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Measuring Improvements in the Movement of Highway and Intermodal Freight

REPORT: The Role of the National Highway System Connectors: Industry Context and Issues

SPONSORS: U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)

AUTHORS: A. Strauss-Wieder, Inc., KPMG Peat Marwick LLP, Louis Berger and Associates, Parsons Brinkerhoff

PARTICIPANTS: N/A

DATE: February 1999

SUMMARY:

The primary purpose of the report is not the development of performance measures.  Its focus is on intermodal connectors and what can be done to improve them.  A National Highway System (NHS) connector is a public road leading to a major intermodal terminal; this includes passenger as well as freight facilities.

PERFORMANCE MEASURES PRESENTED:

The report mentions five “qualities” of freight service that are important to shipping firms:

1.

Reliability - consistently ensuring that goods are delivered on the specified date at the specified time in the specified amount in the specified condition

2.

Transit time - meeting arrival times (time definite service)

3.

Efficiency - optimally using transportation equipment to minimize costs

4.

Cost - obtaining the lowest possible cost for moving goods (regardless of the number of modes involved)

5.

Damage minimization

The report emphasizes that the focus is on these characteristics rather than on individual modes and routes. Intermodal connectors and allow transportation providers to use the best of each mode and increasingly play an essential role in ensuring the reliability, transit time, efficiency, and cost sought by shippers.

ASSESSMENT:

These are perfectly rational measures in terms of what is important to freight customers.  It is not completely clear why a customer would care about a carrier’s equipment utilization other than through its effect on cost, but cost is already listed as one of the measures. Conceptually, these are all good measures of the quality or cost of freight service.  Specific indicators would need to be developed to measure these characteristics (e.g., measures of reliability, such as percent on-time arrivals or average variability in point-to-point travel times).

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