Current scope

Currently, the defined scope of the Freight Transportation Data Committee is:

  • to identify and publicize sources of and needs for data on commodity movements, international trade, freight transportation activity, and the economics and organization of establishments engaged in freight transportation
  • to advise data collection agencies on cost-effective means of fulfilling essential data needs; and
  • to assist analysts and decision makers in the effective use of freight transportation data.

Factors and influences that will shape committee activities

Over the last decade, the landscape for freight transportation data has changed radically. Historically, the committee has focused primarily on the application and upkeep of large federal data products such as the Commodity Flow Survey and Freight Analysis Framework. The passage of MAP-21, followed by the FAST Act, created a variety of new Federal mandates for freight planning and freight performance measurement that now require states, MPOs, and local governments to collect, process, and utilize freight data for planning and decision-making. At the same time, new communications technologies and rapid advances in data processing, storage, and security have quickly changed the information and tools available to both industry and the public sector for freight planning, operations, and performance measurement. Emerging sources of freight data include but are not limited to:

  • Satellite Images
  • GPS/Bluetooth/Smartphone data
  • Road sensor data
  • Smart vehicle information (containers, RFID)
  • Inventory and manifest data
  • Traffic operations data (affecting freight routes)
  • Human factors data affecting freight
  • “Open” public records that may provide information relevant to freight activity

Recognizing the pace of change in this area, in 2014 TRB approved a Task Force, ABJ92T, to focus on Big Data in Freight Transportation. The activities of the task force are detailed in Appendix B. In January 2018, after the Annual Meeting, TRB elected to sunset the Task Force. Within the next year, we will be working to update the defined scope of the Freight Transportation Data Committee to absorb the functions of the Task Force. Additional functions of the Task Force that are expected to be brought under the scope of the committee include:

  • to focus on emerging big freight data sources, including those produced by global navigation systems, cameras, sensors, and administrative records;
  • to explore the use of data science, artificial intelligence, and data fusion methods to enable public agencies to apply big data to improve freight mobility;
  • to assist agencies to address common challenges such as data collection, automation of data crosswalks, bias and error of new data sources and methods, analytical methods, and applications for agencies to improve freight mobility;
  • to identify how those data might be made practical for transportation agency decision makers; and
  • to coordinate interests of both freight and transportation data committees within TRB.

The committee will continue to monitor expected rapid changes in technology deployment and supply chain organization. It is expected that in the longer term, the committee will need to address data needs and data sources associated with transformative technology advancements and continuing evolution of retail models; specific areas of interest are expected to include:

  • Data needed for and generated by connected and autonomous fleets and unmanned aerial systems; and
  • Data to understand global and local impacts from 3-d printing and automation in the manufacturing sector;
  • Last-mile and last-50-ft data to characterize disaggregate freight activities, especially those associated with e-commerce and omni-channel retail models;

Committee Plan

The Freight Data committee has a fairly specific focus, but as discussed above is currently in the process of expanding its scope; specific emerging, critical, and cross-cutting issues of interest to the committee include:

  • Freight performance measurement
  • New technologies for data collection• Data mining and data fusion techniques
  • Artificial intelligence applications
  • Institutional arrangements for data sharing within agencies and between stakeholders

To address these interests, over the next three years the committee will focus on the following four major tasks.

Task #1: Identify necessary structural changes to incorporate the expanding scope of the committee.

The Committee is in the process of identifying efficient ways to expand beyond our traditional scope and strengths to incorporate the scope of the Big Data in Freight Transportation Task Force. Specific actions we will undertake include:

  • Broadening the membership of the committee to include more individuals with expertise specifically in big freight data as well as more individuals who are users of this data. Ideally, this will include: members of the preceding Big Data task force, recent graduates with expertise in cutting-edge analytical techniques; state DOTs, MPOs, and local agencies in large, medium-sized and small communities in the US and abroad.
  • Establishing formal liaisons with relevant committees in the Data, Freight, Marine, and Operations groups and sections to increase opportunities for cross-committee collaboration on workshops, sessions, research needs statements, and other activities; a few examples include the Artificial Intelligence Committee, the Household Surveys Committee, the Freight Planning and Urban Freight Committees, and the Highway Traffic Monitoring Committee. We will also identify a liaison to the Freight and Marine Young Members Council.
  • Exploring the introduction of standing subcommittees, which have not previously existed under ABJ90;
  • Updating or replacing existing committee communications resources (e.g. website) and introducing new forms of communication (e.g. social media) to better maintain ongoing communications with interested members, friends, and collaborators. Our existing website is outdated and must be replaced or redeveloped.

Task #2: Monitor new advances in freight data applications and research.

The Committee will continue to monitor and recommend new advances in freight data applications and research. This includes the continued implementation on best practices in disaggregation and rapidly developing methods in combining freight and non-freight data sets to shed new light on transportation markets and operations. Specific activities that we will undertake include:

  • Tracking the status and results of ongoing major research efforts, such as NCFRP 49 - Understanding and Using New Data Sources to Address Urban and Metropolitan Freight Challenges.
  • Continuing to invite relevant speakers to present during annual and summer meetings. We will continue to include updates from US and Canadian data programs, and will look to expand for further international involvement.
  • Developing relevant calls-for-papers for the annual meeting and other committee sponsored workshops and conferences to ensure that we receive submissions of cutting-edge research in relevant areas.

Task #3: Provide input, direction, and feedback to federal, state, and local research programs.

  • Developing and shepherding research needs statements relevant to freight data. Under NCFRP, the committee was very successfully in authoring and moving forward to funding several freight data projects. Now in the absence of NCFRP, there is a need to establish new connections with state DOTs to ensure that the committee (1) understands the priorities of research funders and (2) communicates research needs in a compelling manner to move them to implementation.
  • Developing annual meeting sessions and other events to provide inputs to ongoing programs; for example, we will continue to work with FHWA, BTS and the Census Bureau to provide user inputs on products such as the FAF, the CFS, and the Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey.
  • Communicating the products of recent research efforts to the community of data users and serving as a liaison between major agency efforts and these data users. For example, the committee is working with the National Transportation Library to collect input on the completeness and contemporariness of the implemented freight data architecture which was developed through NCFRP 47.

Task #4: Communicate recent advances and best practices to practitioners and the international community of data users.

  • Developing Annual Meeting sessions and other events of interest to both traditional and non-traditional stakeholders. We will develop programming that aims to expand conversations to include participants from other groups within TRB and from stakeholder groups that are not traditional TRB attendees.
  • Specifically, continuing to sponsor the Innovations in Freight Data Workshop. As detailed in Appendix B, the Committee, along with ABJ92T, sponsored the Innovations in Freight Data Workshop in Irvine, California in May of 2017, and will sponsor the 2nd Innovations Workshop in Spring of 2019. The event successfully showcased new and emerging data sources and applications, including those related to artificial intelligence and sensor-based sources.