Office of Operations Freight Management and Operations

2016 Freight Quick Facts Report

Introduction

Our Nation's freight transportation system consists of a vast network of roads, railways, navigable channels, and pipelines that connect hundreds of seaports, airports, and intermodal facilities in the movement of raw materials and finished products throughout the country. The economic prosperity and competitiveness of America is inherently dependent on the efficiency and performance of this complex conveyor system.

This report provides practitioners and the public at large with a user-friendly source of information about this vital system. The report draws from a variety of sources and publications, including the draft National Freight Strategic Plan (NFSP) (https://www.transportation.gov/freight/NFSP), the Freight Facts and Figures 2015 Report (http://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/sites/rita.dot.gov.bts/files/data_and_statistics/by_subject/freight/freight_facts_2015/), the National Transportation Statistics publication (http://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/sites/rita.dot.gov.bts/files/publications/national_transportation_statistics/index.html) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Office of Policy website (https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policy/).

The objective of this report is to provide basic information that answers a wide range of freight-related questions, particularly about how the sector is rapidly evolving. For example, the economic recession of 2008 precipitated declines in freight modes used to move consumer goods, although several markets rebounded strongly. The changing energy landscape of the country—from increasing domestic production and declining coal consumption—will continue driving changes in freight demand into the future, particularly for railroads and pipelines. The evolving nature of globalization and trade is reshaping the geography of shipments, placing increased importance on border crossings and gateway infrastructure. These and many other changes to the structure of the economy are happening at the same time that the technology and best practices for moving freight are improving, leading to more efficient, responsive, and sustainable supply chains.

To describe these and other freight realities, the document is organized into the following three chapters. Chapter 1 provides an overview of the extent and usage of freight infrastructure in the United States. Chapter 2 discusses the impacts of this freight transportation system on the economy, environment, and society. Chapter 3 concludes by summarizing key freight trends and providing an overview of the policy and funding environment in the sector, which is currently evolving in response to the landmark Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) introduced last year. Having reliable and timely information about our freight transportation system is fundamental to navigating this changing environment.

To remain concise, this document does not discuss at length the caveats of the data sources used. Please see the original referenced sources for additional details and analysis.

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