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62 Second, because the public-sector respondents demon- ever, this research documents that a reporting framework is strate considerably more interest in a performance measure- possible and that such frameworks are deployed elsewhere ment report for publicly operated freight, the proposed report through collaborative efforts. Therefore such collaboration card is largely focused upon public-sector users. The private- among many interested stakeholders could be possible in the sector users indicated a desire for highly detailed, often pro- United States as well. prietary, data regarding their vendors, customers, and inter- A coalition of interested parties will need to coalesce around nal operations. The volume, frequency, and granularity of the concept of producing a Freight System Report Card. The the performance measures that private-sector freight system coalition for the Freight System Report Card would need to users wanted appears to be orders of magnitude beyond what extend to various federal agencies, including USDOT and its the public sector reasonably could be expected to provide. modal agencies, BTS, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Third, although the proposed report card may not meet EPA, and USACE. These agencies' contribution would be to many day-to-day needs of freight system users, it does provide to the Web-based report card the reports that they address many of their long-term and more policy-related already produce. Also, the private-sector associations, such as needs. Private-sector freight stakeholder trade groups such the CSCMP, ATRI, AAR, and others, would need to cooperate as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Truck- to provide their metrics. ing Associations, the Council of Supply Chain Management One complexity would be the contractual arrangements Professionals, and the Association of American Railroads all and cost for the private-sector-produced measures and express significant interest in government policies to promote related reports, such as the CSCMP report, and the data freight efficiency, safety, and competitiveness. At the higher, produced by ATRI and AAR. These entities incur costs to trade-organization level, the metrics in the proposed report produce these reports, and those costs are passed on to mem- card are very relevant to the private sector and germane to the bers. Contractual and financial considerations would need interests they expressed. to be addressed. Fourth, the framework is proposed to be evolutionary. States and metropolitan regions' participation would be "Beginning with what we have" allows a freight reporting pro- voluntary. Therefore, the degree of coverage across states cess to begin. Expecting it to evolve allows it to expand and and metropolitan regions would depend upon the degree to adapt to the many stakeholder interests that are not possible which state and local participation is engendered. The report to address in its initial iteration. Eventually, there may need to card, however, provides state and metropolitan transporta- be many freight performance reports, one for each major area tion agencies a template to follow for freight system reporting. of concern. Those could include the six major areas included in this recommended report card: Freight Demand, Freight Keys to Success of Report Card Efficiency, System Conditions, Environmental Impacts, Safety, and Investment. Each could encompass a much more The success of the report card is closely tied to its use. If detailed set of metrics while still being linked though a com- the stakeholders use the report card and provide feedback mon Web-based portal. for improvement, it will remain viable and relevant. It is Fifth, related to the concept of an evolving reporting pro- important when developing a Freight System Report Card to cess is the recognition that emerging technologies will even- address the key issues identified in the study. tually allow economical performance reporting that currently is only experimental and undeveloped. This report discusses Establish It as a Central Information Source the use of GPS-enabled tracking of truck travel speeds. Capi- talizing on GPS and other technologies will become increas- A Web-based Freight System Report Card could include ingly possible. It will allow reporting of travel times, origins, links to the one-page summaries and links to the more destinations, and other metrics that today are not available. extensive source reports. As a Web-based tool, it could pro- Therefore, it would be logical to expect the reporting frame- vide additional links to an unlimited number of freight per- work to become more robust as technology reduces the costs formance sources. As such a comprehensive portal, it could and increases the availability of performance data. become the definitive central hub for freight system perfor- mance information, domestically and internationally, with the report card as its central feature. Creating a Coalition The application can be deployed on either the USDOT These recommendations acknowledge the most obvi- or the TRB website. Information about the web application ous and substantial obstacle--that is there is no entity and and the report card should be disseminated through TRB, no budget to develop a Freight System Report Card. How- FHWA, and other freight newsletters websites. Additional
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63 links could be solicited. Links could also be provided for users Data Gaps to download the data in Excel and Access formats as well as to As new measures are expected to be included in the download the pdf version of the report card. framework over time, there will be data gaps. A systematic approach to addressing these data gaps should be developed, Plan for Iterative Improvement and data collection should be initiated in a planned manner to address the gaps. The prioritization of new measures will A link on the website could be provided to obtain feedback also help to develop a systematic strategy for collection of from users of the Web applications. Feedback from the first important data. iteration of the deployed Web-based report card as well as a survey of users should be used to refine the report card. The feedback should address (1) the user friendliness and Data Availability enhancements that will be helpful and (2) the list of addi- tional measures that would be useful. Service-level agreements need to be developed to ensure The list of suggested measures should be prioritized and that data availability does not become an issue. Where pos- an analysis should be done to identify the availability of the sible, data should be obtained from state, local, and federal additional data and the cost to collect them. The first itera- agencies. The assumption is also being made that if man- tion of the report card should then be revised to incorporate datory performance measures are passed by Congress, that selected additional measures and improve its convenience. action will cause states and local government to develop This process of continuous review and enhancement should strategies to collect additional data. Ensuring that a consis- be done annually to systematically enhance the framework. As tent national strategy is developed ahead of the data collec- new performance measures are adopted nationally, the freight tion effort will be important in collecting data consistently report card can be systematically enhanced. These new mea- and economically in the long term. sures will also mean additional data will be collected nationally, leading to more availability of the data at lower cost. Similarly, Real-Time Data Versus Archived Data measures that become irrelevant with time can be eliminated. The first iteration of the report card being proposed does not require any real-time data. As the report card is refined, Develop Common Definitions if it becomes necessary to have real-time data to populate the Prior to deploying the report card, it is important to have report card, then particular attention needs to be paid to a workshop that helps develop a glossary of terms and com- the application and database architecture to ensure that the mon data definitions The glossary can then be used to ensure users see the real-time data. Stale data in a real-time measure that there is a common understanding and interpretation of can lead to users relying less and less on the application and the measures. The common definition can also be used to the report card. The timeliness of the data will be particularly guide organizations providing data to a national set of freight important if measures are expanded for real-time operational performance measures. decision making or performance measurement. The applica- tion will need to be significantly more robust to handle the much greater volume of data required for real-time, versus Data Quality and Accuracy Standards archived, performance reporting. A process needs to be put in place to do a check of the qual- ity and accuracy of the data before the data are populated in Sustainability of Report Card the database to feed the report card. Institutional support will be essential. Staff will be needed to sustain the report, answer users' questions, and maintain Integration of Data from Multiple Sources the technology. If the data become stale, if users' questions Where data to feed the framework come from multiple are not addressed, if technical problems are not resolved, the sources, an analysis needs to be done and a mechanism needs effort will atrophy. The case studies of the TSI and the FAF to be put in place to integrate consistently the multisource illustrate the significant level of effort that is required to sus- data prior to populating the report card. Fortunately there tain a reporting process. A level of institutional support simi- are many products, tools, and techniques available today to lar to those two products will be required to sustain a Freight complete this task successfully. System Report Card.