Office of Operations Freight Management and Operations


The freight industry and its customers use information technologies and telecommunications to improve freight system efficiency and productivity, increase global connectivity, and enhance freight system security against common threats and terrorism. In short, these technologies help us operate the transportation system more intelligently. Most importantly, they do so in ways that improve safety, whether related to hazardous materials transport, heavy truck maintenance, or load limit compliance.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT's) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Joint Program Office (JPO) work collaboratively with private industry to identify technologies that meet common goals and support their testing and evaluation in the field. Independent evaluation of technology performance, costs, and benefits is a key part of DOT's efforts. FHWA and JPO also publish information and sponsor workshops, forums, and groups, such as the Intermodal Freight Technology Working Group, to encourage widespread information exchange on freight technologies.

Intelligent freight technologies are currently deployed in several areas:

  • Asset tracking: Mobile communications and global positioning systems, bar codes, and radio frequency identification (RFID) tags track the location of trucks, containers, and cargo to improve efficiency and to ensure the safety and security of shipments.
  • On-board status monitoring: Sensors record vehicle operating conditions, check the condition of cargo, and detect tampering or intrusion.
  • Gateway facilitation: Non-intrusive inspection technologies, such as scanners and RFID tags, are used at terminals, inspection stations, and border crossings to search for contraband and enhance national security.
  • Freight status information: Web-based technologies facilitate the exchange of information on freight shipments and improve data flows.
  • Network status information: Cameras, road-sensors, and display technologies monitor congestion, weather conditions, and incidents.

The Freight Technology Story provides information about the state of the art and the adoption of effective technologies by the freight industry and its customers. Specifically, this report discusses:

  • innovation and implementation processes for intelligent freight technologies;
  • triggers for and barriers to deployment;
  • the five types of intelligent freight technologies and related operational tests;
  • private, public, and network-based benefits of using these technologies; and
  • business case perspectives and operational test results.

The appendix provides an annotated list of references and points of contact for more information about formal test programs.

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