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9 CHAPTER two METHOD FOR SURVEY AND LITERATURE REVIEW This chapter documents the methods and assumptions for SURVEY OF PRACTICE conducting the literature review and the survey. It discusses the research method, sources of literature, a practical review Survey Development of the literature, and the purpose of and approach to the sur- vey in order to give a greater understanding of the process The survey "Freight Transportation Surveys--Existing and of the subsequent findings. Methods and Guidelines" was conducted primarily between May and October 2009. Before the survey was distributed, it was necessary to establish a comprehensive outline and OVERVIEW OF METHOD test the survey to ensure that it was as accurate and target- specific as possible. The information upon which this synthesis is based was gathered in two separate tasks. The primary task was a sur- During the initial stages of constructing the outline of vey of practitioners, which was complemented by a literature the survey, it was decided that it would also be beneficial if review. the survey could be answered by several different types of agencies that are involved in the freight transportation data The survey was sent primarily to all state DOTs, as well collection process. A logical way to construct the survey as to selected MPOs that were known to be active in freight was to structure the questions as close-ended as possible, transportation. The survey also was sent to select national in order to provide a clear indication of what was being agencies, port authorities, and commercial purveyors of asked and to help in the summary process. Most of the freight data. This diversity in the survey group was intended questions were asked with a selection, or list, of answers, to capture the viewpoints and experience on freight data and the respondent was instructed to select a single answer collection activities from as many participants involved in or as many answers as applied, depending on the ques- the process as possible. Participants completed the survey tion. However, because of the nature of the subject, a stan- online through a web-based survey program. dard set of answers may not always have covered all the options. Accordingly, for most questions there was also the The literature review began with a search for any option to select "other," with space provided to expand on resources that had the potential for further review. An online the answer. search was conducted using transportation resource web- sites and search engines to gather further resources. From The survey targeted the following key information: this search, available electronic resources were gathered. This was complemented by contacts with Panel members, · Who was the survey respondent? members of selected TRB freight committees, and selected · What is the purpose or application for the freight trans- academics to request resources that they believed might be portation survey(s) and/or data collection? relevant. The agency representatives were also asked if they · What methods are used to collect the data? would be able to provide any other sources of information · What are the characteristics of the data being (e.g., published reports, journals, articles, etc.) as well as any collected? other individuals or organizations that might provide further · What public and/or commercial data sources are assistance. Any leads that were obtained from discussions used? with other professionals were pursued to their end. The con- · What data are needed or unavailable? sultant's internal library also provided valuable publications · What were respondents' experience with their survey and reports. practices and any other available data?
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10 The survey was divided into six self-contained sections. respondents to skip nonapplicable questions using inherent This made the survey more "respondent friendly," in order to conditional branching. specifically target areas of interest in the process. Also, the survey was divided into sections because the online survey Following approval of the draft survey by the TRB Proj- answers are only received after each section is completed; if ect Officer, the consultant conducted a pilot survey session the survey was only one section and the respondent "aban- internally to assess the usability and readability of the sur- doned" the survey partway through, no answers would be vey before sending it to all participants. Minor modifications received. were made to the survey following the pilot survey session. Subsequently, the survey was sent to all state DOTs, MPOs The first section determined the type of agency that was with potential freight data survey experience (as identified responding to the survey and who from that agency was through the literature or by the Project Panel), and select responding. It also asked respondents what purpose and what national agencies, port authorities, and commercial purvey- transportation modes are considered in their freight trans- ors of freight data throughout the United States. portation surveys and/or other data collection activities. The survey was sent to each group by e-mail under the Section 2 asked if the respondent's organization adminis- name of the TRB Project Officer. TRB and the Project Panel ters or funds surveys or data collection initiatives to obtain provided contact names and e-mail addresses of the respec- freight data, and if yes, what techniques were used. For each tive representatives from state DOTs, MPOs, port authori- technique used, the respondent was asked to describe the ties, and national agencies, and the consultant provided data collected. contact names and e-mail addresses for the commercial pur- veyors. Follow-up e-mail reminders were sent to those who Section 3 asked respondents what are their freight data had not yet responded (which could be determined because requirements by listing general and mode-specific freight each respondent could be tracked, confidentially) and fol- data and by asking if they currently use the data, need low-up telephone calls were made to state DOTs that had not data that are are not available, or have data that are not completed the survey within approximately 2 months of the applicable. initial survey invitation. The follow-ups also ensured that the appropriate person(s) within each state DOT received the Section 4 determined which public and commercial data questionnaire. However, for reasons of confidentiality, these sources the respondent used, and to comment on their qual- individuals cannot be identified. ity and shortcomings. To expedite the entire process of distributing the survey Section 5 asked what ITS technologies were used and and to facilitate respondents' ability to read, respond to, what their potential is for integration with other data collec- and return it, it was decided that it should be distributed via tion initiatives. The respondent also was asked to comment e-mail. The practitioner was asked to complete the survey on the benefits and barriers of linking freight survey and online through an online survey hosting company. A PDF informatics data. version of the survey was included in the initial e-mail to enable the respondent to print the survey and review the The final section, Section 6, asked respondents to com- questions before completing it online. Printing also assisted ment on their existing freight transportation data needs, some respondents in gathering the information needed to what improvements need to be made to existing data sources, complete the survey. To return the online survey, the partici- future intentions concerning expansion of their data collec- pant simply had to submit the responses by clicking a but- tion activities, and for any "lessons learned" from their sur- ton at the end of each section of the survey. The consultant veying and other data collection experiences. provided support throughout the process by means of e-mail correspondence, as well as a toll-free telephone number that Taking all these pieces together, Section 1 identifies the was provided with the survey. needs for freight data, and sections 25 depict the state of the practice (methods and sources). Gaps and needs are iden- Upon review of the survey responses, telephone inter- tified throughout: comments on quality and shortcomings, views were initiated with selected respondents to follow up barriers, availability of data and detailed assessments in sec- where additional information was required or to seek more tion 6. information if an exceptional practice was identified. Although the survey may have required a relatively long Appendix A presents the survey questions and a complete time for some respondents to complete (of the order of 40 to tabulation of responses to each question. (This question- 60 minutes), most respondents could complete the survey in naire, a web-only document, appears longer than the actual a reasonable amount of time. This was possible because an online survey, because the software structure incorporates option was provided at the beginning of each new topic for branching and formatting that cannot be shown here.)