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Transportation Analysis

Transportation Analysis

Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s transportation analysis research team creates predictive information, analytical methods, and vehicle systems data that impact national policy, inform consumer decisions, and shape vehicle and transportation architectures for a safe, sustainable mobility future.

Research focuses on all aspects of transportation systems solutions that help ensure a more secure energy and environmental future, including addressing safety and security challenges, informing policy decisions, increasing energy efficiency and fuel economy, improving the mobility of people and goods through all modes of transportation, systems engineering, and military transportation.

This research is funded by both the public and private sectors. Sponsors have included the US Departments of EnergyTransportation, and DefenseFederal Emergency Management AgencyEnvironmental Protection AgencyUS Census BureauNational Aeronautics and Space Administration; State Departments of Transportation; local planning organizations; National Research Council; and General Motors Corporation. Collaboration and partnerships with academia keep ORNL staff attuned to state-of-the-art research and development. 


Because 97% of fuel in the transportation sector is derived from oil, the US invests heavily in more energy efficient and environmentally friendly highway transportation technologies that enable reduced dependence on petroleum. Transportation analysis researchers engages in field and laboratory research that informs and shapes national clean energy policy.

Energy-focused research areas include the implementation of new powertrain concepts through transportation data, innovative models, comprehensive analysis and simulation, and advanced vehicle system hardware integration.

ORNL manages, DOE’s most visited website, where consumers can access tools for selecting a vehicle and tips for driving more efficiently. The site features fuel economy information for every vehicle sold in the US since 1984 along with easy-to-use comparison tools and detailed information about new vehicle technologies, including hybrid and flex fuel options.

Other energy-related projects include bioenergy lifecycle modeling, planning for the deployment of fuel cell vehicles and hydrogen refueling infrastructure, market analysis of new vehicle technologies, and carbon fiber cost modeling.


Each year, major congestion causes urban Americans to lose productivity and consume more gallons of fuel, resulting in significantly increased transportation costs. ORNL's analysis of congestion origins, factors, and solutions is paving the way to resolving this elusive drain on the nation’s economy. 

The laboratory's advanced methodologies, integrated analysis, and decision support applications impact national policy and programs for the efficient intermodal movement of people and freight.

The US transportation system moves an average of more than 50 million tons of freight at an estimated value of $45 billion every day using all modes of transportation. ORNL's Freight Analysis Framework (FAF) is a robust database developed in collaboration with the Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration. It houses the most comprehensive, publicly available database of freight movements and provides accurate estimates for tonnage, value, and ton-miles by origin, destination, mode, and commodity type. Policy makers and transportation planners in the public and private sectors rely on FAF as a critical tool in making strategic decisions in the planning, operation, investment, and asset management of America’s freight system.

Other research activities under mobility include the National Household Travel Survey compilation and analysis, intelligent transportation systems deployment tracking and viewer, GIS-based decision support tools, congestion pricing studies, safeguarding truck-shipped wholesale and retail fuels, and an investment analysis planning model for inland waterway navigation.


ORNL transportation analysis researchers lead development and field deployment of integrated technologies and systems solutions to enhance safety and security across all modes of transportation. The laboratory’s data informs local, state, and national law enforcement policy.

ORNL manages the Commercial Motor Vehicle Roadside Technology Consortium (CMVRTC) for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The CMVRTC is permanent test bed along 2,400 miles of interstate roadways in Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Mississippi. Specially equipped research facilities at inspection stations along the CMVRTC corridor are used to evaluate current, new-to-market, and emerging safety technologies in a real-time, real-world environment. 

Along the CMVRTC, researchers have implemented the infrared-based screening system (IBSS). IBSS is an innovative roadside screening technology that provides a safer and more efficient way for law enforcement to monitor and ultimately place out of service commercial vehicles with brake and tire defects.

Other research activities under safety include motorcoach safety assessments, pipeline assessments and analyses, routing of hazardous materials, tracking of dangerous cargo barges on inland waterways, geospatial analysis for railroad infrastructure protection, evacuation modelling, overweight vehicle brake testing, and brake defect causation and abatement studies.