Annually, it is estimated that state departments of transportation (DOTs) issue nearly 5 million permits for Oversize/Overweight (OSOW) truck moves along the nation’s highway system. Yet, despite the fact that OSOW freight crosses both state and international borders, it is typically regulated and permitted on a state-by-state basis. In addition, because of the state-by-state regulation, data collection, management, and strategic use of the information are variable. Both data and strategies are rarely shared. National and regional public sources for OSOW data do not exist. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s “Freight Analysis Framework 3” (FAF3) provides categories that include some of this data, but it is reported in aggregate along with other shipments in its commodity category (e.g., machinery, with no distinction as to whether the machinery moved is OSOW or not). In addition to the complications faced by planners and OSOW service providers resulting from a lack of consistent information, heavy-haul businesses often find the state-by-state permitting process cumbersome and complicated, resulting in cross-border moves that are difficult to coordinate and unnecessarily costly. While efforts to improve multi-state permitting and harmonization of permitted loads across state boundaries are ongoing, a careful examination of how and what data is collected (including consistent definitions), and how strategic use of that data might be improved is lacking. There is a strong perception within the industry that there may be opportunities for greater efficiency, safety and productivity through an organized, coordinated approach to data collection, processing, management, and coordination. Shippers and OSOW carriers are likely to benefit from this effort. OSOW movements by their very nature are not typical highway loads and may present potential for movement on rail lines and waterways that serve similar origins and destinations. This potential is supported by historical transportation development patterns in the United States, as highway, rail, and waterway corridors frequently run in parallel, providing options for OSOW shipping by several modes. The development and use of multi-state, multi-modal OSOW corridors, and an evaluation of their efficiencies, is an area that has not been explored in as much detail as OSOW permitting and harmonization, nor has there been sufficient attention given to consideration of strategic planning in support of modal diversion and shift. Although the issue of modal shift is often driven by external economic factors, an improved ability to evaluate alternatives will assist both public- and private-sector entities in avoiding the pitfalls and uncertainties that currently pervade the system. Planners and logistics experts not only lack information about actual loads carried, but also about origins and destinations. This information gap often limits the ability to identify and evaluate alternative cross-state corridors as well as an ability to identify truck, rail, waterway, or multi-modal shipment options. Further, there is an additional need for better understanding of the costs and benefits of expanding the current OSOW approach to include consideration and analysis of the total OSOW freight shipment process, on multiple modes within the same corridor. In response to these problems, research is needed to examine OSOW freight shipment as a potential multi-state, multi-modal process rather than as a segment-by-segment or state-by-state, single-mode activity. What is needed is a comprehensive protocol for the assessment of OSOW freight shipment logistics along single state, multi-state, or multi-modal corridors. The data parameters and architecture that emerges from this research will ultimately enhance performance management of the OSOW system by oversight agencies, as well as improve efficiencies in permitting and movement of freight on the part of the private-sector carriers.
The objective of this research was to develop guidelines for use by states and other practitioners to improve the permitting process and to evaluate potential OSOW freight movement solutions involving multi-state, multi-modal transportation corridors. The final guidelines address the following:
1. A procedure for identifying and assessing data requirements and availability to enhance state OSOW permitting practices and to improve opportunities for multi-state coordination in consideration of OSOW freight shipment options along transportation corridors.
2. A method for evaluating multi-modal opportunities and capabilities applicable to current OSOW movements, addressing highway, waterborne, and rail alternatives.
3. A strategy for selecting mode and route options for regional and cross-border freight shipments, addressing a broad array of relevant factors, including (but not limited to) feasibility, efficiency, institutional considerations, safety, and cost.
STATUS: Final report has now been published as NCHRP Report 830: Multi-State, Multimodal, Oversize/Overweight Transportation.