Report charts Destination Sustainability for North American freight transportation

Cross-border cooperation to improve environmental performance of the North American freight system is urgently needed—not just to enhance environmental sustainability, but to safeguard regional economic competitiveness—according to a new report from the Secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC).

Entitled Destination Sustainability: Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Freight Transportation in North America, “This report is something of a roadmap to both sustainability and prosperity,” said CEC Advisory Group Chair Bruce Agnew. “It turns out that, in the freight transportation sector, the best policies and investments for reducing freight-related greenhouse gas emissions are also some of the most effective measures for driving improvements to efficiency and competitiveness.”

The Secretariat of the CEC—a trinational commission established as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)—examines environmental matters arising as part of continental trade and makes occasional recommendations to the governments of Canada, Mexico and the United States through the CEC Council of cabinet-level (or equivalent) environmental authorities.

The CEC Secretariat’s latest report looks at the continental freight transportation network, a key component of the transportation sector, which is the second-largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in North America, after electricity generation. The report, which focuses on road and rail transport, finds that while emissions from light-duty vehicles are expected to drop by 12 percent by 2030, freight truck emissions are projected to increase by 20 percent. The report also considers the efficiency (and inefficiencies) in the current system, as well as considering the aggressive investments that other trade blocs are making in new infrastructure and lower-carbon transportation—investments that may be outpacing efforts in North America.

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Finding the Next Generation of Freight Demand Models

Sixteen research teams presented their ideas for improving freight demand models during a symposium held September 14-15, 2010, as part of SHRP 2 Capacity research. The focus of the research is to help bring freight modeling closer to real-world, practical, relevant outputs, and to further the science of freight demand modeling, and its practical application within planning agencies.

Freight traffic has been growing at a rate faster than passenger traffic. Freight bottlenecks are evident in all modes of transportation and have international implications. Understanding and being able to forecast freight traffic is a critical input to planning for future highway capacity.

The objective of the symposium was to identify compelling and promising areas of research that would foster eventual breakthroughs in thinking, tools, and practice to expand the application of freight-demand modeling. It was hosted by the consulting firms Avant IMC, LLC and E2 Engineering.

The symposium drew a diverse audience representing academia, public sector practitioners, and private industry, from the United States, Canada, Japan, Belgium, Norway, and Saudi Arabia. Regional as well as international models were presented in the competition meant to encourage forward-thinking innovations.

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RFP: Evaluating Alternatives for Landside Transport of Ocean Containers


An efficient and robust freight transportation system is essential to the continued economic well-being of the United States. One vital segment of the system is the deep-water ocean port, which, according to the U.S. Maritime Administration, handled 25 million loaded import or export containers in 2009. Both the highway and rail systems at deep-water ocean ports are congested in peak periods, as few were designed to handle current container volumes, much less future growth. Various projections show a doubling of containers by 2030, and this has led to a call for more freight infrastructure capacity. However, port expansion and cargo growth depends, to a large degree, on community acceptance, which in turn depends on reducing current adverse impacts from container transportation and mitigating future impacts.

As a result, communities around the ports have called for alternative ways to move containers, especially ways that are perceived to be more environmentally friendly than diesel, or approaches that lessen highway congestion by separating freight transport from passenger transport. However, many have questioned whether some of the proposed alternatives are technically feasible, and if so, can they serve multi-site networks and mesh with the legacy port, highway, and rail operations?

Research is needed to develop an objective methodology that compares the various alternatives to transport ocean containers to and from port terminals that is unbiased, provides equitable benefit/cost measurement factors (including port efficiency), and considers the entire container drayage scenario, from or to an inland location up to 100 miles distant from the deep-water ocean port.


The objective of this research is to develop a systematic methodology that can be used to evaluate alternatives for ocean container transport to or from deep-water ocean ports and inland destinations within 100 miles.

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