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US: New data sources to improve urban freight transport

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Explosion of new freight data sources can help public agencies address enduring challenges in urban freight transport.

The challenge

A freight truck slows to a crawl in downtown traffic. Another navigates a dangerously narrow country road to deliver its cargo to destination. A tired truck driver takes a break and sleeps on a highway shoulder… It’s clear that urban freight transport in the US can be inefficient.

However, all this could change thanks to an explosion of new freight data sources. Smart technologies like GPS, sensors, radars and cameras can teach us new things about how freight trucks move. Thanks to these technologies, we can now know what, when and how fast they’re moving.

The next step is to turn this raw data into valuable insights so that public planning and transportation agencies to better plan and manage their operations. 

What we did  

  • Carried out a literature review and consulted stakeholders to discuss how smart technologies can use this new data to improve freight transport
  • Tested these insights using analytics and simulations 
  • Synthesized these insights in an interactive guide to help planning and transportation agencies make better decisions

“For example, our guide shows how GPS data can trace vehicle routes and measure congestion,” says Donald Ludlow, global transportation expert at CPCS. “This information can help agencies develop new strategies to manage traffic flow.”

“Another example is how radars can classify vehicles by their shape and how they move. This is useful for land and traffic regulation planning.”


The guide includes a concept map to show how planning and transportation agencies can use these new data sources to address their freight woes. Its video vignettes and application case studies illustrate best practices.

The resource also comes with organizational principles to help these agencies tackle common policy and institutional challenges in implementing these new data sources in their daily operations.