Freight Activity in the U.S Expected to Grow Fifty Percent by 2050

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics(BTS) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) jointly released a new version of freight flows forecast data from the Freight Analysis Framework (FAF), the most comprehensive, publicly available, national-level dataset of freight movement in the U.S.

New long-term projections released today show that, between 2020 and 2050, U.S. freight activity will grow by 50% in tonnage to 28.7 billion tons and will double in value to $36.2 trillion (in 2017 dollars). Trucks represent the predominant freight carrier model now and are expected to remain so in the future. Trucks currently carry 65% of U.S. freight tonnage. Published FAF5 forecasts provide a range of future freight demands representing three different economic growth scenarios, through 2050, by various modes of transportation.

 

Figure: FAF5 Freight Growth Scenarios by Year 2050 and Freight Tonnage Share by Domestic Mode for Year 2017

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Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistic, Federal Highway Administration, Office of Freight Management and Operations, Freight Analysis Framework, version 5.1.

The FAF provides information on national level freight flows across the nation’s transportation network. It includes data on the amount and types of goods moved by land, sea, and air between large metropolitan areas, States, and regions.

FAF5 forecasts project future multimodal freight demand to better inform policy and planning decisions. Information quantifying expected changes in freight system demand is important for prioritizing investment needs and assessing and planning for the impacts of policy changes affecting transportation modes, commodities, and the freight network.

A full update of the FAF is produced every five years and is tied to the update cycle for the Commodity Flow Survey (CFS), which is the primary foundation for inputs to the FAF. The CFS is a national shipper survey of U.S. business establishments with details on the commodity, transportation mode, and origin and destination of national domestic and export freight activity.