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Advancing freight planning with contextualized transportation data and an understanding of commercial vehicle journeys

Given that freight transport activity will grow by 50 percent in tonnage by 2050, support for overhauling the U.S. transportation network is growing in order to accommodate the impending freight system demands. Thankfully, the landmark $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) passed by the U.S. Senate in 2021 has considerable funds allocated to improving the nation’s transportation systems. In fact, up to $77.9 billion is earmarked to address the varying freight systems needs across the country.

There’s no shortage of needs to choose from either. Bridges to build, highways to repair and port infrastructure changes are just a few. For a transportation planner, deciding where to start can feel daunting. But in order to understand where future freight plans will take a community, it’s necessary to have an understanding of the past and current freight activity to model potential changes after.

In order to build a justifiable freight improvement plan and take advantage of the funding opportunities presented within the IIJA, transportation analytics and data will be critical.


Transforming freight with the IIJA 

The IIJA is a massive investment into roads, bridges and water pipes to prepare the U.S. road network for the increased freight demand. With the bill comes many competitive grant programs and transportation planners and Departments of Transportation need to ready their applications for funding if their projects are to be selected.

The IIJA includes many new opportunities to deploy intelligent transportation technologies. Key programs within the infrastructure bill are eligible for or already include funding for advanced transportation analytics such as:

  • Highway safety programs — to distinguish vehicle types involved in collisions as well as modernizing data collection systems to share data more efficiently with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
  • Connected vehicle research — to safely account for vulnerable road users and pedestrians.
  • Strengthening mobility and revolutionizing transportation — Specifically using innovative data to support the efficient movement of goods and services to improve on-time pickup, deliveries, improved travel time reliability as well as reduced fuel consumption and emissions.

Funding is also being increased for existing programs with IIJA including the Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects (NSFHP) program also known as the INFRA grant program. Within this program funds are being considered for:

  • Multistate corridor organizations
  • Enhancement of freight resilience to natural hazards or disasters
  • Surface transportation improvements connected to border crossings
  • Marine highway projects

All of these initiatives would have a significant impact on improving freight and enhancing goods movement planning. These types of projects would also greatly be aided with accurate transportation data and analytics as shown with the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG).


Informing freight system policy with contextualized data

Charged with creating, validating and updating freight and transportation models, SCAG tries to forecast transportation conditions as accurately as possible. It is no secret that California is home to some of the busiest road networks in the country so congestion mitigation, economic efficiency and improved safety are top priorities for transportation planners. SCAG looks to help planners with recommendations for infrastructure improvements based on traffic model outputs.

Within their research, SCAG was seeking better aggregate origin-destination data in order to facilitate better modeling for heavy-duty trucks and vehicle activity in their regions. Using the Geotab ITS’ Altitude platform and specifically the Origin & Destination product, SCAG gained more comprehensive insights into the nature of commercial vehicle and freight activity.

This information was particularly useful for SCAG and their project Freightworks, the SCAG Goods Movement Program. In order to develop sound traffic and freight models that form the basis for policy decisions, SCAG must validate existing traffic models using various data sources. Now armed with contextual connected vehicle information, SCAG was able to specify the aggregate journeys of commercial vehicles and identify where they are coming from, where they’re going, how they’re traveling and more importantly, why. This level of insight proved invaluable for presenting accurate modeling that freight and transportation planners can rely on for policy decisions.


Insights to move freight forward

The rise of e-commerce has every region feeling the effects of an increase in commercial transportation within their city’s streets and residential areas. Making informed decisions for traffic planning or infrastructure requirements requires a deep understanding of commercial freight movement to accommodate the influx.

Contextual transportation analytics goes beyond simply identifying the types of vehicles on the road and offers insight into the true purpose of road trips. It is this type of information available from Geotab ITS’ Origin & Destination product that helps planners analyze morning commutes, index popular routes from a port or understand travel time metrics from a commercial hub to another transportation zone.

This level of insight into commercial traffic activity supports modeling projects like SCAG’s but also builds the foundation for strategic, informed and cost-effective urban planning. Adding context to data sources will help planners build road networks that support the free flow of people and goods.

For more information on how Origin & Destination can unlock the insights you need to move freight forward in your region, visit https://its.geotab.com/altitude/origin-destination/


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