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Research Projects (1999-00)

Identifying Number


Project Title

Transportation and Logistics Characteristics of the Potato Industry: Implications for Highway Planning


North Dakota State University

Project Investigator

Denver Tolliver
Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute, NDSU

External Project Contact


Project Objective

  1. Develop a profile of the potato industry in the western United States, especially in the Mountain-Plains region;
  2. Describe the logistical practices of the industry including plant and warehouse location factors and inventory management;
  3. Describe the transportation demands of the industry including origins and destinations, mode use, and truck configurations;
  4. Describe the most likely locations for increased potato production in North Dakota and surrounding areas based on land characteristics and other factors;
  5. Develop a potato database in a GIS framework; and
  6. Develop a report/guidebook for highway planners and engineers that documents the transportation needs and highway impacts of potato plants and related land uses.

Project Abstract

Value-added processing is an important economic development goal in agricultural states and regions. The location of potato processing plants near sources of production is a recent trend that has generated substantial economic benefits. However, the location of potato plants is impacting highway demand and truck use in parts of the Mountain-Plains region. Shifts in production from grains to potatoes and sugar beets can significantly increase the tons produced per acre and thus increase heavy truck traffic in rural areas. Little information exists regarding the logistical and spatial characteristics of the potato industry and its transportation needs. NDDOT has requested an analysis of the transportation characteristics and highway implications of this industry, including:

  1. trends in production and location of facilities,
  2. impacts of processing plants on agricultural land use;
  3. truck use characteristics; and
  4. implications for highway maintenance and planning.

Task Descriptions

Meet with potato growers, processors, and NDDOT to gain information about industry demands, needs, and logistical practices.

  1. Prepare a working paper on potato production, use, and important trends. The paper will describe:
    1. types of potatoes grown in ND and region 8 (e.g., reds, russets, whites);
    2. location of potato production and how the distribution of current production differs from five and ten years ago;
    3. uses for various types of potatoes (e.g., frozen French fries, baking, chipping, seed, animal feed, alcoholic beverages, ethanol, etc.);
    4. major demand locations;
    5. necessary or ideal production conditions for growing different types of potatoes;
    6. likely geographic shifts in potato production;
    7. variations in yield per acre; and
    8. growing arrangements (e.g., use of contracts).
  2. Prepare a working paper describing the logistical practices and unique transportation needs of the potato industry. The paper will answer the following questions:
    1. When are potatoes generally harvested?
    2. After potatoes are harvested, where are they transported processing plants, storage facilities, etc.)?
    3. Where are the major potato processing plants located and what products are produced at these plants?
    4. In general, what is the seasonal variance of movements from farms to storage areas and plants?
    5. If potatoes are stored for a period prior to being shipped for processing, when does the second move generally occur?
    6. What are the primary factors that influence the location of potato storage facilities?
    7. What are the typical axle configurations and gross vehicle weights of trucks hauling potatoes from the field?
    8. What are the typical axle configurations and gross vehicle weights of trucks hauling potatoes from a storage facility to processing plants?
    9. What functional classes and types of highways are used for potato movements and how are they being impacted?
    10. What are the impacts of spring load restrictions on the potato industry?
    11. Does potato processing produce byproducts that require transportation services?
  3. Create a GIS database of potato production in North Dakota.
  4. Analyze potato production and transportation and forecast:
    1. shifts in production and movement patterns;
    2. implications for truck use; and
    3. implications for highway use and maintenance.
  5. Develop a set of trip generation and truck types factors that can be used by highway planners in Region 8.
  6. Publish a report/guidebook and offer a TEL8 seminar to transportation practitioners in Region 8.

Milestones, Dates

  • Starting Date: November 1, 1999
  • Project Milestones:
    • A working paper on potato production, use, and trends - March 15, 2000
    • A GIS potato production database - April 1, 2000.
    • A working paper on the logistical practices and unique transportation needs of the potato industry-May 30, 2000
    • Interim report to NDDOT - July 15, 2000
    • Draft report - September 20, 2000
    • Final report and TEL8 seminar - October 20, 2000
  • Ending Date: October 31, 2000

Yearly and Total Budget


Student Involvement (e.g. Thesis, Assistantships, Paid Employment)

One graduate and two undergraduate students.

Relationship to Other Research Projects


Technology Transfer Activities

A seminar will be presented for transportation practitioners.

Potential Benefits of the Project

State transportation and local transportation departments and agricultural groups will be the primary beneficiaries of the research. The information can be used for:

  1. Short-run highway planning and programming by state DOTs;
  2. Long-term planning and forecasting of highways demands;
  3. Optimal facility location decisions; and
  4. Economic impacts of seasonal loads limits.

TRB Keywords

Agricultural, roads, planning, truck, traffic

NDSU Dept 2880P.O. Box 6050Fargo, ND 58108-6050