TRB to Study Ways to Communicate Value of Freight

Trucks on highway
John Sommers II for Transport Topics

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Limited ways to improve public dialogue about the importance of freight amid rising volumes is spurring a new study on ways to communicate with stakeholder communities.

The Transportation Research Board will be paying $350,000 in a 30-month contract for a research report to be called “A Compendium for Communicating the Value of Freight and Community Interactions.”

“As urbanization and changing technologies drive the growing freight volumes and disruption of the transportation system, it is imperative for freight officials to effectively communicate the importance of freight to stakeholders and the general public,” noted the request for proposals.


TRB opened the project Aug. 3 for interested parties to submit proposals and set a Sept. 16 deadline.

“Currently, resources and toolkits are available to support freight professionals with implementing specific freight strategies, but resources to improve the public dialogue about the importance, impacts and interconnectedness of freight with our day-to-day lives are limited,” the notice stated.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, trucks carry the most domestic freight by weight (72%) and value (73%) and are the shipper of choice for movements under 750 miles. At the same time, trucks operate on more than 4 million miles of public roads (including the 161,000-mile National Highway System).

According to TRB, numerous officials from planning, transportation and government sectors as well as the general public fail to “fully comprehend” the value of freight and its connection to land use and other transportation.

At the same time, many officials and members of the public lack an understanding about how best to address impacts of the freight system despite its importance to local communities and the national economy.

Thus, research is needed on how to best communicate the value, interactions and impacts of freight within communities.

TRB is requesting that the research project be split into four phases. The first part calls for planning and collecting data, including reviewing existing relevant material, collecting information from focus groups and surveys of state and local officials, metropolitan planning organizations, transportation companies and stakeholders in freight management. Material would also be collected, synthesized and prioritized into the following communication categories:

  • The value of and impacts on freight and the community.
  • Interactions between freight and the community.
  • Necessity to consider freight in decisions on government policies and community development.

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TRB has indicated it is seeking information about common issues preventing freight from being fully incorporated into transportation decision-making and identifying key resources to help states and local officials with freight planning.

It also wants the project to develop a briefing book, fact sheets and short videos. Work is authorized to start Dec. 1.

Dan Murray, senior vice president at the American Transportation Research Institute, supported the need for such a project. “Everything you consume or purchase has been delivered by a truck at some point. It is foundational to everyone’s understanding about why trucks are critical and why freight is critical.”