TRANSPORTATION RESEARCH BOARD

ABJ40 Travel Survey Methods Committee


Freight Surveys
Chair: Matthew Roorda

The past decade has seen increased interest in freight, freight movement, and freight planning. This has led to a number of efforts in the research field to identify, measure, and model freight as a component of the transportation planning process. Much of the initial efforts centered on statewide models but emphasis is shifting to include planning within metropolitan areas. Data for these efforts have come from a number of private and government entities. The federal government has a number of freight related surveys conducted at periodic intervals such as the Commodity Flow Survey and the Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey.

The Survey Methods and Freight Transportation Data Committees for TRB have jointly sponsored a subcommittee to examine freight survey methods. The task before this subcommittee is a challenge and we are looking for members who are interested in finding ways to address some of the difficulties that are faced by researchers and planners in freight.

There are a number of challenges in freight. Let's examine some of these. Exactly what is freight and what do you want to measure, model, forecast, etc.? There are somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 + different commodity types. These are usually grouped for modeling but what is grouped, how, and why are not understood. When we survey freight are we surveying what is being moved, how it is moved, or both? Do we ever ask the question of why is it being moved? What is really of interest say to policy makers or to transportation planners? What are the questions that need to be answered at the national, state, and local levels? Each has a different agenda and need for information. A sizable amount of data exists on commodity movements nationally and within states. What happens inside urban areas? Do the same types of commodities move or is there a whole new paradigm of things and products being moved? What modes are we interested inside urban areas? What information do modelers need to develop the tools for measuring and predicting freight? These are just some of the questions that need to be answered to allow survey designers to develop and implement surveys that not only provide meaningful information but the data for policy makers and planners that answer's their questions.

The Freight Survey Methods Subcommittee needs individuals with backgrounds in freight data, freight modes, modeling, and transportation planning at the local, state, and national levels. There is no end to the questions that have to be addressed and the task is to place these questions in a context and organizational structure that allows solutions to be formulated.