Review of Critical Issues in US Transportation, 2013 (CORE1037)

Summary: CRITICAL ISSUES IN TRANSPORTATION, 2013, Transportation Research Board (TRB) of the National Academies. This report might impact all Demo WPs concerned with US transports containing a hinterland leg, depending on the actual layout of the trade lane. From the six areas – Reliability, Innovation, Environment, Safety, Funding, and R&D investment – the first three might be taken into account for CORE. Coding is CORE1037, in the e-library of the CORE-project. Source file at:

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Overview: The document focuses on a short list of critical issues compiled by the Executive Committee of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) in 2013. The Transportation Research Board is one of six major divisions of the National Research Council. The mission of the Transportation Research Board is to provide leadership in transportation innovation and progress through research and information exchange.

The main objective of the report is to drive research on the most pressing transportation issues U.S. is currently facing. The list comprises the following points:

  • Reliability: The performance of the transportation system is neither reliable nor resilient
  • Safety: The nation suffers significant, avoidable deaths and injuries every year.
  • Environment: Transportation exerts large-scale, unsustainable impacts on energy, the environment, and climate.
  • Funding: Inadequate funding sources for public infrastructure impede the performance and safety of the transportation system.
  • Innovation: Innovation in passenger mobility services and in public-sector infrastructure lags far behind that in the private sector.
  • Research and Development Investment: R&D investment necessary for finding and adopting new solutions is low and declining.

The document makes a case on the context of these issues, which is the US Transportation System as being “…enormous by any measure”; and predicts a large effort to maintain and expand an additional 66 Million people and 80% growth in GDP in the next 25 years.

Reliability: The document highlights the delays to motor carries, which cost three-quarters of the value of domestic goods shipped. Then states that, since individual modes of transportation are managed independently, optimizing system performance is difficult.

Safety: The document claims that safety in the US has improved; nevertheless avoidable losses are still significant with number around 30.000+ deaths annually, out of which 94% occur on highways. This highlights that safety technologies are becoming increasingly automated and complex, and the challenge relies on integrating the human with the system. With respect to rail, pipeline and aviation, they should focus on managing low-probability, high-consequence events. They claim that “Ongoing research on risk analysis, high-reliability organizations, safety culture, and fatigue management, with implementation of the findings, could yield important safety benefits.”

Environment: The document simply states that impacts on energy, climate, and the environment are unsustainable; and that objective research is “sorely needed” to provide information to this debate. In the meantime there are freight repercussions derived by the energy changing supply such as, geographic shifts in oil and gas supply, drilling of new oil wells affecting transport requirements.

Funding: Currently infrastructure funding is conflicting with US federal deficits, and state and local government have been unable to close the funding gap. Additionally, local sales taxes for these funding purposes, instead of user fees have set an unfair burden on those who use the system least and who are least able to pay. Air and rail transport face a similar funding problem. Regarding maritime transportation, many ports need deeper channel and harbors to accommodate larger vessels which derive from the widening of the Panamá Canal. This opens the possibility of Asian goods arriving directly to the East Coast instead of crossing US by Rail.

Innovation and R&D Investment: According to the document, federal investment in transportation R&D is at the same level (as% of GDP) as it was in 1961. This of course, relates to the funding and thus to the level of innovation in transport. Passenger transport is perceived as may greatly benefit from dynamic ridesharing or demand-responsive transit, which have been subjected to public investment but have not yet deliver the sorely expected changes in mobility.

All in all, the document sets the main message in urging US authorities increase the transportation investment, and thus, its innovation.

Relevant points for CORE include the following five:

  1. Conclusions which determine a lack of reliability and resilience in the US transportation system. This can benefit, at some extent, from visibility and security outcomes of the CORE project, which can be more specifically determined by the demonstrators.
  2. The urge for an effort to develop “consistent, valid indicators; and to support data collection” on performance measuring. The latter is a major issue in proving how visibility and security outcomes from CORE may assist overall performance.
  3. System optimization is difficult due to the individual managing approach of the modes of transportation. This can be a very important point to take into account for trade facilitation in CORE.
  4. The conclusion which states: “A major performance issue across all modes is the inadequacy of preparation for natural and human-made disasters, as well as for extreme weather events, which may become more frequent with climate change”, is a direct argument for the need of better security and resilient operating systems.
  5. The document builds a strong case on a coming reconfiguration of the sea port system and shipping patterns. This is something would have a direct relation with initiatives such as CORE.

This report might impact all Demo WPs concerned with US transports containing a hinterland leg, depending on the actual layout of the trade lane. From the six areas (Reliability, Innovation, Environment, Safety, Funding, and R&D investment) the first three might be taken into account for CORE, whereas US federal funding and road safety are not covered in CORE.

CORE Impact Anticipation:

To CORE: An increase in investment, openness to include foreign (from US) initiatives and a shift in the Seaport cargo activity could provide a potential scenario to improve CORE´s vision of the future in Supply Chain visibility and security. Since CORE demonstrators´ goal is to “demonstrate substantial gains in security and facilitation covering every major facet of the supply chain security sector”, then these facets could include the critical points mentioned in this document.

From CORE: CORE could provide substantial information on the way trading partners may influence US initiatives regarding visibility, security and performance. Demonstrators, such as DHL in WP17, could be an empirical field in which some of the critical issues mentioned in this document could be explore.

Cross-references: The three documents CORE1037 Review of Critical Issues in US Transportation-2013, CORE1038 Summary-Material Handling Logistics US Roadmap, CORE1055 Review of Building Resilience in Supply Chains all head in the same direction towards enhancing transport issues, the first two with US orientation.

Full Citation:

Transportation Research Board (TRB) of the National Academies. November 2013.


E-Newsletter Type: Recently Released TRB Publications

TRB Publication Type: TRB Miscellaneous Publications

Transportation Research Board. 500 Fifth St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © 2014. National Academy of Sciences. All Rights Reserved.

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Accessed: 05/12/2014


Revisión de Temas Críticos en el Transporte de Estados Unidos, 2013 (CORE1037)

Resumen: PROBLEMAS CRÍTICOS EN EL TRANSPORTE, 2013, Junta de Investigaciones de Transporte (TRB, por sus siglas en inglés) de la Academia Nacional. Este informe podría afectar a todos los Demos WP relacionados con los transportes de los Estados Unidos que contengan transporte de puerto al alamac’en, dependiendo de la disposición real de la ruta comercial. A partir de las seis áreas – Fiabilidad, innovación, medio ambiente, seguridad, financiación, y la inversión en I&D- los tres primeros podrían tomarse en cuenta para el CORE. La codificación es CORE1037 en la biblioteca electrónica del Proyecto CORE. Fuente:

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