Performance Measures

In terms of state agencies, state DOTs are power users of performance management to measure system and organizational performance as well as customer satisfaction. MAP-21 advances this theme and incorporates performance management and performance measures to advance national strategic goals. Freight movement has been identified as one of the priority areas of interest to begin establishment of the performance management process. Within 18 months of authorization, the Secretary is charged with identifying performance measures in coordination with affected stakeholders. States will then be charged with assessing the performance measures and establishing state performance targets within one year. Reporting on the performance measures will begin in within four years of enactment and biannually after that.

In the freight area, freight movement on the interstates is the initial focus of the MAP-21 performance management. In addition to freight bottlenecks on the interstates listed as part of the national strategy, travel reliability and travel time measures are being examined. To assist with implementation of freight performance management on the interstate, FHWA has indicated that the measures will be based on data provided through the FHWA. According to communications with FHWA  there is work currently underway to

“develop the National Performance Management Research Data Set is to establish and maintain an average travel time data set for use in measuring travel time reliability on major roadways. The work in this contract builds on previous Urban Congestion Reporting (UCR) and Freight Performance Measures (FPM) Programs research and will support data analysis for both programs. FHWA and its contractors will use this data set to research and develop transportation system performance measures and information related to mobility, including travel time and reliability. This data will be shared with other government agencies for use in meeting potential federal transportation performance management requirements and will be aggregated and analyzed for sharing with the public.”

To date, FHWA/ATRI partnership has generated the FPM database of truck movement and operating speeds. The second generation of the FPM, N-CAST (National Corridors Analysis and Speed Tool) is now available. The data is derived from telematics systems on participating trucks traveling across the United States. While available FPM and N-CAST are available now, the upcoming national performance research data set will include all of the NHS with every road segment reported in five-minute increments. According to FHWA, this is a much richer dataset and each state will be provided a portal to their state’s data for analysis.

SCOPM, AASHTO’s performance group, has identified and provided guidance on annual hours of truck delay and a truck reliability index as two freight system performance measures they are advocating. The annual hours of truck delay is defined as the travel time above the congestion threshold in units of vehicle-hours for trucks on the interstate highway system. The truck reliability index is defined as the ratio of total truck travel time needed to ensure on-time arrival to the agency-determined threshold travel time (e.g., observed travel time or preferred travel time). Discussions on both measures and the proposed analysis techniques can be found at the SCOPM website.

While MAP-21 takes a focused and limited approach to freight performance measures in providing the data and limiting the number and types of measures required, as states develop state freight plans, additional freight performance issues will be identified and states may wish add these to their performance management portfolio. Performance measures in the areas of safety, environment, and economic development will prove useful to state dots as they work to advance freight transportation investments.

Overall, these MAP-21 freight initiatives are designed to ensure that resources are strategically directed towards improving system performance for moving freight. The legislation, while still a “highway” bill, does include mention of improvement to intermodal connectors as well as aerotroppolis transportation systems. MAP-21, while not establishing a freight program at USDOT, does set a national freight policy and it also takes steps towards developing a network of freight professionals that includes both private sector and agency based professionals, it opens the door for advances in freight planning.