Minnesota is the fourth-largest producer of biofuel in the country and home to a growing livestock industry. These market forces, along with changes in the grain supply chain, are directly influencing the way grain producers and wholesalers navigate their local freight networks. To better understand these changes and their impacts, researchers in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs have collected data and developed new spatial analysis tools, ultimately aimed at informing freight transportation policy and infrastructure investment decisions.
Grain and medical technology may not seem to have much in common, but they share at least one trait: both are key industry clusters that help drive Minnesota’s economy. At a roundtable held by the U’s Transportation Policy and Economic Competitiveness (TPEC) Program, speakers discussed trends in grain and medical-sector supply chains and the implications for freight transportation policy and investments.
TPEC director Lee Munnich opened the event. “Transportation is necessary—but not sufficient—for economic growth,” he said. “In our research, we look at how well the transportation system is working for the economy, and in particular, for the industry clusters that are so important to an area.”
The University of Minnesota’s Thomas E. Murphy Engine Research Laboratory has received $1.4 million to research ways to boost the energy efficiency of cloud-connected delivery vehicles. The funding was awarded by the NEXTCAR Program of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy.
The U’s NEXTCAR project researchers are partnering with UPS and electric vehicle manufacturing company Workhorse to improve the energy efficiency of medium-duty delivery vehicles through real-time powertrain optimization using two-way vehicle-to-cloud connectivity.
Performance of the freight system in Minnesota profoundly affects economic competitiveness. But perspectives vary on what constitutes and contributes to an attractive, competitive freight environment. Differences among various interests—carriers, retailers, consumers, and government—give rise to a certain competitive tension underlying critical decision making and investment involving freight.
To make sense of it all, the Minnesota Freight Advisory Committee (MFAC) in June published Components of an Attractive Minnesota Freight Market (PDF). The white paper, which identifies key aspects of an attractive freight market in Minnesota, is the first in a planned MFAC series about freight transportation issues important to Minnesota’s economy.
The Minnesota Freight Advisory Committee recently published its 2016 annual report on the state of freight in Minnesota.
The report examines the many ways that freight drives economic growth throughout Minnesota. Through stories and updates, it explores topics such as the network of freight modes, congestion impacts, trucking and technology advancements, next steps with the Minnesota Statewide Freight System Plan, and more.
University of Minnesota researchers at the Minnesota Traffic Observatory will work to improve the mobility of people and goods across the nation as part of the new Freight Mobility Research Institute, a Tier 1 University Transportation Center funded in 2016.
Led by Florida Atlantic University (FAU), the Institute will receive $1.4 million per year from the United States Department of Transportation for five years. A combined match from state and private-sector sources will bring the award to more than $10 million in total. In addition to FAU and the U of M, Institute members include the University of Florida, Portland State University, Hampton University, the University of Memphis, and Texas A&M University (College Station).
How does the ability to move freight affect the economic health of a state, region, and even a city? How are the supply chains of businesses impacted by freight flow? And what challenges and opportunities does Minnesota face when it comes to leveraging and strengthening its freight modes?
The 2016 Freight and Logistics Symposium offered a thoughtful examination of those questions and explored other topics related to improved mobility in Minnesota, including congestion, regulation, labor shortages, and the value of all freight modes to the state’s economy.