Image showing movement trails of vehicles on a highway, in blue and red colors

In the ever-evolving landscape of state freight planning and operations, the utilization of probe data has been invaluable in providing insights and metrics for effective decision-making. Despite its importance, it’s crucial to acknowledge that this tool has its limitations. The good news? Geotab ITS can address many of these limitations, breaking through the constraints of conventional probe data to revolutionize freight analysis.


Understanding Probe Data

Probe data refers to the information collected from various GPS-enabled devices and sensors installed in vehicles. These devices continually send out signals indicating their location, speed, direction and other useful parameters directly to a manufacturer or fleet management center like Geotab. By collecting and analyzing this data over vast fleets and networks, Geotab can gain a macro-level understanding of information such as traffic patterns, congestion points and route efficiencies, which is invaluable for planning, managing and optimizing transportation systems. Here are some use cases where the added contextual information of probe data will play an integral role.

Many freight and commercial vehicle analytics are dependent on needing accurate and comprehensive contextual information. This information is critical for accurately understanding truck parking, movement around ports and much more. Probe data serves a multitude of use cases — for instance, it plays a major role in Federal Performance Measures by aiding in gauging the transportation reliability, a critical aspect in freight logistics. It also supplies essential data points for Freight Performance Measures, facilitating bottlenecks identification and overall performance assessment.

When it comes to Truck Flows, probe data is used in identifying origins, destinations and commonly used routes, which are essential for effective route optimization and capacity planning. This comprehensive digital mapping extends its utility to Freight Generators or Attractors as well, mapping out movements around ports and high-activity freight facility clusters. Lastly, probe data provides insights into parking behavior, which is integral for planning, compliance and ensuring efficient logistics operations.

In essence, probe data shines a light on the intricate dynamics of freight and commercial vehicle operations, providing the comprehensive contextual information needed for optimized logistics management.


The Geotab ITS Approach

However, while probe data is indispensable, it isn’t without limitations, which is where Geotab ITS steps in. In this section, we delve into these limitations and explore how Geotab ITS has stepped up to the challenge, implementing innovative strategies to not only mitigate these constraints but transform them into opportunities for expanded data utility and efficiency. For instance, Geotab ITS’ “expansion factor” provides an accurate estimate of the overall commercial traffic volume when applied to observed traffic volumes from Geotab commercial traffic data.

Probe data limitation Geotab ITS solution
Network not covered by the data set (e.g., NPMRDS covers only the NHS)
Geotab’s fleet of 4 million vehicles traverses every major roadway across the US, providing full network coverage. Additionally, Geotab ITS generated state-level expansion factors for all 50 states in the USA using a tailored weighting methodology over discrete locations, representing the full commercial vehicle traffic volume. This two-pronged approach significantly broadens our understanding of the road network, ensuring more accurate and versatile data for freight planning and operations.
Inability to determine commercial vehicle types
By reading the data directly off the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), Geotab ITS is able to access precise vehicle characteristics. Moreover, Geotab ITS uses aggregated data, which retains the granularity and breadth of the VIN data while ensuring the anonymity of each data point. This unique approach strikes a balance between providing detailed vehicle insights and upholding privacy standards.
Data does not represent the population of commercial vehicles
As the world’s leading provider of fleet telematics, Geotab collects an extensive and diverse range of data from a broad spectrum of commercial vehicles, offering a superior representation of the commercial vehicle population compared to other providers. Therefore, the insights derived from Geotab’s data are more likely to reflect real-world conditions and trends, making them both reliable and comprehensive for freight planning and operations.
Not sufficiently granular for the intended application(s)
Geotab’s patented curve-based algorithm determines essential data points, ensuring efficient transmission of valuable data from the vehicle to the server. Coupled with Geotab’s ability to support near real-time data and provide detailed data at any granularity level—down to individual road segments, census tracts, or custom zones—Geotab ITS offers a solution tailored to meet the specific requirements of various applications.
Low number of observations on the network
Drawing on the comprehensive Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) traffic monitoring datasets from 2021, Geotab has crafted a set of discrete location expansion factors. These factors allow the scaling of Geotab’s commercial traffic volumes to match population commercial volumes at over 3,000 locations across the USA with a high degree of confidence, even if the number of actual observations is low at certain points in the network.

The Transformative Impact of Geotab ITS

The value of probe data in the freight and commercial vehicle industry is undeniable, but its limitations have necessitated a solution that offers more comprehensive, accurate and real-time insights. Geotab ITS has risen to this challenge with an innovative approach that addresses these limitations head-on. By leveraging advanced techniques such as curve logging and expansion factors, adopting real-time tracking capabilities and making full use of the wealth of data in Vehicle Identification Numbers, Geotab ITS has transformed the landscape of freight planning and operations.

This transformative approach to data management and analysis allows state freight planners and other stakeholders who rely on freight information to make more informed decisions, optimize their logistics and navigate the complexities of the freight industry with confidence. As we look towards the future, the ability of Geotab ITS to overcome probe data limitations will continue to shape the trajectory of the freight industry, paving the way for increased efficiency, adaptability and profitability in freight planning.

To see the Geotab ITS data in action to support a state freight plan, explore our partner success story of how Geotab ITS and S&P Global partnership enabled WSP to develop an advanced freight plan for Rhode Island.

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