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Measuring Improvements in the Movement of Highway and Intermodal Freight

Measuring Improvements in the Movement of Highway and Intermodal Freight

Executive Summary

The Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) of 1993 established a requirement for Federal agencies to identify goals and measurable outcomes to gauge performance in meeting program objectives. In response to this requirement and in seeking to advance its own performance, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has developed a National Strategic Plan. In order to measure performance under the plan, FHWA has sought to develop performance measures for productivity and efficiency improvements in relation to the highway system. Productivity is one of the five strategic goals in the plan: to “continuously improve the economic efficiency of the Nation's transportation system to enhance America's position in the global economy.”

In this regard, it is important that FHWA develop measures of the performance of the highway system in carrying freight and supporting the intermodal freight system. FHWA contracted with Hagler Bailly Services to provide a limited, introductory review of what indicators may be available for use by FHWA to detect and assess, on an annual basis, productivity and efficiency in the movement of commercial goods by motor vehicles.

The work began with a review of the results of a number of recent studies and conferences where various groups and individuals made efforts to identify performance measures for freight.  These results were summarized, evaluated, and passed through a preliminary screening process to identify measures potentially valuable enough to warrant further analysis and development by FHWA.  That preliminary screen yielded thirteen potentially valuable indicators (referred to as “first-tier” indicators in the report).  These were:

Cost of highway freight per ton-mile

Cargo insurance rates

Fuel consumption of heavy trucks per ton-mile

On-time performance for highway-freight deliveries

These measures all address the cost or quality of freight service to shippers.

Point-to-point travel times for selected freight-significant highways

Hours of delay per 1000 vehicle-miles on freight-significant highways

Ratio of peak period travel time to off-peak travel time at freight-significant nodes

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