Cost, Congestion, and Emissions Benefits of Centralized Freight Routing and Efficiencies in Alternative Fuel Freight Modes

International trade continues to increase, with container trade growing at a 9.5% annual rate worldwide and at a 6% annual rate in the United States. Container ships are also getting bigger to meet this growing demand. As a result, cargo is concentrated into the largest ports, which intensifies bottlenecks on the road networks surrounding these ports. Thus, logistics companies are faced with increasing complexity in their operations and increasing traffic congestion that adds costs, as well as greenhouse gas emissions and local air pollution. The transition to zero emission truck technology could add further complexity, requiring companies to plan for electric trucks’ shorter ranges and longer refueling times.

Researchers at the University of Southern California developed a centrally coordinated freight routing system and ran several simulations to minimize the social costs of freight transportation, also accounting for adoption of electric trucks. The researchers also interviewed several individuals with responsibility for trucking operations in the Los Angeles region to better understand the implementation issues of a centrally coordinated freight routing system. This policy brief summarizes the findings from that research and provides policy implications.