Office of Operations Freight Management and Operations

Engaging the Private Sector in Freight Planning

Slide 1

Engaging the Private Sector in Freight Planning

Executive Summary

Collage of images including a cargo container ship, an airplane, a truck, a railroad crossing signal, and 4 people. Also incuded is the logo for the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration


  • This presentation provides an overview of the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) one-day Engaging the Private Sector in Freight Planning Workshop – it is not a training summary of the course.
  • The purpose of this executive summary is to consolidate the principal points of a training course and provide an overview or preview to an audience who may or may not have time to attend a training session.
  • The Engaging the Private Sector Workshop was first developed in 2004 and has been offered about 20 times over the past 5-6 years. The Workshop curriculum just recently underwent major revisions to update the materials, add new case studies and revise the interactivity. This overview is intended to inform potential host agencies and audiences about this training opportunity.

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Slide 2

Workshop Goal

  • Provide techniques to help practitioners establish and strengthen a relationship with the private sector
  • Discuss freight stakeholder outreach strategies


Key Points:

  • Practical techniques and strategies designed to improve freight transportation planning in public agencies: A lack of understanding of both private sector business needs and the public sector transportation planning process hinders the effective integration of freight into many statewide and regional plans and transportation investment decisions. Developing and sustaining relationships, either formally or informally, with key private sector stakeholders is critical to effective freight transportation planning.
  • Designed for the practitioner: The Engaging the Private Sector in Freight Planning one-day Workshop is designed for practitioners addressing freight issues at metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), state departments of transportation, local governments, and economic development agencies. Private sector entities are considered a secondary audience; however, their participation in the Workshop can be extremely beneficial.

Slide 3

Workshop Outcomes

At the conclusion of this Workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Describe the value that private sector freight stakeholders can add to the planning process
  • Apply tools and resources for identifying freight stakeholders
  • Construct an action plan for engaging freight stakeholders in their agencies’ planning efforts


Key points

  • Practical results: It is the objective of the Workshop to provide participants with information they can use in their organizations and everyday work to incorporate private sector freight stakeholders in the planning process.
  • Build on existing freight planning programs: Even for those organizations that have efforts underway to involve the private sector in their planning process, the Workshop provides a broad overview of techniques and case studies with the intent of offering new perspectives and examples that can enhance existing efforts.
  • For those organizations where freight planning is largely new territory, the Workshop is designed to provide an initial “game plan” to get started.

Slide 4

Workshop Overview

  • Why engage the private sector?
  • Who should be engaged?
  • How to engage and sustain the private sector involvement.

Clip art image of man adjusting his tie.


Key Points:

  • Focus is on Why, Who and How: The curriculum, which is broken out across six lessons focuses on the Why, Who and How of engaging freight stakeholders. It is intended to be very interactive, with particular emphasis on participant involvement through small group exercises, individual exercises, and large group discussion. The exercises are designed to provide participants hands-on experience with the steps involved in reaching out to and engaging private sector freight stakeholders.
  • Case studies and lessons learned are used to provide practical, real-world examples of how other agencies have engaged private sector freight interests into their freight planning activities.

Slide 5

Why Engage?

  • Engaging the Private Sector = Public Involvement
  • Common Interests
    • Links to Economic Development
    • Congestion / Capacity
    • Financing and Funding
    • Environmental Issues
    • Security concerns
    • Safety


Key points: Why Engage?

  • Engaging the Private Sector is public involvement.
  • Find opportunities to engage freight stakeholders throughout the development of a project.
  • The Private Sector is a Key Customer: Engaging the private sector is about outreach activities designed to get input to the transportation planning process from members of the business community that rely on our transportation systems to compete in a global economy and create jobs.
  • Engaging the private sector is public involvement for freight: Most transportation planning agencies have guidelines for their public involvement process, but many or most do not see the business community as a key stakeholder. To date, traditional public involvement techniques such as public hearings or open houses have had little success at gaining business involvement. As a result freight needs may not be fully addressed or considered in as great of detail as they might be with better private sector participation. So as a starting point for the discussion, participants review some of the common interests between public transportation planning agencies and private sector businesses, and discuss those points of intersection.

