Freight Efficiency Strategies: Planning and Policy

The importance of freight transportation networks and other critical supply chain considerations are all too often buried in the planning functions of local government. Efforts such as the National Freight Strategic Plan are addressing this trend but coordination between state, regional, and local leaders remains challenging. To establish a broad perspective on ways that state departments of transportation (DOT) are facilitating interregional and statewide freight planning efforts, this white paper begins with a comparative analysis of state DOT organizational charts to identify where the freight planning functions are housed. This analysis features a historical comparison of how current organizational charts differ compared to earlier pre-2009 versions of state DOT structures. Organizational structures and the internal freight priorities of state DOTs are critical, but so too are the modes of engagement used to gain comprehensive feedback from every stakeholder in the statewide supply chain. This outreach component includes strategic messaging, public information dissemination, public events, and in-person and online stakeholder engagement. To promote strategic statewide and interregional planning initiatives, public- and private-sector leaders must work together to address trends that have hindered such efforts for decades. Such trends include decentralized planning efforts, the deregulation of the transportation sector, a lack of coordination between local government leaders to plan for regional and statewide freight corridors, and failure to plan for inevitable conflicts between freight and commuter vehicles, transit operations as well as bicyclists and pedestrians. On the most basic level, remedies for all of these above challenges will only be developed if civic coalitions of leaders from the public sector and the private sector find ways to make freight efficiency a top priority in the planning and policy stages of projects. Such agents of change correctly understand that if operational and technological innovations are to achieve their fullest potentials, planning and policy efforts must not only account for historical best practices but also respond to projected increases in freight volume and related technological challenges and opportunities. To facilitate a process that drives statewide and inter-regional freight planning in California, this white paper identifies recommendations related to criteria that authors of the California Sustainable Freight Action Plan can use to benchmark the adoption of best practices. These best practices serve to elevate freight as a statewide priority within the organizational structure of state departments of transportation. This white paper also offers recommendations related to outreach best practices that leverage traditional in person meetings and technology-driven methods.