As U.S. international merchandise trade continues to grow, domestic transportation issues, including port access and cargo security, will need to be evaluated on a continuing basis. Landside access to U.S. ports, congestion on highways around major gateways, delays at border crossings, and environmental and community concerns may continue to affect the efficient movement of merchandise from, to, and within the United States. While the nation derives enormous benefits from international merchandise trade, increased freight traffic resulting from growth in trade could generate negative effects including air quality, noise, traffic, and safety issues, particularly for communities adjacent to major freight gateways and corridors. Also, as international trade continues its expected growth, the demand for improved intermodal access to U.S. ports will rise, particularly at containerized ports in urban areas. Issues and concerns include the condition of local roads for accessing ports, at-grade rail crossings, rail drayage time and costs, dredging and channel depths, and availability of truck-only lanes for access to ports.
Improved cargo security will also remain a daunting challenge as government and industry work together for solutions that will prevent terrorist attacks while maintaining an efficient flow of goods. Policy- and decisionmakers face several questions as they implement freight transportation security measures. For example, how will the new and evolving security requirements affect U.S. carriers and business supply chain management? What short-term impacts will industry adjustment to just-in-time and inventory management strategies have on freight volumes and flows? To what extent will industry be willing to provide the government with cargo and crew information far in advance to enhance security in this new environment? How will these measures affect demand and planning of transportation services? While the answers to these questions remain uncertain, they are likely to have major implications for U.S. international freight transportation in the short and long term.