Slide 6

Why Engage?

Value of Private Sector Perspectives on:

  • Predictability
  • Geometric design
  • Pavement strength
  • Bridge clearance
  • Facility access
  • Parking capacity

Clip art image of 2 men on either side of  a divide coming together in the middle and shaking hands.


Key Points:

  • Businesses often have a different view of what is important: As noted on the previous slide, traditional forms of public involvement have not been very effective in getting private sector involvement in the public planning process. Yet, the business community relies on the transportation system to access raw materials, bring goods to market and gain access to workers and businesses pay taxes to support the transportation system. Experience has shown that the private sector can be great allies in supporting transportation improvements once engaged in the planning process, and there are a number of examples discussed during the Workshop.
  • The private sector will be interested in participating, if they can relate the transportation issues addressed in the planning process to their business needs: One of the issues that is important to remember is that most private sector stakeholders have little knowledge about the public planning process and why DOT’s and MPO’s conduct planning in specific ways. By the same token, many public planners have little knowledge about how private sector logistics and supply chain management work in the modern economy, and how decisions made by public agencies may affect shipment routing, inventory management and a host of other business transportation factors. So the Workshop stresses where their may be leverage points to peak private sector interest, as well as, the need to have a process that allows time for mutual learning about the constraints, necessities and realities that both the public and private sectors operate under.

Slide 7

Who - The Supply Chain

Figure: As described in the key points below, engaging freight stakeholders involves looking at the supply chain.  The supply chain consists of all parties involved in moving materials, products, or services through all stages of production and distribution to reach the end customer.  Freight transportation is an integral part of the supply chain.


Key Points: Who to Engage?

  • Understanding stakeholders means understanding supply chains. Examples include:  shippers/receivers, carriers, third party logistics providers or other intermediaries, universities, communities near freight facilities, various levels of government.
  • Different stakeholders can provide different perspectives (discussed in the next slide)
  • Local governments have a key role in implementing projects.
  • Its all about supply chains: Another key topic covered in the Workshop is defining just “who is” the private sector? In the course we introduce the topic of who is the private sector as it relates to freight transportation by getting participants to talk about supply chains. Understanding stakeholders means understanding supply chains. During the workshop participants discuss supply chains for several common products like gasoline, ready-mix concrete, and retail apparel and who are the carriers, shippers and receivers are involved at different stages of a product supply chain.
  • Local Governments play a key role in project implementation: In addition to federal and state agencies there are many local agencies that are important participants in the freight planning process. Economic development agencies and other local government groups can help identify key freight stakeholders through their existing contacts and may have important information about key industries in the region. Because local governments are often responsible for roads and streets that provide access to freight facilities they are often instrumental in demonstrating action to the private sector through what we term “jump start” projects: projects that can be accomplished in a relatively short time frame and at relatively low cost. Experience has shown that jump start projects can be a catalyst to keeping stakeholders involved long enough to tackle larger projects.

Slide 8

Who - Shippers and Carrier Perspectives

  • Transportation access to global markets
  • Impacts of state and federal policy
  • Operational issues
  • Transportation linkages
  • Local bottlenecks
  • Real-time data

Collage of images including a woman at a computer, a train, a truck, a fork lift, and a globe with an arrow to illustrate a circling motion.


Key Points:

  • There are a variety of freight stakeholders – shippers and carriers are two of the more important private sector groups, but we also discuss the importance of interacting with the owners and operators of freight facilities, neighborhoods and communities, academia, and government agencies.
  • Different sectors of the freight industry have different contributions to the planning process – the Workshop reviews each of the different freight stakeholder groups and reviews in a general way, what planning can expect to get in terms of information. For instance, shippers and receivers are likely to have a “big picture” view about accessing global markets and the impacts of policy issues. While motor carriers or railroads may also have opinions about policy impacts, they can also provide information about operations and how issues such as construction and maintenance impact supply chains.
  • Need to think differently about relationships – The Workshop also points out that engaging freight stakeholders may be a completely new activity for some groups like shippers and receivers, or a new approach to others like carriers, where past relationships where likely based on a regulatory approach.

