Freight Analysis Framework

FHWA Office of Freight Operations and Management


Describe and forecast national freight flows, and develop a national freight productivity program to improve freight movement and reduce congestion.

Project Challenge

Business and industry have adopted just-in-time manufacturing and delivery strategies to increase productivity, reduce the cost of goods and services delivered to consumers, and remain competitive in global markets. These logistics strategies depend on cost-effective and reliable freight transportation. However, we are seeing diminishing returns from past transportation investments, and transportation productivity is declining.

The volume of U.S. freight is expected to nearly double by 2020. The increase in freight traffic will further strain the capacity of the nation’s highways, rail lines, and ports. Without additional capacity and greater productivity, freight transportation will not keep pace with economic growth. Instead, we will see more congestion, higher costs for goods and services, and a smaller share of global markets.

To improve the planning, operation, and management of the nation’s freight transportation system, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) created the Freight Analysis Framework (FAF), a database and analytical tool designed to help public and private-sector policymakers:

  • Understand the structure and dynamics of the freight transportation system, including intermodal freight;
  • Assess the impact of economic growth, based on forecasts for 2010 and 2020, on domestic and international freight flows;
  • Identify congested trade corridors and international gateways; and
  • Evaluate solutions to add capacity and improve the productivity of the nation’s highway, rail, water, and air freight systems.

Our Contribution

Under the FAF project, Cambridge Systematics provided technical support to the FHWA Office of Freight and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Office of the Secretary. Applying our more than 20 years of expertise in freight planning, analysis, and tools development, we:

  • Analyzed freight trends, data flows, and opportunities, and authored a series of white papers on key freight issues;
  • Developed recommendations for a national freight productivity program and identified Federal, state, and local roles to improve freight productivity;
  • Drafted policy options and language to support reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21); and
  • Assisted with outreach to the freight community.

Ongoing Assignments

Cambridge Systematics is providing ongoing support to the FHWA and the U.S. DOT on the FAF and the national freight productivity program, and to the states as they implement it.