The National Academies

NCFRP 50 [Final]

Improving Freight Transportation Resilience in Response to Supply Chain Disruptions

  Project Data
Funds: $600,000
Research Agency: WSP/Parsons Brinckerhoff
Principal Investigator: Michael Meyer
Effective Date: 7/19/2016
Completion Date: 3/29/2019
Comments: Published as NCFRP Research Report 39.

Transportation supply chains are crucial to the nation. Over the past decade, supply chain disruptions and resiliency planning have become an essential component of freight transportation planning and operations. NCHRP Report 732: Methodologies to Estimate the Economic Impacts of Disruptions to the Goods Movement System, summarizes the criticality of supply chain disruptions: goods must continue to move even when one or more regions, major facilities, and/or freight modes become impaired by a disruption. The case study of Superstorm Sandy in NCFRP Report 30: Making U.S. Ports Resilient as Part of Extended Intermodal Supply Chains, identified that when key elements of the goods movement system are disrupted, the goods then surge through the operational alternatives. The case study illustrated that an unanticipated surge can overwhelm the remaining functional elements of the freight system, disrupting facilities and “business as usual.” Even when the disruptive event is known in advance, such as in the case of the 2010-11 Columbia River Basin closures, the diversion of goods anticipated to be moving via alternative modes or replaced from alternative sources prove challenging to shippers and other transportation modes. Humanitarian relief efforts and military surges are also generally coordinated events that receive priority handling with costs being less of an issue, but they may still have unanticipated effects. The issues facing the public sector when significant cargo delays or diversions occur can be profound. Agencies must gauge the potential impact of adverse events on their transportation system, economy, and community, and resources necessary to devote to preventive and remedial actions, even though the emergency could be thousands of miles away. Increasing temporary or short-term cargo-handling capacity may involve a combination of regulatory, informational, and physical infrastructure actions, as well as coordination across jurisdictional boundaries and between transportation providers and their customers. New research and the development of guidance are critical to advancing business continuity and supply chain resilience in response to disruptions.
The objective of this research is to improve freight transportation system resilience by developing guidance for stakeholders to mitigate and adapt to logistical disruptions resulting from regional, multi-regional, or national adverse events. The research should build upon previous or current work on the built environment. The intended audience should include state freight advisory councils and other coordinating bodies.
The research should address a broad range of issues to improve freight transportation resiliency such as, but not limited to, the following:
  • Assessing research, practices, and innovative approaches in the United States and other countries that complement the research objective;
  • Developing strategies to build relationships (i.e., social capital) that result in effective communication, coordination, and cooperation among affected parties;
  • Identifying factors affecting resiliency (e.g., quick response, performance objectives, laws and regulations, institutional relationships, costs, communications, collaboration, infrastructure, human factors, and collateral impacts);
  • Analyzing potential mitigation measures (e.g., cargo diversion, stockpiling, and labor agreements);
  • Characterizing spatial and temporal scale considerations such as emergency planning and response timeframe considerations (e.g., hurricane versus earthquake);
  • Prioritizing response activities by cargo types, recipients, and suppliers; and
  • Identifying potential barriers and gaps (e.g., political boundaries, authorities, ownership, modal competition and connectivity, and social and environmental constraints).

A kick-off teleconference with the research team and NCFRP shall be scheduled within 1 month of the contract’s execution. The work plan must be divided into two phases with tasks, with each task described in detail. Phase 1 must not exceed $200,000. There must be an interim report documenting the Phase 1 tasks and a face-to-face meeting scheduled with NCFRP to discuss the interim report, an outline of the guidance, and the plan for Phase 2. The project schedule shall include 2 months for NCFRP review and approval of the interim report. No work shall be performed on Phase 2 without NCFRP approval. Phase 2 shall include field testing of the guidance. The NCFRP is seeking insights of proposers on how to best gather feedback from stakeholders on the efficacy of the guidance. The final deliverables shall include (1) guidance for stakeholders to mitigate and adapt to logistical disruptions resulting from regional, multi-regional, or national adverse events; (2) a final report documenting the entire project, incorporating all other specified deliverable products of the research; (3) a PowerPoint presentation of the guidance that can be tailored for specific audiences; (4) a stand-alone executive summary that outlines the research results; (5) recommendations, needs, and priorities for additional related research; and (6) a stand-alone technical memorandum title “Implementation of Research Findings and Products”.
STATUS: Published as NCFRP Research Report 39. 

The report is available at:  http://www.trb.org/Publications/Blurbs/179096.aspx


The literature review is available at:




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