Slide 9

Who - Local & National Organizations

6 Logos: American Trucking Association, Transportation Clubs International, Association of American Railroads, Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, National Industrial Transportation League, and Columbus Region Logistics Council.


Key Points:

  • There are many national and sometimes local organizations that are good starting points for gaining access to stakeholders. One of the more unique aspects of this Workshop is that more often than not, private sector participants from the state or region where the Workshop is conducted are invited to attend the Workshop. FHWA will work with the local Workshop coordinator to determine if there are private sector members that may have an interest in attending the Workshop. For instance, if there is a local roundtable affiliated with the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, we often contact them in advance and see if they know of a member who might be willing to attend, and if so, some time is afforded them on the agenda to discuss their organization and how they might contribute to future freight planning activities. Instructors also search out local freight activities and groups and include references to those groups as part of the customization of the curriculum for each Workshop offering.

Slide 10

How - Ways to Engage

  • Passive Engagement (information exchange)
  • Active Engagement (collect information/input)
  • Institutional Engagement (a standing practice or body for gaining program input)

Clip art image of 3 stacked square blocks labeled A, B, and C.


Key Points: Find opportunities to engage freight stakeholders throughout the development of a project.

  • Often getting private sector involvement is an evolving practice (but not always): Many agencies have developed programs or practices to involve the private-sector in their planning process, and often it starts by what we have termed “passive engagement” and then progresses on to more active ways of getting periodic input or data about business transportation needs. Building on this continuum of practice, active engagement includes activities such as surveys, workshops and other means of routinely including information and data about freight in the planning process. Institutional engagement is about having a recurring formal process. For example; in Oregon the Legislature formalized a Freight Committee through the passage of House Bill 3364. The legislation calls for the Freight Advisory Committee to advise the Director and Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) on issues, policies and programs that impact multimodal freight mobility in Oregon. Workshop participants learn techniques and hear examples of different approaches that can be employed to gather input appropriate to the type of activity you are undertaking.
  • Getting the information important to your process is often dependent on getting to the right people: The Workshop is designed to help participants assess how to approach businesses that they may not have had a prior relationship with. For instance one technique discussed for getting access is to find a sponsor, like an association or chamber of commerce, and going back to our earlier point – find areas of common ground that they are willing to communicate with their membership about participating in.

Slide 11

How - Passive Engagement Techniques

  • Build awareness formally and informally
  • Networking
  • Educational seminars
  • Regional business coalitions
  • Industry groups
  • Newsletters
  • Trade publications
  • Websites
  • Social Media


Key Points:

  • There is no “right” way to engage the private sector: The Workshop materials borrow from a broad variety of techniques that planning organizations have successfully used to engage the business community in their planning practices. Examples range from simple “Networking” where staff are encouraged to attend private sector conferences and meetings such as Regional Roundtables of the Council of Supply Chain Management (CSCMP), to the European practice of Freight Quality Partnerships, to Freight Advisory Committees that have become more popular at the state and local level.
  • Start by defining an approach that meets your needs: One of the key messages from the Workshop is that, as with any public involvement process, engaging the private sector is most likely to be successful when the overall approach is well thought out and based on the specific needs of the planning organization. The process starts with: 1) Setting goals and objectives; 2) Defining a process that is within resource limitations; 3) Defining stakeholder targets; 4) Identifying specific techniques and tactics, and; 5) Defining measures to assess progress.

Slide 12

How - Active Engagement

Seek input through defined processes:

  • Surveys
  • Interviews
  • Focus groups
  • Freight forums
  • Site visits

Figure: As described in the key points below, real-life examples are effective in actively engaging stakeholders.  This map of the Atlanta road network was a technique used with truckers in that region to get their input on bottlenecks and safety hazards.


