons, ton miles, vehicle miles or train miles, and value of freight). The research will: (1) identify the factors and estimate the direction and relative magnitude of the influence of each factor on freight demand; (2) identify whether the effects are international, national, regional, or local; (3) assess factor reliability at predicting demand including the likelihood that the factor and its effects will continue in the near and long term; and (4) identify factors that should be monitored to detect major changes in trends in the demand for freight transportation, including supply interactions.


  • English


  • Status: Completed
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 11

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Research and Innovative Technology Administration

    Department of Transportation
    1200 New Jersey Avneue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590

    National Cooperative Freight Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC    20001
  • Project Managers:

    Rogers, William

  • Performing Organizations:

    Halcrow Group Limited

  • Principal Investigators:

    West, Robert

  • Start Date: 20090508
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 20110331
  • Source Data: RiP Project 15556

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01462720
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 11
  • Files: TRB, RiP, USDOT
  • Created Date: Jan 3 2013 2:09PM