U.S. Department of Transportation
Freight Model Improvement Program
Image of a truck, cargo ship and train

About the Freight Model Improvement Program

The Freight Model Improvement Program (FMIP) was launched in 2004 by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) as a joint effort with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and with support from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Managed by the Federal Highway Administration's Office of Freight Management and Operations, FMIP enhances the state of the art and the state of practice in freight modeling at national, regional and local levels.


Freight has emerged as a major issue in the transportation community. Highways, railroads, and ports are running out of capacity to accommodate projected increases in the volume of goods to be moved. In an economy organized around fast and reliable delivery of goods, congestion becomes an important variable in the cost of business and in economic development.

Forecasts of commodity flows and freight transportation activity are essential to understand the patterns of merchandise trade with domestic and international partners, the economic growth potential associated with that trade, and the pressures created by freight movement on the Nation's transportation systems. The pressures include congestion and delay, exposure to risks of hazardous materials incidents and other safety aspects of freight transportation, energy use and environmental consequences, and the efficiency and productivity of freight carriers who support the Nation's economy.

Current methods for forecasting freight are less than adequate to assess these increasingly complex and important issues. Freight demand models are typically based on methods developed for passenger travel demand forecasting. While these methods have evolved for more than four decades, freight is different from passenger travel and may require alternative approaches to modeling. Many practitioners are calling for improvements in both the state of the art and the state of practice in modeling freight demand.

Relationship of FMIP to the Freight Analysis Framework (FAF)

FMIP was initiated in part because the redesigned FAF does not estimate commodity flows at enough geographic detail to support local planning. The FAF provides a national picture and shows state and local planners where their jurisdictions fit within that national picture. FMIP is a forum in which practitioners and researchers can figure out how to develop local understanding of freight through local data collection and modeling built on the national picture provided by the FAF. While FMIP serves primarily state and local interests, it may ultimately show new approaches for national and regional freight modeling that can be incorporated into the next generation of the FAF.

The Plan

DOT and its partners hope to establish through FMIP a consensus of the transportation community on needed improvements in freight modeling and on ways to meet those needs. FMIP is targeted primarily on models for estimating and forecasting movements of commodities, trucks, trains, and vessels, and secondarily on models for turning those forecasts into public revenues, environmental consequences, economic consequences, and other societal costs and benefits.

FHWA has established a clearinghouse for FMIP on the Internet. The clearinghouse is designed to provide up-to-date information on current developments in freight modeling; disseminate inventories and assessments of modeling strategies and related data collection methods; develop a library of current research, data, and methods; encourage discussion and comments on posted items; encourage customers to submit information for the Web site; and support direct peer-to-peer exchanges.

A national freight modeling conference was held September 25-27, 2006 to summarize the state of the art and state of practice in freight demand modeling at all levels of government, identify near-term activities to improve the effectiveness and usability of freight models, and identify long-term research to improve both the theoretical underpinnings and operational aspects of freight models at the national and local scales. Follow-up activities are underway through the National Cooperative Freight Research Program and the Strategic Highway Research Program 2.

Although FHWA is the initial sponsor of FMIP, the program is intended to serve freight interests across all modes of freight transportation. The success of the program will depend in large part on the active participation by practitioners and researchers in the transportation community to identify forecasting problems and solutions.

For further information on FMIP, contact fmip@dot.gov.