The National Academies

NCHRP 08-158 [Pending]

A Compendium for Communicating the Value of Freight and Community Interactions

  Project Data
Funds: $350,000
Contract Time: 30 months
Staff Responsibility: Christopher T. McKenney
Comments: Contract pending at this time.


Many local and regional planning and transportation initiatives focus primarily on the movement of people, without adequate consideration of the movement of goods. Freight is a critical component of the national and international transportation system that moves more than 52 million tons of goods every day through U.S. highways, railways, waterways, airports, pipelines, and freight shipments. The relevance of the freight transportation system has been further accentuated by the increasing demand for e-commerce delivery from U.S. households, which is projected to increase by 22 percent over the next 20 years according to the 2020 National Freight Strategic Plan. Despite its importance to local communities and the economy, many planning, transportation, and government professionals and the general public do not fully comprehend freight’s value, its connection to land use and other transportation uses, or how best to address impacts of the freight system.

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. 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.

Research is needed to communicate best practices for the value, interactions, and impacts of freight and community.


The objective of this research is to develop a compendium that provides state departments of transportation (DOTs), metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), and relevant stakeholders with a resource for communicating the value of freight and community interactions.

Accomplishment of the project objective will require at least the following tasks.


PHASE I Planning and Data Collection

Task 1. Conduct a literature review of relevant research and current state of practice, including:

  • Published and unpublished research conducted through the NCHRP; Federal Highway Administration (FHWA); and other national, international, state, and pooled-fund sponsored research (see Special Note A);
  • Economic, equity/environmental justice, and infrastructure impacts of freight;
  • Condition, extent, and performance of existing freight system and network;
  • Trends in freight movement (e.g., connected automated vehicles (CAV), electrification);
  • Freight impacts on non-motorized traffic in major urban areas, and conflict among user groups on streets and at the curb;
  • Land-use decisions and policies on freight pickup and delivery needs, including, but not limited to, curb management, alley network development and preservation; and connections to intermodal facilities, like ports, airports, and rail facilities; and
  • Methods of integrating freight with passenger modes including rail, road, transit, transit hubs, ride-share services, bike and scooter sharing, and freight-multimodal centers.

Task 2. Propose a methodical approach (e.g., surveys, targeted interviews, focus groups, and other appropriate methods and/or tools) to collect information from state and local agencies, MPOs, transportation practitioners, and relevant stakeholders involved in the accommodation and management of freight.

  • The proposed approach shall collect and summarize information to characterize the current state of practice as well as future needs including the following:
  • Compilation of relevant stakeholders involved in freight transportation;
  • Conflicts between modes (e.g., competing demands for sidewalk use by micro-mobility, personal delivery devices, and disability-centric modes; risk of right hook crashes between trucks and bicycles in urban/suburban environments; and turning radius requirements for trucks versus shortened crossings for pedestrians);
  • Information required to communicate the value of freight and community interactions;
  • Potential solutions to ensure treatments accommodate freight movement (e.g., site specific to policy level); and
  • Engagement of the freight industry in state and local planning processes.

Task 3. Gather information on available data, effective technologies, and materials used to support solutions for communicating the value of freight and community interactions. Synthesize the results from Tasks 1 and 2 to prioritize knowledge gaps and opportunities to communicate:

  • The value of freight and the community;
  • The impacts on freight and the community;
  • The interaction with freight and the community; and
  • The need to consider freight in community development and policy decisions.

These gaps should be addressed in this research or in the recommended future research as budget permits.

Task 4. Propose a methodology to achieve the research objective to be fully developed in Phase II. At a minimum, the methodology shall:

  • Explain the role of different modes in freight transportation;
  • Describe some trends affecting freight transportation, and their impact on the transportation system and communities;
  • Discuss some of the common issues that prevent freight from being fully incorporated into the transportation decision-making process;
  • Identify key resources to help guide statewide and metropolitan freight planning efforts;
  • Determine the impact and reach of decisions on freight during the transportation and decision-making process;
  • Develop six to eight representative case studies of state DOTs, MPOs, local agencies, and relevant stakeholders that:
    • Demonstrate the effectiveness of communication and interaction among the freight industry stakeholders and other stakeholders (e.g., transportation system, planners, engineers, elected officials, and community residents), and not the specific solution reached by state and local agencies; and
    • Highlight specific scenarios with differing characteristics such as land use, region, freight mode, and industries that enable state and local agencies to apply lessons as they relate to communicating the value, interactions, and impacts of freight;
  • Develop a briefing book with corresponding factsheets based on the findings in Task 3; and
  • Develop a series of short video(s) (2-minute maximum) and/or animation/motion graphics to explain the role of freight for presentation and online use.

Task 5. Propose a preliminary roadmap (e.g., outlines, storyboards) for each item of the compendium based on the proposed methodology.

Task 6. Prepare Interim Report No. 1 that documents the work completed in Tasks 1 through 5. The updated plan must describe the work proposed for Phase II through IV.

PHASE II — Methodology Development

Task 7. Execute the methodology according to the approved Interim Report No.1.

Task 8. Develop examples of the compendium to demonstrate the developed methodology. The examples shall include at a minimum: (1) a detailed description of each section of the proposed briefing book; (2) a sample chapter of the proposed briefing book that should be publication-ready; (3) corresponding factsheets; and (4) short video(s) and/or animation/motion graphics.

Task 9. Prepare Interim Report No. 2 that documents the results of Tasks 7 and 8 and provides an updated work plan for the remainder of the project. The updated plan must describe the work proposed for Phases III and IV.

PHASE III —Development of the Compendium

Task 10. Prepare the compendium according to the approved Interim Report No. 2.

Task 11. Prepare Interim Report No. 3 that documents the results of Task 10 no later than 8 months after approval of Phase III. The updated work plan must describe the work proposed for Phase IV.


PHASE IV — Final Products

Task 12. Revise compendium considering NCHRP’s comments.

Task 13. Prepare final deliverables that document the entire research effort. Final deliverables should include, at a minimum, (1) a final research report documenting the entire research effort and findings; (2) the compendium; (3) prioritized recommendations for future research; (4) presentation material; and (5) technical memorandum on implementation.


STATUS: Proposals have been received in response to the RFP.  The project panel will meet to select a contractor to perform the work.

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