Trucks will Continue to be Preferred Mode of Freight Transport in USA for Next 30 Years

Various modes of freight transportation are truck, pipeline, rail, water, multiple modes and mail, and air. A recent study by U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics and Federal Highway Administration projected that in the next 30 years, the maximum share in the transport of freight by weight as well as by value will be by trucks. Trucks transported 11,513 million tons of freight in U.S. during 2015. By the year 2045, the freight transport (by weight) in U.S. is expected to reach a level of 16,529 million tons which will be 44 percent more than the level of freight transported during 2015 (Table 1).

Table 1: Weight of Freight by Mode (million tons)

Mode Year 2015 Year 2045 Change
Truck 11,513 16,529 + 44%
Pipeline 3,303 4,554 + 38%
Rail 1,694 2,094 + 24%
Water 835 1,156 + 38%
Multiple modes and Mail 398 646 + 62%
No Domestic Mode 273 297 + 9%
Air 7 24 + 234%
Total 18,056 25,331 + 40%

 

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics and Federal Highway Administration, Freight Analysis Framework, version 4.1, 2016.

Note: Total includes total includes shipments by other and unknown modes that are not shown in the table.

 

Although the share of freight transport by air is minimum at the level of 7 million tons in 2015, which is expected to be 24 million tons in 2045, the increase in percentage of freight transportation by air is 234% and occupies the maximum level of increase. Freight transport by value is expected be maximum in case of trucks. Trucks transported 13,267 billion dollars of freight in 2015 and is expected to reach to a level of 24,406 billion dollars in 2045. The increase in freight transport by truck in the next 30 years is expected to be 84% (Table 2). The percentage increase in freight transportation by air by value is +308%, the highest percentage Increase among all the transportation modes.

Table2: Value of Freight by Mode (billion 2012 dollars)

Mode Year 2015 Year 2045 Change
Truck 13,267 24,406 + 84%
Multiple modes and Mail 2,129 4,336 + 104%
Pipeline 1,445 1,797 + 24%
Air 794 3,240 + 308%
Water 694 1,517 + 118%
Rai 657 1,198 + 82%
No Domestic Mode 179 195 +9%
Total 19,249 37,014 + 92%

 

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics and Federal Highway Administration, Freight Analysis Framework, version 4.1, 2016.

Note: Total includes total includes shipments by other and unknown modes that are not shown in the table.

Air transportation of freight is the costliest mode of transportation but fastest among all the modes of transports. Time sensitive emergency shipments, high value items, small items and very delicate items are transported by air. Two categories of truck operators are providing services: LTL (Less Than Truck Load) and TL (Truck Load). Freight charges in case of LTL are based on the weight of the load and the distance travelled. Truck transportation is costlier than the rail transportation. The most important feature of truck transportation is that this mode offers door to door service. Water transport is the cheapest mode of transport but very slow. It is preferred to transport very large consignments which are difficult to transport especially in transporting plant and machinery for projects or raw materials and fuels in large quantity. Pipeline are very convenient to transport liquids and gases. Multimode transportation involves more than one modes of transportation e.g. truck and rail or truck and air or truck, rail and water.

U.S. freight will notice changes in the mix of items carried. A modest rise may be seen in transportation of energy commodities by tonnage by the year 2045


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