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The National Academies

NCFRP 26 [Final]

Freight Transportation Cost Data Elements

  Project Data
Funds: $300,000
Research Agency: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Principal Investigator: Jose Holguin-Veras
Effective Date: 6/24/2010
Completion Date: 3/30/2012
Comments: Completed. Published as NCFRP Report 22.

BACKGROUND
 
A critical requirement of transportation planning and management is to understand the performance of transportation systems and facilities. Transportation system performance and related data can be used to monitor and assess existing freight transportation efficiency and to target system improvements. Accurate freight transportation cost data are required for cost-benefit comparisons, impact and systems analyses, and modal optimization. Measures previously used have included freight bill costs and cargo value, or shipper costs which may include indirect broker costs and other supply chain profit margins. These measures may have little connection to the direct and discrete marginal costs to users of a given facility. One useful measure or performance indicator is the freight carrier costs that accrue while using a particular transportation system or facility.  While the direct freight user costs associated with the use of any particular transportation facility may not be a direct consequence of the facility itself, the marginal costs that accrue can provide a good indicator or surrogate for how user costs can change within a system, or as a tool for comparing costs across systems. Transportation decisionmakers have two methods for obtaining freight cost data: either from primary sources or indirectly through ad hoc estimation. However, many primary sources of freight transportation cost data disappeared with deregulation or because of budget constraints. Estimated freight transportation cost data used today typically derive from secondary data, aggregated piecemeal data, facility-specific surveys, or broad cost indices. While freight transportation cost data can fluctuate dramatically, the relevant cost data elements are relatively stable across modes and time. Consequently, research and guidance is needed on (1) the freight cost data elements required for different transportation planning objectives and (2) the sources of those data elements.
 
OBJECTIVES
 
The objectives of this research are 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 different strategies for identifying and obtaining the needed cost data elements.
 
TASKS
 
(1). Identify and describe the state of the practice for current multimodal freight transportation cost data uses, sources, methods, collection strategies, and data elements for public-sector planning and decisionmaking. (2). Identify current and evolving public-sector freight transportation planning and decision-making functions and the cost data currently used, or that might be used, to support those functions.   Describe the key freight transportation cost data elements required for public-sector planning and decisionmaking. (3). Identify primary and secondary freight transportation cost data sources and assess their applicability to the key requirements identified in Task 2. Discuss data issues and limitations, including data accuracy, privacy, anti-trust issues and other constraints, as well as conceptual collection strategies. Discuss methods for closing any identified gaps. (4). Identify available cost estimation tools, methods, and procedures, and their applicability to the key requirements identified in Task 3. Discuss strengths and weaknesses and identify methods for closing any gaps. (5). Submit a final report that (1) identifies the specific types of direct freight transportation cost data elements required for public investment, policy, and regulatory decisionmaking and (2) describes and assesses different strategies for identifying and obtaining the needed cost data elements. 
 
STATUS:  Completed.  Published as NCFRP Report 22, Freight Data Cost Elements.  The report is also available electronically at

http://www.trb.org/Main/Blurbs/168808.aspx

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