Florida DOT- Trucking Backhaul Study

March 26th, 2018

During the March ITTS Conference Call, Tanner Martin (Tanner.Martin@dot.state.fl.us) outlined a recent report conducted by Florida Department of Transportation to estimate the movement of empty trucks.  Using “Weigh in Motion” data, the report outlined the methodology used to examine different truck configurations to estimate fully, partially or empty truck trips.

One could view the PDF  (TEBH_ITTS_03122018) or enjoy the webinar here 

Trade with Cuba- May 2016 Newsletter

May 24th, 2016

For the newsletter, I put in an article on trade with Cuba.  I figured that some of the research was worth including as a resource for others to see some of the sources that I used.

  1. CIA World factbook http://www.ciaworldfactbook.us/north-america/cuba.html
  2. Engage Cuba http://www.engagecuba.org/
  3. U.S. Department of Agricultural, Foreign Agricultural Service – Cuba http://www.fas.usda.gov/regions/cuba
  4. OFAC’s regulations for Cuba https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/pages/cuba.aspx

Finally, here is a  link to the newsletter itself. (I also wrote two short articles on Cuba in 2009 and 2014!)

Update on the ITTS Confernece

February 24th, 2016

To all,

The agenda is filling in quite nicely, with a lot of good speakers and topics.  I hope to see you in New Orleans April 11-12, 2016!!



Bugs Bunny Would Enjoy Shopping Today!!

December 2nd, 2015

In reviewing this “Bugs Bunny” cartoon, I realized that Bugs Bunny benefited from omnichannel retail delivery when he ordered the earmuffs.

For those not familiar with the episode, Bugs Bunny’s banjo playing was interrupted by Giovanni Jones, an opera singer (You can read the full story-line here). After various attempts to satisfy his ire, Bugs finally appears as Leopold, the famous conductor, to extract his revenge.  With a majestic effort, Jones sustains his voice long enough to bring down the opera house, and himself, thus ensuring Bugs can play his banjo without interruption.

Bugs Bunny as Leopold…

While I still enjoyed the suspended glove encouraging Jones ever onward, I noticed the earmuffs, which would seem out of place on a conductor, only added to the humor.  Scott Adams explains that humor must meet several criteria, one of which is the bizarre.  So in the 1940s, it would be bizarre that a letter would be sent, with no visual payment made, and immediately a courier delivers Bug’s earmuffs.   But today, the concept of instantaneous delivery is becoming a reality, as credit lines makes eCommerce relatively easy and retailers now stock materials for local express deliveries.  Even the deliveries themselves can be made in many ways, such as by a company employee (a cup of Starbucks), an outsourced third party (Amazon), or potentially a drone or an autonomous car (Uber), but all with a desire to satisfy as your demand as quickly as possible.

While I don’t think I will live long enough to experience a rabbit conducting any orchestras (although I have suffered through a few animatronic dinner experiences), we have all seen what was once considered a bizarre joke:  integrated communications and delivery in real time.  So who is laughing now?

Jason’s Law- Do We Agree that Truck Parking is Important?

October 21st, 2015

Tomorrow, FHWA is hosting a “Talking Freight” session on Truck Parking  based on the Jason’s Law Truck Parking Survey, which is available here.

There have been other related studies, especially related to previous parking studies conducted by FHWA and FMSCA, various state and local studies, and industry groups.  There exist various reasons to address truck parking, such as to satisfy regulatory requirements, reduce fatigue, get trucks from parking along side the roadway, and to improve driver safety.

Sometimes I wonder if the issues are more aligned with the fact that it is difficult to identify what type of parking is needed, such as:

  • Parking needed during a shipment to accommodate sleep or some regulatory action (inspection, a 30 minute rest, restricted truck operations in an urban area, etc.),
  • Parking related to staging, as when a truck driver is unable to enter a facility, so is waiting outside the gate to get into a terminal or facility, or to mitigate local traffic conditions,
  • Parking related to getting another load, so after a driver has a load delivered, but does not received an assignment for the next load.

“Solving” the truck parking study is not necessarily a one size fits all solution.  There are geographic and temporal demands for parking, as trucking is both a 24/7 industry that serves the entire U.S.   There is an “unspoken rule” that a truck only makes money if its moving, so any stoppages technically make the truck less productive by adding costs and time to a shipment.   As discussed in various drayage studies,  trucking remains a service industry, so some of this could be tied to shippers better integrate truck parking into their logistics cycles in addition to simply putting in more parking spaces.

