Improving Environmental Sustainability of Freight Transportation through Shared Mobility Services

Freight trucks, the dominant mode of goods movement in the U.S., represent the second largest share (21%) of the nation’s transportation energy use. They also contribute significantly to greenhouse gas and criteria pollutant emissions from transportation. Truck traffic has been growing nationwide, especially in urban areas, as a result of increased freight demand spurred by international trade and e-commerce. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, vehicle miles traveled (VMT) of freight trucks are expected to increase from 300 billion miles in 2019 to 415 billion miles in 2050. This will put a lot of pressure on the roadway infrastructure, potentially leading to increased traffic congestion, energy consumption, and emissions. Thus, innovative solutions are needed to address the growing freight demand that outpace the rate of expansion in supporting infrastructure. Shared mobility services, which have revolutionized the way people move, have also broken ground in goods movement, e.g., point-to-point (P2P) delivery, paired on-demand passenger ride and courier services, and resource sharing. Conventional delivery companies also have started to use crowd-sourcing for parcel deliveries based on Internet platforms. In 2020, P2P delivery services support the growing online food and grocery delivery industry during Covid-19 pandemic. However, the business models of recent shared mobility services for freight are not focused on reducing energy use or optimizing vehicle utilization. There is great uncertainty regarding the extent to which these new freight mobility services will impact the environment.

The research team aims to improve freight vehicle utilization and energy efficiency (productive ton-miles per unit of energy) by modeling and evaluating the innovative shared mobility services for freight. The objectives of the research are to: 1) develop a unique modeling platform with the capabilities to simultaneously simulate both passenger and freight activities and evaluate their mobility and energy impacts over the transportation network; and 2) develop and evaluate existing shared mobility services in the platform for freight, and 3) design an innovative solution to improve the environmental sustainability for shared freight and shared delivery services.

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