Impacts of Policy-Induced Freight Modal Shifts

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 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 prior to 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 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.


  • English


  • Status: Completed
  • Funding: $350000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 44

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Research and Innovative Technology Administration

    University Transportation Centers Program
    1200 New Jersey Avenue, 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:

    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

    Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
    110 8th Street
    Troy, NY  United States  12180
  • Principal Investigators:

    Holguin-Veras, Jose

  • Start Date: 20131017
  • Expected Completion Date: 20181031
  • Actual Completion Date: 20181031
  • Source Data: RiP Project 38321

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01548181
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 44
  • Files: TRB, RiP
  • Created Date: Dec 18 2014 1:00AM