Freight Advisory Committees

The developments of national and state freight advisory committees are another area where MAASTO states are leaders in freight innovation. While officially three of the ten MAFC states support official FACs, all of the states have created and disbanded ad-hoc advisory groups for program and project development. Currently Iowa, Minnesota, and Indiana are working with or have established FACs. Further, organization and use of the three FACs in the MAASTO states reflect different approaches to garnering private sector input.

Existing Examples

Two long standing examples of freight advisory committees are found in Minnesota and Indiana. With MnDOT’s 1998 establishment of freight advisory committee and the committees close coordination with the DOT, MnDOT has not only successfully cooperated with the private sector, the group is an institutionalized activity and group at MnDOT. The MAP-21 FAC initiative seems to reflect the approach taken by MnDOT. They have developed a far ranging and representative group of business and industry making or moving freight that works directly with MnDOT. The group has functioned for 15 years. It is no surprise that MnDOT is a leader in many of the freight initiatives from freight performance measures to FACs, the culture at MnDOT has supported freight and it shows.

Indiana DOT has incorporated a different FAC model with similar success. CONEXUS Indiana, established in 2007, is external to InDOT and is as much a state economic development group as transportation development group. In fact, manufacturing, logistics, and related fields are listed as the top economic development initiates in Indiana. Transportation is the road to deliver on the advanced manufacturing and logistics growth initiates. As with MnDOT, and the other states who have a assembled a variety of ad hoc FACs for projects, plans, and program development, the important point is that the freight advisory involvement works, and it works in a variety of formats. As such, states guidance should continue to allow for flexibility in how the state convenes, manages and appoints participants to the FAC.

Other examples that support the state purview on establishment and operation of a FAC include unofficial and close coordination with MPOs and chamber groups working across state borders, and state DOTs working with MPOs who have already established the connections to industry and business. Several states also commented that they preferred to assemble freight stakeholders and FACs on a project, plan or program basis and then disband the group upon completion of the activity. States indicating they preferred temporary FACs cited the need to keep work and decisions, and the ability to impact freight funding, in front of the private sector to keep their interest. Without the opportunity to affect change at the meetings, the time constraints for the private sector discourage attendance at meetings for meetings sake and ultimately can discredit efforts to coordinate with freight stakeholders.

Table 1: MAASTO State Freight Advisory Council Status

STATE Active FAC FAC Under Development or Consideration Freight stakeholders Convened on Project Basis Notes
Illinois x
Iowa x
Indiana x
Kansas x
Kentucky x Internal Committees and modal advisory groups
Michigan x Internal Committee and external motor carrier advisory group
Minnesota x
Missouri x Internal Committee including Department of Natural Resources, Missouri Economic Development
Ohio x
Wisconsin x Internal Committee including Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and FHWA

Freight Policy Council

On the national level, MAP-21 lists two committees to inform freight development, policy and programs. Internal to USDOT and federal agencies, the Freight Policy Council (FPC) consists of modal administrators and additional agency leadership formed to create a one-stop-shop experience with freight. USDOT is also adamant that the FPC also has the role of supporting and driving a multimodal freight system, thus the participation by all the modal branches.

National Freight Advisory Committee

Establishment of the National Freight Advisory Committee (NFAC) at USDOT represents an approach more in line with the state FACs that includes a broad representation of freight stakeholders. The NFAC includes 25 members that represent a range of voices in freight transportation, freight programs and policy, all modes, include environment and community-oriented groups, and geographic diversity to reflect the breadth of freight issues across the country. The NFAC will report to the Secretary of Transportation. At recent meetings, FHWA freight operations personnel indicated that over 250 nominations have been received for the 25 seats on the NFAC. This is truly a testament to importance of national freight policy and programs that creates and supports a multimodal freight network. As of May 2013 47 individuals were selected for 2 years of service on the NFAC with indications that sub-teams will be developed to address specific issues and absorb the incredible amount of interest in participating.

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