Performance Measures for Freight Transportation

National Cooperative Freight Research Program


The objective of this research was to develop measures to gauge the performance of the U.S. freight system. It recommends the creation of a Freight System Report Card with 29 measures, divided among six categories: demand, efficiency, system condition, environmental impacts, safety, and adequacy of investment—informed by existing federal data and linked to more detailed reports. It advocates a balanced approach that reflects freight’s broad range of stakeholders and (sometimes competing) interests. The report acknowledges that freight performance measurement is challenged by its overall abundance of data but also by gaps among certain freight system performance functions (e.g. multimodal freight performance). To accommodate varied levels of interest, the framework is three-tiered: a high-level summary, a summary report for each measure, and a link to comprehensive reports. Most of the 29 measures are composite in nature (consisting of aggregated data), meaning that they can be broken down into their component elements for greater understanding (by category or geographic region/corridor/link/node). Both lagging (retrospective) and leading indicators (trend lines of future performance) are proposed. Table S.2 on page 16 provides the best concise summary of the recommended measures, along with related national goals and what areas of decision-making they may pertain to (operations, investment, policy). The detailed sections of the report cover: performance measurement lessons and experience from the public and private sectors; existing freight performance measures, data, and reporting; and perspectives and preferences from various public and private stakeholders. Appendices provide examples of abundant actual reporting that would support the proposed report card, statewide and metropolitan examples, and state of the practice analysis of state-level, national-level, modal, and environmental freight performance measurement.

Source Organization Location

Washington, DC

Operations Area of Practice

  • Performance Management
  • Freight Data / Analysis
  • Freight Management
  • Freight Technology and Operations

Organizational Capability Element

  • Performance Measurement
  • Freight Management Operations

Content Type

  • Research

Role in Organization

  • Associate Engineer
  • Engineer
  • Manager / First Line Supervisor
  • Principal Engineer
  • Researcher/Academic
  • Senior Engineer
  • Senior Manager

Publishing Organization

  • Other Research Organizations

Document Downloads

Project Website

Performance Measures for Freight Transportation

Gordon Proctor & Associates, Cambridge Systematics, American Transportation Research Institute, StarIsis Corporation, andCouncil of Supply Chain Management Professionals
Issue Date
January 1st, 2011
ISBN Number
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