Freight Transportation: National Policy and Strategies Can Help Improve Freight Mobility

General Accounting Office


This report identifies current and project constraints on freight mobility at the national level and its associated economic, environmental, and health costs to consumers, shippers, carriers, and urban environments in general. It highlights several challenges to advancing freight improvement projects: competition from nonfreight projects for public funds and community support in the planning process, lack of coordination among various government entities and private sector stakeholders, and limited or restricted availability of public funds available for freight transportation. GAO notes that the federal government is not well positioned to enhance freight mobility due to the absence of a clear federal strategy and role for freight transportation, an outmoded federal approach to transportation planning and funding, and the unsustainability of planned federal transportation funding.

The report recommends that USDOT work with Congress and freight stakeholders to develop a national strategy to transform the federal government’s involvement in freight transportation projects. This strategy should include defining federal and nonfederal stakeholder roles and using new and existing federal funding sources and mechanisms to support a targeted, efficient, and sustainable federal role.

Since the report’s publication, MAP-21 has been enacted, which establishes a national freight policy, requires USDOT to define a national freight network and assist states in strategically directing resources toward projects that improve freight movement, requires enactment of a national freight strategic plan by 2015, and introduces a number of other requirements and policies designed to advance a freight agenda, many of them performance-related.

Source Organization Location

Washington, DC

Operations Area of Practice

  • Public-Private Partnerships (PPP)
  • Cost / Benefit Analysis
  • Freight Infrastructure
  • Freight Management

Organizational Capability Element

  • Programming/Budget/Funding
  • Economic Analysis of Reliability/Costs and Benefits
  • Freight Management Operations
  • Outsourcing/PPP

Content Type

  • Research

Role in Organization

  • CEO / GM / Commissioner
  • Director / Program Manager
  • Media / PIO
  • Principal Engineer
  • Senior Engineer
  • Transportation Planner

Publishing Organization

  • Other Research Organizations


  • Justification

Project Website

GAO Report GAO-08-287

Prime Contractor
Issue Date
January 7th, 2008
Publication Number
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