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8 CHAPTER 1 Introduction The nation's freight transportation system is invisible to siders the opportunity to improve public policy decisions most Americans. In the public mind, "transportation policy" through access to better information about freight system is usually associated with passenger transportation, primarily impacts. highways, public transit, and air travel. When freight trans- portation is considered, the focus is often on one mode of Definition of Policy transport rather than on the freight system as a whole. And what is true of the general public is also true for a great many It may be helpful to define "policy" in the context of this public officials whose decisions can significantly affect the work. "Policy" is often used in two different ways. One has to freight transportation system. do with general statements of principles or goals. The other has Because of freight transport's lack of prominence, many to do with specific government actions. Broad "policy state- policymakers have an inadequate understanding of how their ments" by government agencies or officials fall into the former decisions can affect the freight transportation system. This category. These statements may convey intent or desire to research is intended to address this shortcoming by exam- adopt measures for stated purposes--cleaner air, greater fuel ining freight system impacts across a wide range of public efficiency, reduced highway congestion, etc.--but are not, policies. The study focuses on recently enacted policies as themselves, government actions that affect the behavior of well as some policies being debated but not yet adopted. individuals, firms, or other government agencies. One may call Both transportation and non-transportation policies are this policy-in-principle. included. One may call the latter case policy-in-fact. This comprises Through an extensive literature review, numerous inter- formal action by elected officials or government agencies, views with freight industry experts, and some new analysis, including programs for investment (e.g., direct spending, this report reveals the many ways that government policy deci- grants, and credits), taxes and fees of all kinds, rules and regu- sions have affected (or could affect) the freight system. Poten- lations that directly constrain behavior, and legal action by gov- tial effects include shifts in freight mode as well as changes in ernments. Government decisions to adopt such measures-- the following: the real policy decisions--are the policies of interest here, because, one way or another, such decisions either directly affect Costs to freight carriers behavior of various entities relating to freight carriage or Revenues to freight carriers change in some way the environment in which actors in the Costs to freight shippers freight system operate and make decisions. Freight volumes Freight service quality Methodology Freight operations Freight system safety The research team began the study by developing a broad list Freight fuel use or emissions of public policies that could directly or indirectly affect the freight transportation system. This initial list of policies guided In addition to highlighting freight system impacts, the the next phase of the research--a search for literature analyz- report assesses the extent to which such impacts were unex- ing the effects of these policies on the freight sector. The liter- pected by the relevant decisionmakers. Finally, the report con- ature search covered all of the primary freight transport