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10 CHAPTER 1 Introduction Background sification of Transported Goods (SCTG) codes. This issue was resolved, but only after a laborious, expensive process. In 2006, the nation's transportation system moved more A unified commodity classification system would have than 20 billion tons of goods valued at close to $15 trillion (1). avoided that problem. Around the country, states and met- The movement of freight in the country has more than doubled ropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) that develop in the last 15 years, and it is expected to continue growing freight forecasting tools collect data from various sources, at a similar pace, with a projected level of 37 billion tons in but the commodity classification codes contained within 2035. This growth challenges the national transportation those sources are not always compatible, making analyses infrastructure, resulting in congestion along corridors and at of commodity data difficult and time consuming. the nodes of the network, including seaports, land ports of · Freight data and performance measure definitions. As entry, truck and rail terminals, and airports. part of FHWA's Freight Performance Measurement (FPM) It is important to have accurate, comprehensive, and timely initiative, there was an interest in collecting border crossing information in order to make sound investment decisions to travel time and delay data. Before collecting any data, it was improve and optimize the freight transportation system (2). necessary to agree on what border crossing "travel time" A large number of stakeholders need access to freight trans- meant since different stakeholders might use different def- portation data. For example, federal, state, and local level trans- initions and data collection procedures. For example, one portation planning agencies require freight transportation stakeholder would only measure the time for a freight ship- information to identify operations and infrastructure improve- ment to go through the border crossing process on one side ments to the transportation system. Likewise, the private sector of the border. However, other stakeholders would consider requires accurate, timely information on freight movements as the total time to go through both sides of the border. Obvi- well as accurate, timely information about the characteristics ously, defining border crossing delay was only possible and operating conditions of the transportation network. Fre- after agreeing to a common definition for border crossing quently, the need for data is on a real-time, or near-real-time, travel time. Measuring delay also required the definition of basis. High-quality data enable private-sector stakeholders a common reference against which travel times would be to make informed investment decisions as well as informed measured. The lack of standard definitions often leads to operational decisions. data incompatibilities and duplication of data collection Examples of real-world situations where the need for an efforts. integrated approach to freight data is critical include the · Federal, state, and local freight data collection efforts. A following: large Midwest MPO covers a metropolitan area that comprises 6 counties and over 10 million people. The area · Commodity classification codes. A western state depart- includes several Class I railroads, 2 passenger transit systems, ment of transportation (DOT) is currently developing a over 20 multimodal terminals, toll roads, and the conflu- forecast of commodity flows by mode. Efforts by the state ences of several "smart" corridors. Many freight nodes gen- DOT to merge data from different studies had to address erate traffic that moves within county boundaries. These commodity code compatibility issues because state data movements do not appear on purchased transportation used Standard Transportation Commodity Code (STCC) databases. Collecting origin-destination (O-D) data is expen- classifications, while regional forecasts used Standard Clas- sive and time consuming. Many state and local agencies are
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11 interested in O-D freight data, but do not have enough weight loads that must be unloaded at a seaport and then resources to collect this type of data. As a result, those transported over state (and sometimes county) roads to agencies use O-D data collected at the national level, even another state. Routing is difficult because of the lack of rel- though the national data do not provide a clear picture of evant integrated information at both ends of the routing O-D data at a county or city level. In some cases, state and process, including information about acceptable routes local agencies end up developing customized tools to in neighboring states. In one recent example, a load com- address their needs, frequently at great expense. However, ing from Asia had to be transferred to another port first not all state or local agencies have this capability. Access to because land routes connecting to the first port where the finer resolution O-D data collected at the national level load arrived were not adequate. would provide state and local transportation planners with · Short-haul trip optimization. In a port town where it is a valuable long-term analysis tool for making freight-related necessary to move international and domestic containers infrastructure improvements. (using a combination of loads and empties, bare chassis, · Regional freight data integration. In a large metropolitan and bob tail trucks) between rail, port terminals, container area where three state boundaries are within a 60-mi radius, yards, customers, and trucking terminals, data to help there are multiple sources of freight data, including data address empty miles and truck trip reduction needs are not collected by the states, data collected by the MPO, and data available. Due to the intense competition for this short-haul purchased from a large commercial data provider. Recon- business, primarily within a trucking/brokerage business ciling or validating these separate databases is difficult due model, efforts to create a shared data clearinghouse have to the variability in time periods, data collection protocols, not achieved desired results. and potential overlaps, which, in turn, makes it difficult to · Freight transportation performance measures. Traffic con- build a common database with elements from each source. gestion negatively affects freight mobility, causes huge losses · Data to support publicprivate partnerships. In a rural part to the private sector, and results in undesirable environ- of the nation where the Class I rail carriers have "rational- mental impacts. However, there is no adequate database of ized" service and facilities, there is an interest in public performance measures nationwide that analysts could use private partnership projects. These projects must have to quantify those impacts accurately. The identification of public support to attract private investment because the those measures, and the underlying data that will be needed primary benefit is social and business development. In for their assessment, is a critical requirement for the iden- order to complete benefit-cost information to help attract tification of sound freight transportation strategies around private investment for these rural projects, it is necessary the country. to obtain data to properly characterize rail traffic in the · Truck routing. In a southern state, motor carriers have two region. Unfortunately, it is virtually impossible for the ana- options to travel through a very congested growing metro- lysts to obtain this information. politan area--they can either use the existing non-tolled · Regional freight data understanding and integration. A Interstate highway (shorter distance) or use a new tolled paper manufacturer purchases logs from landowners in a facility that bypasses the metropolitan area (longer distance). tri-state