Logistics technology/Freight transportation: FHWA, ATRI partner for Web-based congestion-tracking

By Jeff Berman · May 28, 2010

In an effort to target freight congestion, the Federal Highway Administration in conjunction with the American Transportation Research Institute has developed a Web-based application that will help to identify key traffic chokepoints on some of the busiest roads in the country.

Entitled FPMweb, this tool is geared towards transportation planners, operators, shippers, and carriers.

FHWA officials said that this so-called Freight Performance Measures Web-based tool “measures operating speeds for trucks at any given place and point in time along 25 interstate highways that are considered significant freight routes.”

They added that state and local transportation agencies can use information gathered from FPMweb to prioritize highway investments to target critical congestion needs, as well as enable shippers and carriers to use it as a tool to for strategic route planning to avoid congested areas.

In an interview with LM, ATRI Vice President of Research Dan Murray said the genesis for this project goes back to 2002 in part to a response by the trucking industry—which provides about $1 of every $3 to most state and federal trust funds—that does not get a lot of attention when it comes to infrastructure and policy needs.

“Government has said in the past that they did not have much data on the trucking industry and its operations and needs to give it much attention and focus,” said Murray. “And we determined there may be enough truck position data out there to start doing something in terms of providing information on where trucks are going, in what corridors, and in what networks, as well as impediments and bottlenecks.”

And ATRI discovered that with GPS technology, truck flows can be seen at certain speeds, which can show decreases in speed to pinpoint congestion-related routes, according to Murray.

In many instances, Murray said GPS data can be used to determine where truck bottlenecks are but it does not provide clear cut data on what the specific bottleneck is.

“Since 2002 we have pieced together a substantial database of truck position data, with information coming form more than 600,000 trucks in North America,” said Murray. “And we have designed and synthesized…sophisticated software to allow processing on various truck measures from speed to reliability to travel times to truck parking and most recently the impact on truck operations when major incidents occur like the I-35 bridge collapse in Minneapolis.”

With data coming from numerous sources in the trucking industry, rigid disclosure agreements with providers of this data, a data analysis focus on truck-friendly and truck-oriented initiatives-for where additional resources are needed on surface transportation systems to enhance truck mobility-and sponsorship from the FHWA who is under pressure to use limited resources in a wise manner, Murray said FPMweb is endeavoring to work with other government agencies to bring more focus to freight congestion impediments.

FPMweb is in a beta version now, and users can request an account and a password to get familiar with the tool at http://www.freightperformance.com Murra.y said that 25 major U.S. interstate corridors are in the tool. The goal is to move it out beta with information on all interstates, as well as data from tens of thousands of U.S. secondary roads, too.

The long-term goal of FPMweb is to expand it so it can be used by the public and private sectors to assess travel speeds, times, and route efficiency and route maximization. Murray said in the first 48 hours of the beta offering being available, half of the account requests came from freight carriers. This demand, he said, is an indication that there is a need for this tool, with FHWA and ATRI remaining focused on ensuring this tool provides myriad benefits for end users.

“It’s all about using innovative technology to save time and money and to boost commerce and the economy,” Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez said in a statement.  “Timely and accurate information on freight movement will benefit both government and the private sector in making transportation decisions.”


About the Author

Jeff Berman
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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