The Freight Shuttle System: A 21st Century Solution to Freight Transportation Challenges

Background

Freight Shuttle System concept. (click to enlarge)

The Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) has developed a new freight transportation system: the Freight Shuttle System (FSS). The FSS was conceived to resolve freight transportation’s most pressing deficiency: the lack of a system suitable for high-volume traffic between two points located less than 600 miles apart. This situation occurs frequently at marine ports, border crossings (land ports) and congested freight corridors.

The Problem: The United States Lacks a Sustainable Freight Transportation System

Currently, heavy-duty diesel trucks carry most of the freight load. One of the most important attributes of trucks is their flexibility. They use existing highway and roadway infrastructure to reach dispersed and scattered distribution locations. But this flexibility comes at a high cost: infrastructure deterioration, congestion, traffic safety issues and pollution. Many critical freight transportation corridors in Texas are becoming congested to the point that an alternative means of transportation with fewer adverse impacts is needed.

Railroads are a perfect choice for moving high volumes of freight traffic between two points. However, due to the operating and network characteristics of heavy freight rail, railroads tend to favor hauling freight over longer distances and refrain from carrying freight less than 600 miles.

The Solution: The Freight Shuttle System

Because the FSS motors are electrically powered, the FSS will not add to existing pollution, will advance the United States’ effort to achieve energy independence and will allow more environmentally friendly energy choices.The FSS is the ideal medium to connect two closely located points (within 600 miles) handling large volumes of freight traffic. By borrowing features from both heavy-duty diesel trucks and railroads, the FSS is economical for shorter distances and environmentally friendly. Much like trucks, the FSS’s transporters are autonomous: each transporter has its own motors and travels independently of other transporters. Inspired by railroads, FSS transporters use steel wheels to carry either a standard-size freight container or an over-the-road trailer. Moreover, the FSS runs on an elevated, dedicated right-of-way to avoid interference with and from other transportation systems.

However, unlike any other freight transportation mode, the FSS uses efficient, linear induction motors. Because these motors are electrically powered, the FSS will not add to existing pollution, will advance the United States’ effort to achieve energy independence and will allow more environmentally friendly energy choices. Moreover, by offering shippers and carriers a lower-cost option to over-the-road transport, the FSS directly reduces pollution, infrastructure damage and highway congestion, while improving traffic safety.

View of a freight shuttle trailer.

The Freight Shuttle System at a Glance

  • Is privately financed, operated, and maintained in keeping with the commercial nature of goods movement.
  • Helps create value for the public from underperforming assets – the Highway System.
  • Reduces infrastructure deterioration by providing an alternative to over-the-road trucking.
  • Reduces congestion on overburdened roadways and improves safety.
  • Enhances economic competitiveness by providing a more efficient goods-movement system.
  • Reduces dependence on foreign oil.
  • Enhances community livability by creating far fewer emissions than other alternatives.
  • Creates new industry and generates new jobs.

Resources

Freight Shuttle Fact Sheet

Related Articles

Plan aims for freight shuttle on the border (El Paso Times)

TTI Freight Shuttle Highlighted at Patent Luncheon

Freight Shuttle Study Underway for Border Crossing Use

Contact

Stephen S. Roop, Ph.D.
Assistant Agency Director,
Texas Transportation Institute
The Texas A&M University System
College Station, TX 77843-3135
(979) 845-8536
s-roop@tamu.edu