Freight Trends

EFCO Products, Poughkeepsie, New York

Freight can sometimes be overlooked in transportation planning, which tends to focus more on moving people than goods – especially in Dutchess County, which doesn’t have the level of freight activity of other areas in the region. Yet freight remains a critical component of our transportation system: whether by road, rail, air, or water, freight provides the goods we need for our homes, businesses, and institutions to function. Technological trends will likely change the nature of freight in profound ways, and it may look very different in the future. To help us understand these trends, we sought to answer two questions:

  • How is freight transported in and through our region?
  • How might freight movement change in the future?

We reviewed data from a variety of sources, building on our regional freight analysis with Ulster and Orange counties, to learn how freight trends will affect our transportation system. Below is a summary of key trends, their implications, and ideas for how we might address them.

Trend 1. Continued preference for and growth in trucking

While freight is changing, trucks will continue to carry most of the freight in and through Dutchess County, and we can expect trucking freight volume to continue to grow.

According to the Census Bureau’s latest Commodity Flow Survey, 93 percent of all freight tonnage in New York State is transported by truck. Nationally, trucking freight volume is expected to grow more than 35 percent from 2018 to 2028.  New York State’s Freight Plan estimates that between 2012 and 2040, truck volume on the 84 Corridor (which includes I-84, NY 55, including the Mid-Hudson Bridge, and NY 22 from Route 55 to Putnam County) will increase by 47 percent, truck tonnage will increase by 43 percent, and truck value will increase by 68 percent.

While growth in truck traffic suggests economic vitality, it also stresses our roads and bridges, especially on major highway facilities such as I-84, Route 9, and Route 22. It will be critical to support the expected growth in truck freight by maintaining or improving travel time reliability on our key truck routes, maintaining or improving pavement and bridge conditions on key truck routes, and using technology to manage incidents and direct trucks to the best routes.

Trend 2. Growth in local and small-scale, on-demand deliveries

We will continue to experience a marked increase in local delivery traffic throughout the county. National research shows that freight deliveries to households exceed freight deliveries to companies, and the delivery rate to households has increased dramatically in recent years. Much of this is due to the growing attraction of e-commerce and on-demand deliveries to households and businesses.

To address this growth will require us to monitor pavement conditions, gather data on local delivery trips and traffic, and plan for delivery and curb space management. Communities will need to work with delivery companies on solutions such as night and weekend deliveries, e-bike delivery, optimized routing, consolidated deliveries, dedicated hubs for package pick-ups, and same-day surcharges.

Trend 3. Expansion of air cargo at New York Stewart International Airport

New York Stewart International Airport may serve an increasingly important role in the movement of air cargo in the region. Recent trends show substantial growth in freight traffic at Stewart Airport, primarily due to shipments by UPS and FedEx. In 2022, Stewart handled over 24,700 tons of domestic and international freight, and another 29,000 tons in revenue mail.

To accommodate this expected growth, we will need to maintain and improve freight connections between Stewart Airport and Dutchess County.

Dutchess County’s Hudson Valley Regional Airport could potentially serve as a smaller-scale freight hub for drones or small aircraft. The feasibility of this will depend on maintaining and improving the local road network and considering impacts to adjacent residential areas and environmental assets. Privately-owned public-use airports could also potentially serve as small-scale freight hubs.

Trend 4. Potential for autonomous freight and unmanned delivery vehicles

Freight is an obvious candidate for the introduction of autonomous vehicles (AVs), and some companies are developing AV technology for their fleets. This includes driverless trucks and delivery vehicles, which are already being tested on the nation’s roads. AV technology is also being explored for freight trains, cargo ships, and drones. It will be important to monitor these trends, understand best practices, and identify potential locations for testing autonomous freight technology. See our Technological Trends section for more on AVs.

Our Role

Freight will become an increasingly local issue in the future, raising concerns and challenges for our communities. It is important for us to understand freight-related trends and our role in addressing the challenges they bring. Based on what we’ve learned about future freight trends, our role could include the following:

  • Continue to analyze regional freight patterns with Orange and Ulster counties, building on our regional freight analysis.
  • Monitor pavement and bridge conditions on key truck routes and local streets used for deliveries and prioritize needed maintenance and improvement projects.
  • Analyze travel time reliability on key truck routes and recommend potential improvements, including appropriate technologies to better manage incidents and re-route trucks to the best routes.
  • Gather and analyze data on local delivery trips and traffic, help municipalities plan for local delivery and curb space, and suggest ways for municipalities to work with delivery companies on solutions to traffic impacts.
  • Monitor trends in autonomous freight/deliveries, understand best practices, and identify potential locations for autonomous freight technology testing.
  • Work with County Public Works to understand plans for the Hudson Valley Regional Airport and potential transportation issues.