With the rising concerns over truck safety, urban congestion, autonomous vehicles, and possible innovative smart roadways, the discussion on truck parking, including regional solutions to improve driver safety, are clearly warranted.  I am sure that the webinar tomorrow will address some of these concerns, and look forward to the discussion.


Latin American produce shipments

September 10th, 2015

I was recently asked by someone if I had ever looked into Latin American produce trade, and I thought about the following paper:  “Technological and Economic Factors in Landing Latin American Perishables”, LSU Department of Agricultural Economics Research Report No 692.  This is an older study, dated back to 1992, although many of its conclusions are still valid.

The study’s main goals were to examine if Gulf Coast gateways could be more competitive in the Latin American fruit import trades, but the study also included other items such as horticultural greens and cut flowers.   In doing so, we discussed how  choices, ranging from shipper locations, mode choice, regulatory activities and even existing business relationships can complicate the ability of industries to move between different gateways.  The conclusions suggested it may be difficult for Latin American firms to move from their traditional gateways to alternative gateways for several reasons, and over 20 years later, the same market flows exist.

This study, written by Dr. Roger Hinson, Dr. David Picha and myself, was informative in shaping my view of the role of transportation and international trade.  In looking back at the report, I see things I may have written differently, but it was a great educational experience to a young analyst.

Sometimes, even years later, we still need to recognize to our mentors, and so, Dr. Hinson, and Dr. Picha, thank you.



Freight Advisory Councils – One possible template…

August 27th, 2015

There remains a need to engage private sector businesses in examining regional freight needs, especially as their decisions influence cargo activity.  Given the interest in Freight Advisory Councils, which were encouraged in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (P.L. 112-141) (MAP-21), there are many ways to address how to engage the public/private sector in examining the importance of freight project delivery.  (The Bryson’s 10 Step Strategic Planning Process is a very informative way to formulate strategic planning.)

The following provides some information to help you plan your own freight advisory council (FAC) meeting(s):

1. Some freight resources on public sector partnering with the private sector


2. One FAC Template used by Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development as prepared by ITTS

In 2008, LADOTD organized a freight symposium in partnership with Louisiana Economic Development.  The joint focus was to understand how transportation and economic development must operate together to promote Louisiana’s businesses.  While not a part of a traditional freight advisory council, the blended content sought to outline basic freight transportation issues while also capturing how transportation contributes to the broader decisions facing private sector operations.  The attached document was sent to the participants prior to the meeting.

LA DOTD asked ITTS to assist in organizing the meeting. The meeting was structured with round tables with a facilitator and a recorder at each table.  Each facilitator was given specific guidance on what to ask to engage the audience in the discussion.  Every table had both a map of the state (where participates could highlight a need or a project) and an easel to capture key points. (Participants had previously assigned seating to both ensure diversity while helping the sessions start on time.)  There was also a summary sheet for the reporters that was used in helping capture the various items that were discussed and in preparing the summary notes presented during lunch.

So, here represents a preliminary agenda…

                                              FREIGHT SYMPOSIUM

8:00   Registration and Continental Breakfast                                 

8:30   Welcome/Opening Charge—Governor, State DOT Director, etc.

9:00   Growing Business in LA: What Do Shippers and Carriers Need?

(This speech was to introduce the topics that were discussed in the first breakout session.  Should be 5-10 minutes.)    Breakout Session 1: Business Development Needs – Other Than Transportation

10:00   Break

10:15   Developing A More Efficient and Reliable Strategic Freight Transportation System—Speaker      

(This speech was to introduce the topics that were discussed in the second breakout session.  Should be 5-10 minutes.)  

Breakout Session 2: Transportation Needs                                              

11:15   Break

11:30   Lunch

Recap—Chief facilitator (here is a presentation I created from both hearing the comments made and from the reporters’ notes, which can easily be modified…)

Next Steps—State DOT Director, etc.

1:00          Adjourn

The findings captured some initial thoughts but do not reflect any official policy of Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development. 

The materials were collected into a summary report that was never released, so they are not included here. Hopefully, one may find the format easy to administer while capturing useful information from the participants.   I would love to hear back from anyone who used this template.

