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Rail News Home Rail Industry Trends

6/17/2009



Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Nation's freight transportation system needs an efficiency boost, RAND researchers say


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The U.S. freight transportation system’s long-term efficiency and effectiveness is “threatened” by bottlenecks, inefficient use of some infrastructure, vulnerability to disruptions, and key environmental and energy issues, according to a study recently released by RAND Corp.

Titled "Fast Forward: Key Issues in Modernizing the U.S. Freight Transportation System for Future Economic Growth,” the study was supported by the Dow Chemical Co., U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and Union Pacific Railroad.

Freight transportation system delays and “uncertainty in the performance of the system” have meant higher prices for consumers and reduced productivity, according to the study.

RAND researchers determined there are four freight transportation and infrastructure issues that need to be addressed:
• increasing national and international freight system capacity through a combination of operational improvements and selected infrastructure enhancements;
• creation of an adaptable, less-vulnerable and more-resilient freight transportation system;
• critical energy and environmental issues associated with freight transportation; and
• the pursuit of public and private investments in supply-chain infrastructure, and sustainable funding priorities.

The study also recommends that “responsible” agencies conduct system-level modeling of the freight transportation system to determine where bottlenecks occur and to understand vulnerabilities, and shippers be encouraged to use alternative ports to reduce strain on the system.

"There's an opportunity now for the United States to develop policies and plans that will improve the flexibility and security of the freight transportation system, which is currently vulnerable to a host of dangers that could cause costly disruptions, whether from a terrorist attack or a natural disaster, such as an earthquake," said Richard Hillestad, lead study author and a RAND senior principal researcher, in a prepared statement. “The whole functionality of freight transportation is built on reliability and speed, and those elements need to be protected.”


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