DOT data points to major future increases in freight tonnage and value

According to the Freight Analysis Framework (FAF) study from BTS and FHWA, freight tons moving on the United States’ transportation network are pegged to grow 40 percent over the next three decades to 25 billion tons, with the value of freight expected to rise 92 percent to $37 trillion.

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Data always has a way of getting a point across or represent themes of sorts. It can be applicable for just about anything, especially as it relates to supply chain and logistics to be sure in the case of volume, rates, capacity, and modal shifts, to name a few.

Data recently issued by the United States Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation (BTS) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) touches upon a different area in the form of projected freight growth. And it is fair to say that their findings are staggering to say the least.

According to the Freight Analysis Framework (FAF) study from BTS and FHWA, freight tons moving on the United States’ transportation network are pegged to grow 40 percent over the next three decades to 25 billion tons, with the value of freight expected to rise 92 percent to $37 trillion.

But before you let those data points sink in there are others to consider, too, including how in 2015 almost 18.1 billion tons of goods valued at roughly $19.2 trillion were moved on the U.S. transportation network, with 49 million tons of goods valued at more than $53 billion being shipped throughout the country via all modes on a daily basis.

If those figures still don’t “wow” you, the following ones may, with tonnage expected to increase to 69 million tons per day by 2045, with the growth in value expected to outpace growth in tonnage, which is expected to hit $101 billion per day, or $37 trillion cumulatively, by 2045.

And from a modal perspective, FAF noted that trucks still lead the pack, when it comes to which mode moves the most freight at 64 percent of 2015 tonnage and 69 percent of total value, with an estimated growth rate of 44 percent by 2045, while value is expected to grow by 84 percent.

Pipeline growth and value rates are expected to head up 38 percent and 24 percent, respectively, for the same period, and rail and water are expected to see 24 percent and 38 percent increases for growth, with value expected to rise 82 percent and 118 percent, respectively.

These numbers make it abundantly clear that freight volumes are going to see significant hikes in the coming decades, which is a good thing in that it speaks to an economy that is expected to busy and vibrant a for multiple decades.

But at the same time, one cannot help but wonder if there will be commensurate progress made on the transportation infrastructure front that will be needed to ensure growth actually occurs at these projected rates.

It is, and has been, a valid question for literally years, of course. And the short answer is this: who knows?

Given the slow progress on the transportation infrastructure front when it comes to actually executing on long-term plans and expectations, the fact of the matter is that actual progress and a viable funding mechanism to make sure progress continues, and matches up with expected growth, remains tough to pin down.

The good news is that even with the uneven state of transportation infrastructure development there is time to push the vision into a reality in terms of laying down the foundation for what is needed for our highways, ports, train tracks, and airports in order to remain economically competitive and to help supply chains run smoothly and more efficiently in light of what is ahead of us in future years in terms of projected freight growth. Let’s hope that our elected leaders and supply chain stakeholders are listening and take note of it.


About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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