Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)
Historically, freight modeling tools have relied on passenger travel demand modeling approaches, which could not fully explain goods movement, especially at a national scale. So, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) sought an innovative national-level freight-demand modeling system to evaluate national freight policy alternatives.
Beginning in 2014, RSG led the development of this for FHWA. This new system includes several innovative components to improve existing tools. One model component, a joint mode choice and shipment size model, is the only one in existence that has been estimated using US data. Additionally, the modeling system includes a new firm and establishment synthesis model; it also includes new carrier choice and backhaul and consolidation models. RSG developed the software (rFreight) to implement the national freight demand modeling system. Because rFreight is open source, all states and regions have access to it and can contribute to future enhancements.
The final model system has transformed the study team’s research into a model that FHWA can now use in concert with practitioners. States will have the option to adopt the national freight model’s approach or obtain the freight flows and volumes from the national freight model as input for their own evaluations. Additionally, agencies at the regional or state level will be able to look to and evaluate freight flows from the model, which will aid in their assessment of future policies and investments. This innovative model—the first behavioral-based national freight model in the US—will provide clarity into future freight movement patterns thereby promoting the continued stability and resiliency of the national transportation network.