The National Academies

NCFRP 39 [Final]

Making Trucks Count: Innovative Strategies for Obtaining Comprehensive Truck Activity Data

  Project Data
Funds: $298,469
Research Agency: RAND
Principal Investigator: Johanna Zmud
Effective Date: 1/10/2012
Completion Date: 1/31/2014
Comments: Published as NCFRP Report 29.

Currently, there is no public dataset that continually tracks how much freight activity is taking place on the nation’s highways. The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) collected quarterly information on for-hire tonnage and ton-miles as part of its regulatory mandate. However, the sunsetting of the ICC has resulted in fewer and less frequent sources of information on for-hire trucking. In-house (private carrier) freight trucking statistics are rarer still. The Commodity Flow Survey (CFS) estimates for-hire and in-house data for a 1-year period every 5 years. Consultants and industry groups do some estimation of freight trucking trends, but these data sources and practices are not generally available.Other freight modes have information available on a regularly scheduled basis, such as air carrier data from the Office of Airline Information and inland waterways data from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  Trucking accounts for a large share of freight transportation, but data on trucking activity is consistently recognized as a significant gap in studies (TRB Special Report 304: How We Travel: A Sustainable National Program for Travel Data). The lack of verifiable freight trucking information creates a data gap when tracking activity over time. For example, the Bureau of Transportation Satistics (BTS) National Transportation Statistics Table 1-49 shows estimated freight ton-miles for “Intercity Truck” through 2003, but data in subsequent years have to be labeled as unavailable. Furthermore, because this data series is no longer available, a national total for all modes cannot be published. The BTS Transportation Services Index uses a proprietary index for the for-hire trucking component, but actual tonnage estimates are not made. Creative, cost-effective approaches are needed to collect comprehensive trucking activity data.   
The objective of this research is to develop and assess strategies for obtaining comprehensive trucking activity data for making more informed public policy decisions at the national and regional levels.
Accomplishment of the project objective will require at least the following tasks.
(1). Briefly describe the state of the practice in the United States and other countries for obtaining and reporting truck activity data used for public policy decisions at the national and regional levels.(2). Describe reliability and gaps in data availability in the United States.  Discuss data issues and limitations, including data accuracy, privacy, anti-trust concerns, and other constraints. Illustrate how improved data could be used to better inform public policy decisions.  (3). Investigate, develop, and assess strategies to obtain comprehensive trucking activity data for use in the United States, with possible application in Canada and Mexico. Data should include, but not be limited to, tons, ton miles, and vehicle miles traveled. Additional factors such as seasonality, geography, and components of the trucking sector should also be included. New and innovative methodologies to obtain trucking activity data should be identified. Describe how the data could be combined into a complete picture of trucking activity, and how the proposed methodologies relate to the concepts in NCFRP Report 9: Guidance for Developing a Freight Transportation Data Architecture. Propose specific strategies or combinations of strategies to further describe in Task 5, and provide an outline of how that information will be presented. (4). Six months after contract award, submit an interim report documenting the results of Tasks 1 through 3. (5). Upon NCFRP approval of the strategies, describe in detail how the selected strategies could be implemented in practice. Include a sample and layout of the data and a thorough discussion of specific mechanisms required to collect and record the data. Detail the barriers and opportunities to successful implementation of the strategies.(6). Submit a final report that develops and assesses strategies for obtaining comprehensive trucking activity data for making more informed public policy decisions at the national and regional levels. 
STATUS: Published as NCFRP Report 29.  The report is also available electronically at : https://www.trb.org/Main/Blurbs/171158.aspx

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