Rensselaer Launches New Center of Excellence for Sustainable Urban Freight Systems

Led by Rensselaer Professor Jose Holguín-Veras, New $4 Million Center Is Designated by the Volvo Research and Educational Foundations as a Center of Excellence

March 27, 2013

Jose Holguín-Veras


Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute today announced the launch of its new Center for Sustainable Urban Freight Systems.

Dedicated to investigating new ways of infusing sustainability and efficiency into the way businesses send and receive goods, the new $4 million center is funded by the Volvo Research and Educational Foundations (VREF) through its Future Urban Transport research program and recognized as a VREF Center of Excellence.

Along with Rensselaer, the center’s core research partners are the University of Westminster in the United Kingdom, Kyoto University in Japan, Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, Monash University in Australia, and Pennsylvania State University.

“Rensselaer is a driving force in transportation engineering research, and we are pleased to partner with the Volvo Research and Educational foundations on the new Center of Excellence for Sustainable Urban Freight Systems,” said David Rosowsky, dean of the School of Engineering at Rensselaer. “This collaboration positions Rensselaer and the School of Engineering to make an even greater impact on transportation systems research, a critically important field that affects all of our lives.”

“Urban freight, ‘the last mile,’ accounts for a large and increasing part of urban transport flows. The challenges this poses require urgent attention,” said VREF Chairman of the Board Anders Brännström. “New solutions to managing freight in urban areas are emerging, and the need for new knowledge and collaboration is greater than ever.”

“The Rensselaer Center of Excellence is an outstanding partnership between university, industry and cities, which we expect will take an international lead in developing new ideas for innovation in urban freight,” said VREF Director Henrik Nolmark.

Transportation engineering expert Jose Holguín-Veras, the William H. Hart Professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a member of the university’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, will lead the center.

“The fundamental quest of the Center for Sustainable Urban Freight Systems is one of behavior modification: to change the idea of urban freight systems from one driven by profit maximization to one that accounts for the externalities produced,” said Holguín-Veras, also the director of the Center for Infrastructure, Transportation, and the Environment within the Rensselaer School of Engineering. “Our research team will use technology, public policy, and proactive engagement of the private sector as building blocks to design and implement actionable strategies to transform and push forward the leading edge of urban freight systems.”

Urban freight transportation systems represent a multifaceted challenge. The imperative of companies to maximize their profits often leads business owners, regulators, and others to concede some of the less desirable byproducts of freight transportation: delivery trucks causing traffic congestion and air pollution in city centers, which in turn make the city centers less hospitable and accessible to travelers, tourists, and local residents. This challenge has significant technological, political, social, and environmental implications.

The new Center for Sustainable Urban Freight Systems seeks to jumpstart the creation of a framework that engages and fosters collaboration between cities, the private sector, and academia to tackle this universal challenge. Center researchers will seek to develop and identify a holistic, integrated suite of technologies, regulations, and incentives to help shape a new paradigm of freight transportation systems that are more cost efficient, more energy efficient, and less disruptive to commuter traffic in urban centers.

Research conducted within the new center will draw upon past and current freight systems and traffic management studies conducted by center partners in collaboration with the cities of New York, London, Osaka, Yokohama, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, The Hague, Melbourne, Chennai, Toronto, and Albany.

Core industry partners of the center are DHL, TNT Express, the European Shippers Council, the National Confederation of Transport in Brazil, the Truck Industry Council in Australia, the Freight Transport Association in the United Kingdom, American Trucking Association, and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association Foundation.

Additionally, the Center for Sustainable Urban Freight Systems will benefit from collaboration with its associate research centers across six continents: Chalmers University of Technology and University of Gothenburg in Sweden, Universidad de Los Andes and  Universidad del Norte  in Colombia, United Arab Emirates University, Universidad de Cantabria in Spain, Universidad Ibero-Americana in the Dominican Republic, University of Pretoria in South Africa, Institute for Transport and Logistics in Italy, Indian Institute of Technology-Madras, SouthEast University and Dalian Maritime University in China, University of Toronto, and Universidade de São Paulo in Brazil.

About the Volvo Research and Educational Foundations

Volvo Research and Educational Foundations (VREF) is a collaboration between four independent foundations: the Volvo Research Foundation; the Volvo Education Foundation; the Pehr G. Gyllenhammar Foundation; and the Håkan Frisinger Foundation for Transport Research. The foundations finance research and educational projects. VREF initiated the Future Urban Transport (FUT) research program, which aims to create strategies for developing sustainable transportation systems in large urban areas around the world.

For more information on Holguín-Veras’ transportation research at Rensselaer, visit:

Press Contact Michael Mullaney
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