National Academies Press: OpenBook

Freight Data Cost Elements (2013)

Chapter: Chapter 7 - Conclusions

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Page 56
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 7 - Conclusions." 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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Page 56
Page 57
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 7 - Conclusions." 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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Page 57

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56 The picture that emerges from the research is that the trans- portation community does not have access to the freight cost data it needs to fulfill its obligation and mandate to increase the sustainability of transportation operations, maximize the economic contributions of the transportation system, steer the system toward increasing levels of safety and security, and define mechanisms to finance and maintain a state of good repair in the infrastructure. These efforts are hampered by a lack of freight cost data, data which is necessary to assess how policies and programs would impact the freight system, or predict how freight operators would react to public-sector policy, among other important considerations. The research also makes clear that, already, 18 public-sector functions require freight cost data. These functions are: 1. Congestion management 2. Operation/services 3. Safety planning and analysis 4. Freight mobility planning 5. Emergency preparedness planning 6. Transportation equity 7. Economic development planning 8. Transportation and land use planning integration 9. Environmental planning 10. Regulation and enforcement 11. Financial planning 12. Intermodal corridor planning 13. Economic development planning 14. Security planning 15. Hazardous materials planning 16. Roadway pavement and bridge maintenance planning 17. Interregional connectivity 18. Sustainable transportation planning In most cases, data needs for these functions are filled by informal data collection efforts, by simply “borrowing” data from another jurisdiction, or by relying on educated guesses. The expectation is that the needs will increase due to the combined effects of a number of emerging trends, including increased fuel economy and emissions standards, technologi- cal innovations, increased renewable energy usage, congestion pricing, increased use of intermodal systems, industry consoli- dation, enhanced security, multi-stakeholder decisionmaking, and accelerated shipping times. This is expected to be the case for nine of the 18 functions, including congestion manage- ment, safety planning and analysis, freight mobility planning, environmental planning, financial planning, intermodal cor- ridor planning, hazardous materials planning, roadway pave- ment and bridge maintenance planning, and interregional connectivity. The data sources currently available to fulfill the needs are very uneven in terms of data quality and coverage. At one end of the spectrum, in the case of rail freight, the annual reports submitted by the railroads to the Surface Transporta- tion Board provide a regular and comprehensive data source. In the trucking sector, a large assortment of data sources pro- vide bits and pieces of data of various degrees of usefulness and quality, but fail to provide a comprehensive and coherent picture. In the case of waterways, some publicly collected data are found, while for air freight and freight terminals (ports, intermodal, and the like), almost none are available. As a result, most modes do not have a single data source that could provide the freight cost data needed for the basic analyses. The fact that most data sources are either national or col- lected for rather specific uses makes it difficult for potential users to determine how applicable the data are for local and regional analyses. A similar need exists for freight cost estimation tools. Freight cost data are needed because they are an input to a process of freight cost estimation that, in most cases, is intended to support other transportation analyses. As a result, enhancing freight cost data availability needs to be accompanied by the development of appropriate freight cost estimation tools that practitioners and researchers could readily use. As of now, the C H A P T E R 7 Conclusions

57 only publicly available cost estimation models are the Uni- form Rail Costing System (URCS) and the Intermodal Trans- portation and Inventory Cost Model (ITIC), both developed by the federal government. Developing comparable models for the other modes could contribute to the effective integra- tion of freight into the transportation planning process. The research shows that there is a significant lack of pub- licly available freight cost data. The data that exist often are difficult to find and use. To address these serious deficiencies, the team suggests the following actions: • The creation of a freight cost data collection program that would 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 updat- ing the available data, describe the data and models, and provide guidance. Taken together, these measures could greatly improve the work of practitioners and researchers. An important com- ponent of the effort would be to develop long-term relations with freight companies and their trade groups to facilitate freight cost data collection efforts. Gathering freight cost data has always been difficult. The freight industry is largely privately owned and primarily serves private-sector customers. As such, costs and rates often are confidential or quite difficult to obtain. The complexity and dynamic nature of the freight industry adds to the difficulty of obtaining up-to-date cost data. As demonstrated in this report, however, cost data are crucial to many public-sector analyses. In spite of the challenge, it is important that the research community redouble its efforts to create the foun- dation for a freight data collection program that addresses the nation’s needs.

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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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