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Freight Data Cost Elements (2013)

Chapter: Summary

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Suggested Citation:"Summary ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2013. Freight Data Cost Elements. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21939.
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Suggested Citation:"Summary ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2013. Freight Data Cost Elements. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21939.
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1 Freight Data Cost Elements The objectives of NCFRP Project 26, “Freight Data Cost Elements,” were to: (1) identify the specific types of direct freight transportation cost data elements required for public investment, policy, and regulatory decisionmaking; and (2) describe and assess the different strategies needed to identify and obtain these cost data elements. The findings of the research for NCFRP Project 26 are presented in NCFRP Report 22: Freight Data Cost Elements. The research team found that for most freight transportation modes there are no uni- form data standards or set data collection frequencies. The exception is rail freight, as the annual reports that railroads submit to the Surface Transportation Board (STB) contain useful freight cost data. The situation prevailing in the other freight transportation modes leads to numerous problems. From the standpoint of a data user, it is difficult to conduct analyses with data that may or may not be the best and most accurate. Also, given that most data are collected to satisfy the needs of specific studies (while some are collected at the national level), for local or regional analyses data are particularly lacking. Other important findings include that (1) the amount of data available among the various freight modes are uneven; (2) most modes lack systematic data collection efforts; (3) significant data gaps exist between data needs and availability, and these gaps are expected to increase in the near future; and (4) research is needed to develop appropriate cost estimation procedures and data collection programs for all modes. Freight cost data are extremely important and useful, but obtaining such data is often dif- ficult (and sometimes impossible) for public-sector agencies. Chapter 2 of NCFRP Report 22 establishes standards of practice for cost estimation of various freight modes and identifies the publicly available freight cost estimation procedures and data sources. The chapter pro- vides an overview of the current state of affairs of freight cost data for all transportation modes. Chapter 3 identifies public-sector functions related to freight transportation planning and decisionmaking. The analyses are based on an extensive literature review and several interviews with public-sector planners to identify these functions and their freight cost data needs. The chapter discusses 18 such functions. Route variable cost for trucking was identi- fied as the most commonly used data category among the functions, and the factors most frequently mentioned as determining route variable costs were tour time and tour distance. Among all identified functions, regulation and enforcement and economic development required the widest scope of freight cost data because these functions cover a broad range of activities that can affect route, vehicle, and company costs. Based on the literature review, Chapter 4 identifies emerging trends that might affect current freight transportation functions or require the creation of new functions. These trends include increased fuel economy and emissions standards, technological innovations, increased renewable energy usage, congestion pricing, increased use of intermodal systems, industry consolidation, enhanced security, and multi-stakeholder decisionmaking. As a S U M M A R Y

2result, the freight transportation cost data needs of nine public-sector functions are antici- pated to increase. These trends are likely to have the largest impact on environmental plan- ning, which will require more information on company costs and vehicle costs. In contrast, the cost data needs of some freight transportation functions are unlikely to be influenced by these trends. For example, it is unlikely that emergency preparedness planning and security planning will need more types of freight data in the future. Chapter 5 identifies the primary and secondary sources of freight cost data, and assesses their suitability in terms of relevant metrics. The chapter is broken into two main com- ponents: (1) the identification and assessment of all data sources relevant to the study of freight costs, and (2) the identification of data gaps associated with current and future pub- lic decision-making functions. The work completed in Chapter 5 indicates that there is a lack of freight cost data for the various modes of freight transportation, and that no single source can provide the key cost data for any mode. In most cases, some data are available in the reports published by public-sector agencies, trade groups, and research universities. However, because these data were collected in response to the needs of specific projects, they cannot replace data formally collected as part of regularly scheduled data collection efforts. The frequency and focus of the publications vary. The largest number of publications and data sources focus on trucking, followed by rail transport and waterways. Publicly available cost data for air freight and terminals are practically nonexistent. Unfortunately, no single data source could fill all the gaps in freight cost data. Chapter 6 outlines techniques to address the gaps in freight cost data that are presented in Chapter 5. The data collection techniques identified include web searches, trade publica- tions, reports, interviews, convenience samples, and random surveys. Since every type of freight cost analysis is different, data users are advised to exercise judgment in determining the best method to obtain freight cost data. If the analysis is relatively simple, an interview with someone familiar with the data might be adequate; however, if the analysis is more in-depth, a more detailed survey might be necessary. Chapter 6 provides suggestions about how and how frequently to collect the freight cost data needed for the various freight trans- portation modes. The chief conclusion of the research is that a systematic effort of freight cost data collec- tion and cost estimation research needs to be undertaken to meet the current and future needs of practitioners. To this end, based on its findings, the research team suggests: • The creation of a freight cost data collection program to gather the data needed to satisfy the needs of the key public-sector functions identified in the report. • The development of freight cost estimation tools that use the data collected to produce the estimates of freight costs needed by practitioners and researchers. • The establishment of a clearinghouse that can serve as a repository of data and models, be responsible for updating the available data, describe the data and models, and provide guidance. The current lack of comprehensive data collection and available tools to support plan- ning efforts is a major obstacle to developing the level of proactive freight transportation planning that the nation needs, now and in the future. Taken together, these recommended actions could play a key role in overcoming the obstacles posed by the lack of access to freight cost data.

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TRB’s National Cooperative Freight Research Program (NCFRP) Report 22: Freight Data Cost Elements identifies the specific types of direct freight transportation cost data elements required for public investment, policy, and regulatory decisionmaking. The report also describes and assesses different strategies for identifying and obtaining the needed cost data elements.

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