August 24, 2012 12:00 PM, EDT
DOT Launches New Freight Policy Council

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood launched the Freight Policy Council, a group tasked with generating a national freight policy, as called for in the new highway funding law.

LaHood was joined by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) at a warehouse owned by PCC Logistics in Seattle on Thursday to officially announce the Freight Policy Council. Cantwell has long been a proponent of the freight group.

The council will hold its first meeting next week, a DOT spokesman said.

“Our freight system is the lifeblood of the American economy, moving goods quickly and efficiently to benefit both businesses and consumers across the country,” LaHood said in a statement.

“With the launch of the Freight Policy Council, we have an opportunity to make not only our freight system but all modes of transportation stronger and better connected.”

Deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari will lead the council, which will also include deputy administrators from highway, rail, port and airport agencies within the Department of Transportation, and economic and policy experts from elsewhere in DOT, the department said.

The freight and logistics industries, consumers and other stakeholders will also play an advisory role, and states will be asked to offer proposals for improving the freight system in their region, DOT said.

Congress called for the administration to set a freight policy and plan in the highway reauthorization law signed last month by President Obama.

Cantwell had pushed for the freight policy since February 2011, when she introduced a bill that was later made part of the highway law, she said in a statement.

“With increasing competition abroad, Washington businesses require a 21st-century approach to moving goods,” Cantwell said. “This new Freight Policy Council provides the road map our nation needs to stay competitive and grow our trade economy.”

The highway law calls for a freight policy that seeks to improve the freight network, reduce freight congestion, improve safety and use advanced technology to increase efficiency, among other tasks.