area. The logs and resulting paper products are Traffic conditions on the non-tolled facility can rapidly essentially commodities that compete primarily on price. change from acceptable to stop-and-go. Because of intense Companies in the area would benefit from a pooled trans- competition and low profit margins, some carriers would portation program and an optimization approach with a like to be able to make routing decisions based on accurate multimodal solution (truck and rail) that addresses multi- current, as well as anticipated, traffic conditions. However, state rules. In order to exchange transportation pricing this information is not available. data (which otherwise would not be allowed), it is neces- · Decisionmaking process in the private sector. The dynam- sary to form a cooperative or a shipper association. How- ics of domestic and international trade, influenced by the ever, the three states involved have different truck size and rapid growth of e-commerce, require an increasing num- weight restrictions, do not have data forms for similar peri- ber of shipments in smaller quantities. Both shippers and ods, and cannot link O-D pair trips across state bound- carriers require information to optimize distribution net- aries. The railroad, due to recent mergers, wholesaling works and supply chains, making it critical to have access efforts, and a centralized sales approach, does not have a to accurate, timely information on freight movements as good understanding of local conditions and is closing rail well as accurate, timely information about the characteris- access points due to the region's "poor performance." tics and operating conditions of the transportation network. · Oversize/overweight permitting. A southern state that Frequent updates on the operational status of the trans- processes a large number of oversize/overweight permits is portation system would allow the private sector to make frequently tasked with permit requests for oversize or over- routing decisions dynamically, thereby reducing delays,
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12 costs, and emissions. Access to up-to-date benchmarking tors of the economy. In reality, as the real-world examples metrics and statistics would also facilitate the decisionmak- above demonstrate, understanding freight transportation ing process in the private sector. However, freight trans- requires taking into consideration many other aspects, a small portation data and indicators are frequently dated. sample of which includes operating conditions of the trans- · Truck trip generation rates. Truck trip generation is an portation network, traffic congestion, environmental impacts, essential metric in a public planner's tool kit. Existing data and safety. include warehouse locations and traffic volumes on the Although there are many ongoing freight data collection links that connect these facilities to other supply chain efforts, these efforts are frequently inadequate in terms of scope, locations. However, other pieces of information are miss- coverage, geographic and/or temporal resolution, quality, and ing (e.g., whether a warehouse facility is a live load/unload access to data. Efforts to bridge these gaps with analytical tech- business, provides for drop and hook trucking operations, niques and/or additional data collection programs tend to or is supported by truck load [TL] or less-than-truckload be ad hoc and cover only limited aspects of the entire freight [LTL] service). Likewise, although it is possible to measure transportation data spectrum. or estimate the square feet of warehouse space, there is no The transportation community has recognized the urgent information about its cubic capacity. However, the num- need to address this problem. For example, the TRB's 2003 ber of trucks generated from a facility can vary greatly Special Report 276: A Concept for a National Freight Data Pro- depending on the ceiling height. gram, recommended a framework for developing national commodity movement data, with a goal to facilitate data To respond effectively to current and anticipated freight fusion and fill data gaps in order to develop a comprehensive data requirements, public and private decisionmakers must picture of freight flows (4). This report evolved from a 2001 understand the freight transportation system, its use, and its conference in Saratoga Springs, NY, which concluded that cur- role in economic development. As Figure 2 suggests, one way rently available data were inadequate to support the require- to understand freight transportation is by analyzing commod- ments of analysts and policymakers and recommended a ity movements, trade, and relationships among different sec- framework for the development of national freight data (5). Figure 2. Example of movement of goods from port to consumer (3).
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13 The proposed framework in Special Report 276 included an leadership role. In general, the report highlighted the need advisory committee to oversee the detailed design of a multi- to conduct an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of faceted survey program, a comprehensive survey and data a wide range of data sources as a prerequisite for the devel- gathering program, a national freight database, a freight opment of the national framework. data synthesis program to fill data gaps, and supplemental Special Report 276 described the proposed framework for data collection activities (Figure 3). national commodity movement data at a high conceptual Special Report 276 recognized the availability of data sources level. As a result, it would be inappropriate to treat the report such as the Commodity Flow Survey (CFS), the Vehicle as a prescription for detailed framework data components Inventory and Use Survey (VIUS) (now discontinued), the or requirements. For example, the report recommended Carload Waybill Sample, and the Waterborne Commerce of capturing the following data items to describe important the United States (WCUS) database. The report recognized commodity movement characteristics: origin and destina- the potential for data availability resulting from the imple- tion; commodity characteristics, weight, and value; modes of mentation of initiatives such as the Freight Analysis Frame- shipment; routing and time of day; and vehicle/vessel type work (FAF) and the Automated Commercial Environment/ and configuration. However, it only briefly addressed other International Trade Data System (ACE/ITDS). The report critical related issues such as privacy and data confidential- also recognized the increasing importance of alternative ity issues, data fusion challenges, agency roles, and security data collection methods (e.g., through EDI programs and considerations. intelligent transportation system [ITS] implementations), In 2009, NCHRP Project 8-36, Task 79, proposed a high- and recommended the implementation of strategies to encour- level framework for a prototype web-based freight data age data collection and synthesis by public- and private- exchange network (Figure 4) (6). In the framework, the sector organizations. Noting the unique position of the fed- data exchange network (Figure 4) would be a centralized eral government to provide the necessary leadership to ensure data repository where data providers and users enter and/or a successful implementation of a framework for national access commodity movement-related datasets, metadata, data commodity movement data, the report recommended that quality reports, and reference materials. The web-based data the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) assume that exchange network would enable users to extract, transform, Source: Department of Homeland Security. Figure 3. TRB's Special Report 276: Proposed Framework for a National Freight Data Program (4).
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14 Figure 4. NCHRP Project 8-36--Task 79's proposed freight data exchange network framework (6).