How freight transportation planning became smarter than ever
Freight transportation has come a long way in the last 120 years. At the beginning of the 20th century, railroads were the dominant method for transporting freight across the U.S. But during World War 1, pressure on national railroad infrastructure created crippling shortages of coal – highlighting the need for alternative modes of transportation.
Gasoline powered vehicles stepped into the void, and the military created trucks that could travel at a speed and range never seen before on a mass scale. Following the war, thousands of these military trucks were distributed into the American market – along with thousands of ex-soldiers who’d learned how to drive them – lowering both the price and the skill barrier to road-based cargo transportation.
This furthered the demand for efficient roads and highways – and the Woodrow Wilson Administration didn’t disappoint. Their plans to develop road infrastructure increased the incentives for freight operators to purchase conventional vehicles as an alternative to rail transportation.
It would be another forty years until the next leap forward. In 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act, which accommodated the increase in demand for freight transportation and set the foundations for the level of commercial shipping we see today.
Since then, road development has focused more on quality than quantity: the road system has less than doubled in length since 1900, although its capacity has multiplied to accommodate the ever-increasing demand. Fast-forward to today, and Departments of Transportation (DOTs) are shifting their focus to strategic geographical road investments that will drive freight transportation efficiency – and inspire businesses to invest in their region.
But how do they know exactly where and when to invest? Many don’t. They rely on data gathering techniques like road sensors to detect the number of vehicles, then respond as best they can. These methods are unable to provide any information on trip purpose, journey direction, vehicle type or industry, so DOTs are left to make big assumptions about what’s causing the conditions on their roads.
The new road to ROI
Fortunately, there is another way. High-quality transportation data that’s rich in context can help DOTs unlock new insights that empower them to make the best possible use of their budgets. With the right platform, you can examine popular routes from ports and associated travel-time metrics like dwell times to help you understand potential freight bottlenecks on a deeper level. From there, you’ll even be able to calculate how much those traffic inefficiencies cost your economy every year.
In the process, you can find out how commercial vehicle journeys affect your region on a macro and micro scale. This includes analyzing key metrics like overall door-to-door activity growth and curbside pickup to uncover traffic hotspots that may have been caused by an increase in stand alone parking events. It even empowers you to look into turning movement patterns and entry/exit point usage.
As last-mile deliveries continue to grow, you’ll be able to easily identify newly congested corridors to better understand travel times, speeds and average number of stops. In turn, you’ll be able to implement curbside management or signal retiming efforts to help reduce the corridor congestion.
Accessing contextualized transportation data also enables you to explore how vehicles interact with your journey corridors – including specific elements like intersections or on-ramps. Equally, you can zoom out and see the bigger picture of freight and goods movement between city, municipality and state borders.
You’ll be able to see where freight is truly originating from, which routes it is utilizing – even if it came from out of state – and where its ultimate destination is. Additionally, you can view the volume of journeys undertaken in your region, broken down by industry and vehicle class. This helps you understand which business types are making use of your infrastructure, so you can consider whether to offer incentives to industries to boost economic growth in your region.
At Geotab ITS, we provide you with all the insight you need to make key decisions with confidence. You can find out more about our Altitude data platform here.
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