Key Point:

  • The curriculum is designed to provide real-world practical examples: Once again this training is offered as a Workshop because it is intended to allow participants to develop their own action plan based on best practices and case studies. Throughout the Workshop whenever practical, real life examples are explored and discussed in detail. This slide shows a technique used in Atlanta to identify various types of problems that truck drivers might encounter while making deliveries or picking up shipments in the city. To get input a driver break room survey was used. After gaining agreement from the managers of regional trucking terminals, poster-size wall maps of the Atlanta regional highway network were placed in the driver’s break room at several major truck terminals in the region. The wall maps included instructions and colored “dot” stickers. Four colors were used to identify different types of issues, such as recurring traffic congestion, geometric constraints like restricted intersections, infrastructure barriers like low clearance bridges and safety hot spots. Drivers used the dots to identifying bottlenecks or safety hazards on the regional network and wrote a sentence or two about the problem at that location. The four locations surveyed generated over 50 comments from drivers on the regional network.
  • An other example of lessons learned involves the short term low cost projects. “Jump Start Projects” can help sustain involvement while the necessary planning and financing for longer-term projects are in progress.

Slide 13

How - Institutional Engagement

A standing body or practice:

  • Freight advisory groups (state, multi-state, regional)
  • Economic development groups
  • Standing focus group
  • Public/private partnerships
  • Market research activities

Image of many people standing in a large room attending a meeting or event.


Key Points: Institutionalized engagement refers to a process that seeks routine or continuous input and feedback from the business community.

  • Freight advisory groups have become a popular means of gaining institutional involvement from the business sector: For freight planning studies federal planning regulations require planners to use a documented public participation process, and give opportunities for public review and comment, and access to technical and policy information. While, federal regulations do not require state transportation agencies or MPOs to start or maintain freight advisory groups, some agencies find that such groups provide valuable input as part of the state or regional public involvement process for transportation planning and programming. A 2007 AASHTO survey, found that about 25 percent of responding DOTs reported engaging the private sector through freight advisory groups and in 2008, an AMPO survey found that about 40 percent responding MPOs reported having standing freight committees.
  • Keys to starting an maintaining stakeholder interest in a standing committee include:
    • Having a sense of purpose/demonstrating value
    • Credible leadership
    • Innovative approaches keep interest
    • Reinforce the importance of input and two way communication
    • Taking an outcome-focused approach

Slide 14


“The Minnesota Freight Advisory Committee (MFAC) has been an invaluable forum for Mn/DOT to better understand freight transportation industry issues.  We use industry input to shape our policies, improve our programs and select our projects.  Most importantly, the committee builds relationships and trust---something that is needed by government now more than ever.”

- William Gardner, Director, Office of Freight and Commercial Vehicle Operations, Minnesota Department of Transportation


Key Points: The course uses actual case studies to highlight best practices: The agencies showcased in the best practice examples typically have a broader program of freight planning and a variety of techniques they use for engaging the private sector, and these other activities are discussed in relation to the formal freight advisory group. Among the case studies highlighting public agencies:

  • Philadelphia – Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) Goods Movement Task Force – a long standing well known freight organization that is co-chaired by the DVRPC and PennDOT.
  • Minnesota Freight Advisory Committee (MFAC) – the first statewide publicly sponsored freight group in the nation, MFAC recently reinvented itself to make sure its mission and activities are meaningful to both the public and private sectors.
  • Tucson, AZ – Southern Arizona Logistics Education Organization (SALEO) – Sponsored by the regional economic development organization – SALEO is now transitioning to a free standing organization. The group hosts monthly dinners to bring stakeholders together for the purpose of advancing freight transportation and logistics in the Tucson region.
  • Not all formal stakeholder groups are publicly sponsored: The case studies discussed also include groups like Conexus Indiana, and the Columbus Regional Logistics Council that are private sector initiatives designed to highlight economic development through transportation. While these groups often focus on workforce development, they are also conduits for the private sector to work with transportation planning agencies.

Slide 15


“The level of enthusiasm and involvement from the private sector at this Workshop was very surprising to a lot of the participants, but it simply shows that we are ready to embrace multi-agency and multi-sector collaboration in order to make progress in our great State.”

