Measuring Improvements in the Movement of Highway and Intermodal Freight
Safety is critical to the trucking industry for reasons of liability, industry reputation, potential revenue loss and productivity. The industry pays close attention to trends involving accidents, with particular emphasis on specific safety risks such as rail grade crossings and the potential operational disruptions associated with accidents and lack of alternate routes. According to this report, truck safety data are fairly difficult to access. In any case, the number of fatalities, which are probably the most accessible data, relate less to freight productivity than to concerns about loss of life and medical injuries.
The mobility/accessibility and reliability indicators are standard measures of highway-system performance. Reliability is one of the most important outcomes for shippers. Poor accessibility to many delivery locations exacerbates truckers’ reliance on the highways to travel just in time for delivery at the point of destination. Travel time and delay information is also of interest to shippers for scheduling, routing, equipment utilization, shift assignment, and overtime management reasons. However, using the same travel time and delay figures experienced by commuters as a measure of that experienced by truck drivers may not be an accurate assessment.
Accessibility to intermodal facilities is the most freight-focused of these measures.
The last indicator, final demand for the value of transportation-related goods and services delivered to final customers, can be applied to goods movement by measuring one of the following final demand generated by transportation improvement projects. This measure is actually quite difficult to develop. Although there are several sources of information on total economic activity, these data do not relate to highway improvement projects, and so are simply measures of total economic activity. Total economic activity, in turn, is affected by such factors as macroeconomic cycles, industry trends, and tax policies. Data are also available on how much transportation services contribute to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), but it is not clear whether more spending on transportation services means that freight transport is more productive or not. According to the Booz-Allen & Hamilton report, input-output models, like the REMI regional economic model, could be used to measure final demand in response to transportation projects. Use of such as model is probably most applicable at a regional level for forecasting rather than monitoring performance.