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Friday, February 15, 2013    

USDOT to form National Freight Advisory Committee


The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) yesterday announced plans to establish a National Freight Advisory Committee charged with providing recommendations on ways to improve the national freight transportation system.

Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), which was enacted in July 2012, established a national freight policy and called for the creation of a national strategic freight plan. By engaging stakeholders representing diverse geographic, modal and policy interests — such as safety, labor and the environment — the advisory committee will issue recommendations to the U.S. transportation secretary as to how the department can improve freight transportation policies and programs, USDOT officials said in a press release.

The department currently is soliciting nominations for advisory committee members. The committee will comprise at least 25 voting members from outside the USDOT who have various perspectives on freight transportation, and will meet at least three times per year. Instructions on how to submit nominations will be published in a Federal Register notice in the coming days, USDOT officials said.

"The goods our businesses produce and the materials that go into those goods travel over an extensive transportation network that includes highways, railroads, waterways, pipelines and airways. While specific commodities are likely to favor one particular mode, a significant portion of the freight moved throughout the nation travels on more than one form of transportation to reach its final destination," wrote U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood yesterday in his "Fast Lane" blog. "If we want our economy to continue growing, we need to move increasing volumes of freight. And that means we need a more comprehensive system of arteries with smoother connections, more efficient transfer points, and planning that integrates our different modes of transportation."

The collaboration of stakeholders will support the implementation of larger freight policy initiatives, including the USDOT's Freight Policy Council, an internal leadership body created by LaHood to facilitate cross-modal implementation of MAP-21 freight provisions, department officials said.

The committee's formation provides additional evidence of a federal commitment to improving U.S. freight mobility, said Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors President and Executive Director Leslie Blakey in a prepared statement.

“Our coalition has long held that regular coordination and consultation between the private and public sectors at the national level would benefit freight movement and improve policy-making," he said. "This committee will contribute practical experience to the process of implementing MAP-21 freight provisions, while helping to lay a path with creative concepts for freight in the next authorization.”  

The USDOT also is proposing a process to designate a national freight network to better focus attention on the highways deemed most critical to goods movement. The secretary will designate the most vital interstates and roads as the primary freight network. The USDOT is requesting comments on the proposed process.

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