 - Lina Chapman, Planner and Workshop Coordinator, Michigan Department of Transportation


Key Points:

The Office of Freight Management and Operations promotes efficient, seamless, and secure freight flows on the U.S. transportation system and across our borders. The smooth and secure flow of freight is important to our nation's economy and to our global connectivity. One of the ways we advance that mission is to assist transportation and planning professionals develop the knowledge and skills needed to do their jobs effectively.

The Engaging the Private Sector Workshop has been well received by those agencies who have hosted the course since 2004. The workshop recently went through significant revisions to ensure the information, case studies and examples are up to date and relevant.

Slide 16


  • Engaging the Private Sector = Public Involvement for Freight Planning….
  • But engaging freight stakeholders calls for non-traditional public involvement techniques
  • The Engaging the Private Sector Workshop is designed to help practitioners develop an action plan they can apply to freight planning in your organization


The Engaging the Private Sector in Freight Planning Workshop is designed to provide planning professionals with information they can use in their own organizations and everyday work, by incorporating private sector freight stakeholders into their planning process.

This one day Workshop provides hand-on activities designed to help planners understand the challenges, benefits and techniques for:

  • Describing the value that private sector freight stakeholders can add to the planning process
  • Applying tools and resources for identifying freight stakeholders
  • Constructing an action plan for engaging freight stakeholders in their agencies’ planning efforts.

Slide 17

FHWA Resources and Related Training

  • Engaging the Private Sector Resource CD and Guidebook
  • NHI Freight courses
  • Freight workshops
  • Talking Freight
  • Freight Planning LISTSERV


Key Points: Attendees also receive a Resource CD: In addition to a Participant’s Workbook, those who attend the Workshop also receive a Resource Materials CD that contains publications on related freight topics from TRB, FHWA and other organizations. The CD also contains additional case studies, a listing of academic programs with a freight emphasis, a list of web links to private sector freight associations and groups, and an expanded glossary of terms commonly used by private sector freight organizations. Finally the CD also contains a companion Guidebook produced by the Planning Office of FHWA.

  • There are also other Freight Planning Resources available through the Office of Freight Management:
    • Freight Professional Development (FPD) Program offers a variety of resources designed to help you develop freight planning skills in your agency. In addition to the Engaging the Private Sector Workshop that I’ve just covered, the Office of Freight Management and Operations currently has other courses and workshops available to address freight planning needs at the state and local level. Training courses include:
      • Integrating Freight into the Transportation Planning Process –Free Web-based training (NHI 139006)
      • Advanced Freight Planning (NHI 139003)
      • Linking Freight with Planning and the Environment (NHI 139005)
      • Principles of Effective Commercial Vehicle Size and Weight Enforcement (NHI 139004)
      • Certificate of Accomplishment in Freight Management and Operations
    • Workshops available include:
      • Financing Freight Improvements
      • 3 workshops are under development and will be available in the fall of 2012
        • Fundamentals of Freight Data workshop
        • Integrating Freight into Planning and NEPA workshop
        • Freight and Land Use workshop
  • Talking Freight Seminar Series: These monthly FHWA-sponsored net-conference seminars provide a convenient and no-cost way for transportation practitioners to learn about the latest trends, tools, and noteworthy practices in freight transportation. Seminars are held via a combination of the web and telephone. A one-time, easily downloadable plug-in is required for first-time users, and is available at time of registration.
  • Freight Planning LISTSERV: provides a venue for exchanging information about freight planning among public and private sector professionals. There are over 800 subscribers, comprised of transportation professionals from State DOTs, MPOs, professional associations, businesses, the academic community, and others.
  • You can assess both the Talking Freight and LISTSERV through the Freight Management and Operations website under: Resources, then go to Technical Assistance.

Slide 18

Thank You

Web site

Contact Information


If you have comments or questions that come up after today about any of the materials we just covered, you can address those to

Thank you again for your attention and I hope you take advantage of the many freight resources we have developed to serve your organizations.

Office of Operations