Freight Shuttle eyes redefinition of goods movement

Written by Mischa Wanek-Libman, editor
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Texas A&M Transportation Institute

A plan to deploy a new transport mode of transporting freight will be studied and fleshed out over the next few months at the Port of Houston Authority.

The Port of Houston Authority and Freight Shuttle International (FSI) signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Sept. 9 regarding a joint project to evaluate Freight Shuttle deployment options in the area of the Port of Houston.

The Freight Shuttle System (FSS) was designed at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) to resolve one of freight transportation’s most pressing needs: Moving goods 500 miles or less. TTI says the FSS is designed to blend into the intermodal network by transporting 53- and 54-foot truck trailers and up to 45-foot ocean containers on an elevated guideway built within existing highway right of way. The system utilizes single, remotely-controlled transporters to carry the truck trailers or shipping containers and is powered by linear-induction electric motors.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott unveiled the new mode of transportation and applauded the partnership of university research and industry investment that made it possible.

“For more than a decade, Texas has been the number-one exporting state in America, and freight movement is vitally important to our state’s economy,” Gov. Abbott said. “As the product of innovative research at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, the Freight Shuttle System will help ensure that we are able to meet our growing demand for efficient freight movement in Texas and ensure our long-term prosperity.”

Researchers say the FSS borrows the best characteristics from both truck and rail transport and uses only about one-third the energy required by diesel trucks.

The Port of Houston makes an ideal partner to develop the technology further as it has experienced an increase in container traffic following the expansion of the Panama Canal.

“Container volumes continue to grow,” said Port of Houston Authority Executive Director Roger Guenther. “We’ve continually innovated our terminals to accommodate that demand through expanded capacity and increased cargo velocity. The potential that the Freight Shuttle provides to complement the existing road and rail transportation system and contribute to economic growth and creation of jobs is truly exciting.”