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Efficient movement of freight within the United States and across its borders is a critical enabler of future U.S. economic growth and competitiveness. Such efficiency is now threatened by capacity bottlenecks, inefficient use of some components of the freight infrastructure, interference with passenger transport, the system's vulnerability to disruption, and the need to address important emission and energy constraints. In this volume, the authors provide a broad overview of U.S. freight transportation, discuss its role in the supply chains of various types of businesses, and provide data about its capacity in relation to demand for goods movement. They conclude with a discussion of the need to modernize the freight-transportation system and the overarching issues this involves: increasing capacity through operational improvements and infrastructure enhancement, making the system more adaptable and less vulnerable to disruption, addressing the energy and environmental concerns associated with freight transportation, and building support for public and private investment in the system.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Approach and Interview Summary

  • Chapter Three

    Evolution and State of the U.S. Freight-Transportation System

  • Chapter Four

    Determinants of Highway, Rail, and Port Capacity

  • Chapter Five

    Overarching Issues for Improving Freight Transportation and Implications for Policy

This research was conducted under the auspices of the Supply Chain Policy Center (SCPC) of the Transportation, Space, and Technology (TST) Program within RAND Infrastructure, Safety, and Environment (ISE) and was supported by the Supply Chain Policy Center executive council: Dow Chemical Company, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Port of Long Beach, Port of Los Angeles, Union Pacific, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Monograph series. RAND monographs present major research findings that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND monographs undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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