The price of driving a car…

August 3rd, 2015

Its summer, and for most of us, images of hitting the open road on vacations or road trips are part of our collective memories.   I remember the unexpected pleasures (such as the Grand Tetons during sunrise) and the agonizing delays (one of which was a distributor cap that fell off a rental truck in western Texas).  But the open road is not where most of us drive, but in our local communities, heading to work, play or school.  Regardless of the distance traveled, oftentimes, we only think about the fuel cost it took to get to and from our destination.  How much did we spend on gas, or food and drinks along the way?  We often don’t think about the associated costs involved in owning a vehicle or even driving on the road.

However, there are relationships between driving conditions and the conditions of our car.  A recent article entitled “New Orleans without potholes? It’s possible, but it won’t come easy or cheap” discussed the difficulty in maintaining roads in the New Orleans area.  The article closed by referencing that road conditions will not be cheap to fix, nor will they be fixed in the short term.  Another article, this time in USA Today, mentioned that this not isolated to New Orleans, but it is systemic around the U.S.

So with the roads in the condition they are in, you think someone would make the leap between funding and roadway improvements, but such is not the case.  But this has been discussed in various forums, such as a New York Times article in 2003, several American Society of Civil Engineer reports (Failure to Act) and in my editorial last summer  However, as the nation’s roadways (and infrastructure in general) need a major infusion of capital, we may ask ourselves will our grandchildren think as fondly of summer vacations or road trips, or will they only remember the potholes, the rough roads, and the car repairs?

Superman and Infrastructure

July 3rd, 2015

This is a great cartoon.  No one wants to pay taxes, not even Superman.


Superman at the IRShttp://kindofnormal.com/wumo/2015/06/24

Superman’s view that government spending should directly be applied to his individual benefit reflects a common opinion concerning  why do we continue to require public investment in infrastructure?  So Superman’s challenge that he should only pay for what he uses reflects the question of public sector spending and how that ties into each individual person uses/requirements.

Obviously, everyone requires different transportation needs, needs that will change over one’s lifetime, but there remains a consistent expectation that one should enjoy both mobility and connectivity.  But like all taxes, the linkage between transportation taxes and investment is not equitable, not is there any way to really make such taxes neutral to all parties.   For example, the gas tax pays for transit programs and urban gas purchases indirectly subsidizes roadways in less populated areas.

But back to Superman.  Although Superman can fly, he needs access to goods and other services.  Someone made his costume. He still needs to eat.  As such, he enjoys the benefits that a modern society, one the depends upon public investment in infrastructure.

Who really owns the road?

June 1st, 2015

The Gambit, a local New Orleans paper, recently published an article on bike paths in New Orleans.  Most of these paths were created from existing right of ways.  The article mentioned that oftentimes, cars, buses, etc., still use these new bicycle lanes on an ongoing basis.  In defining the challenges of encouraging bicycle lane safety, the article summarizes the challenges in creating bike paths on existing roadways, including enforcement and education.

Bicycle lanes represent a local mobility issue, although nationwide, ridership and walking represent a small percentage of total journey to work activities.  In the “U.S. Census Bureau’s report, the “Modes Less Traveled—Bicycling and Walking to Work in the United States: 2008–2012“, one of the key findings was, “The number of U.S. workers who traveled to work by bicycle increased from about 488,000 in 2000 to about 786,000 in 2008–2012, a larger percentage increase than that of any other commuting mode.”  But while bicycle activity has grown, Table 2 indicates that only 0.6% of Americans biked to work, versus 86% who used car, truck, or van, or the 5% who used public transportation, or 2.8% who walked.  (More people worked from home than either biked and walked.)

Bicycling represents a small mode of personal travel that uses the same transportation infrastructure as other users.  It appears that creating bike lanes raised a question of “who really owes the road”?  Oftentimes, we discuss ownership of the roadway by various political jurisdiction (supply), or by how various users, such as trucks, buses, cyclists, etc., access the roadways/transportation infrastructure (demand).   But ultimately,  infrastructure suffers from the “tragedy of the commons”, with everyone wanting roadway access, and unused capacity (i.e.,I don’t see anyone in that lane, so I can use it until they show up).  As common property, it becomes difficult to retrofit or change existing infrastructure when everyone is trying to alleviate their perception of congestion, improve their safety, or offset some other user cost within a relatively static system.

Addressing urban transportation will always remain a challenge, as no single solution exists that solves for all the needs of the transportation community for  economic development, safety, capacity, mobility and access.  (The following cartoon by Lockwood captures the mismatch between moving from the current to a future reality in urban planning and land use.)  While the Gambit article stressed education and enforcement to improve  bicycle lane safety, we may never really balance the needs of urban mobility until everyone understands the importance of staying in their own lanes!