MAP-21 Freight Provisions

MAP-21 is recognized as the first transportation legislation to work towards a national freight policy and direction. While MAP-21 is not the multimodal freight funding mechanism the freight world had hoped for, according to FHWA the legislation does contain provisions to, “improve the condition and performance of the national freight network and support investment in freight-related surface transportation projects.”

From a freight planning and development perspective the most relevant freight-related initiatives in MAP-21 consist of the establishment of:

  1. National freight policy
  2. State and national freight strategic plans
  3. State and national freight advisory committees
  4. National freight network and prioritization of freight projects
  5. Freight performance management
  6. Motor/carrier/trucking initiatives

Of most relevance to state DOTs at this point are provisions addressing freight planning, freight advisory committees and the National Freight Network (NFN). These areas will be addressed in more depth while the initiatives linked to federal action or more in the freight operations realm will be addressed in lesser detail. All areas of MAP-21 are described and assessed on the MAFC MAP-21 resource page.

National Freight Policy

A national freight policy is significant in that is recognizes freight as critical to the nation’s economy and directs the freight community’s efforts towards a common goal of improving the condition and performance of the national freight network. The improvements to the conditions and performance of the system will generate attendant improvements including: economic competitiveness and efficiency, reduced congestion, increased safety, security, resiliency, innovation, accountability and environmental protection. The goals of the National Freight Policy are:

  1. To invest in infrastructure improvements and to implement operational improvements that—
    1. Strengthen the contribution of the national freight network to the economic competitiveness of the United States;
    2. Reduce congestion; and
    3. Increase productivity, particularly for domestic industries and businesses that create high-value jobs
  2. To improve the safety, security, and resilience of freight transportation;
  3. To improve the state of good repair of the national freight network;
  4. To use advanced technology to improve the safety and efficiency of the national freight network;
  5. To incorporate concepts of performance, innovation, competition, and accountability into the operation and maintenance of the national freight network; and
  6. To improve the economic efficiency of the national freight network.
  7. To reduce the environmental impacts of freight movement on the national freight network.

Truck/Motor Carrier Provisions

Also included in the MAP-21 freight initiatives are the truck specific applications. In MAP-21 the prominent initiatives include Jason’s Law, the rental truck accident study, a comprehensive truck size and weight study, and the compilation of existing state truck size and weight limit laws.

Jason’s Law

Jason’s Law provides for additional construction of commercial motor vehicle parking adjacent to travel plazas and truck stops. It also provides for alternative fuel charging stations at parking facilities.

Rental Truck Accident Study

The rental truck study examines crash and vehicle factors for rental trucks in the 10,000-26,000 pound weight range. The study specifically examines crash rates, property damage and costs, state and local laws, truck maintenance programs, as well as other safety areas, and areas identified at the discretion of the Secretary.

Truck Size and Weight Studies

The comprehensive truck size and weight study examines and compares safety, infrastructure impacts, cost and efficiencies, frequency and type of weight violations, freight diversion to another mode and the related impacts, system wide impacts and the impact on total truck numbers between those trucks operating within federal legal load limits and those operating above those limits through state sanctions and permits. This effort is crucial to understanding the potential impacts of larger trucks on the system and whatever the findings may be, any changes can be expected to require considerable heavy lift to institute changes to the current system.

The compilation of state truck size and weight laws directs the Secretary to compile a list of each route on the NHS that allows vehicles to operate above federal truck size and weight limits. Additionally, the size and weight limits applicable to those routes, the truck types and combinations allowed, and a list of state laws and regulations governing these trucks.

What about Rail and Water for Freight?

MAP-21 is by all accounts a highway bill. The complication and equity issues with investing highway user fees for other modal investments are well documented. Many states are legislated to spend road taxes on roads and not rail or waterway improvements, A similar call is heard from policy makers and politicians that road dollars stay on the roads. And with the current fiscal crisis, funding additional modes has the potential negative impact of further diluting scarce existing highway funds and threatens the nation’s abilities to maintain the current network of roads.