Logistics Costs Based Estimation of Freight Transportation Demand

Shippers' modal decisions often are limited by short-term capacity constraints restricting one of the available options, or gaps in shipper knowledge or carrier marketing programs. As a result, the observed traffic flows may not reflect the potential demand for the mode. Because the potential demand for a mode is not directly measurable, governments and railroads cannot make accurate capacity planning decisions based on current traffic flows. This paper develops a model that identifies the potential demand for intercity full truckload and intermodal shipments over the most heavily utilized 75,000 shipment lanes in the western United States by estimating minimum total logistics costs by mode. These flows are compared with actual U.S. freight flows in order to determine the differences between observed flows and the model estimated potential demand. The results suggest that potential demand for intermodal transportation is high; considerable freight volumes could be delivered with lower logistics cost by switching from truck to intermodal transportation. These results indicate that observed traffic flows and trends may not be a sound basis for planning freight transportation infrastructure. Potential extensions to this analysis are discussed.


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  • Accession Number: 01006296
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Oct 23 2005 11:12PM