GAO Report Shows Future of Transportation

A new report devoted to ways to prevent freight congestion from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to Reps. James Oberstar and Peter DeFazio, Democratic leaders of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, sheds light on the future of the U.S. highway system. GAO authors interviewed officials from DOT and freight and railroad stakeholders, and it mentions that DOT "is looking at the possibility of improving freight movement through developing truck-only lanes" and praises RFID technology used by some ports so crane operators can stage containers more efficiently.

DOT, shown a draft of the report, said the report omitted another possible means of solving freight congestion: expanded use of waterborne transportation. DOT officials believe it "has the potential to mitigate surface freight transportation congestion," the report states.

The report cites a Federal Highway Administration calculation that highway bottlenecks cost the trucking industry more than $8 billion per year. The industry also is faced with a shortage of drivers.

Another useful practice mentioned in the report is the Port of Virginia's (encompassing ports in Norfolk, Newport News, Portsmouth, and Front Royal) use of a “chassis pool,” created in 2004, which requires all shipping lines to provide chassis that any company can use to load its freight. "As a result, the number of chassis stored at the port has been reduced by 5,000 to 6,000 and has opened up 40 to 60 acres of land recaptured for other uses at the port," according to the report. A virtual container yard, extended business hours, and congestion pricing are other useful practices, it states.

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