E-commerce has been growing rapidly for decades. Some believe it has the potential to account for half of all retail in the not too distant future. This has led to the development of a sprawling direct-to-consumer logistics system. This system has become a major component of the national freight system. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this trend by changing customer attitudes and increasing awareness of other home delivery services (the growth rate has now generally returned to pre-pandemic levels). More products people depend on are being delivered directly to their homes, causing major shifts in transportation system usage.
Problem and Solution
Despite the importance of these aforementioned changes, there currently is a lack of publicly available data describing the delivery of products to people’s homes. Transportation planners have reasonably accurate information about freight movement on highways, by using vehicle counts and freight flow surveys and models. However, they currently have virtually no information about the last-mile, including what is being delivered, where and how. This represents a critical gap in the understanding of the freight transportation system, which stands to become more critical as direct-to-consumer logistics continues to expand.
Having timely and accurate information about direct-to-consumer logistics is critical for transportation and community planners. This is because the sector continues to grow in importance as a transportation and land use driver. To meet this need, the BTS is interested in establishing a Household Logistics Data program. This program collects national statistics on parcel deliveries, internet and phone delivery services, and virtual services. The timing of these efforts is favorable, as transportation technology companies are starting to provide more data to public agencies. Also, companies like Amazon have recently signaled a willingness to be more open about their operations and data. A successful Household Logistics Data program will support public policy, plans and investment decisions. This is done by accounting for the latest developments in this important freight sector, helping planners meet and equitably balance freight efficiency and land use objectives.
Xentity worked to help design the BTS Household Logistics Data Program so that it provides the highest quality and most comprehensive data on household parcel deliveries and delivery services. They started by providing a parcel industry description and profile to synthesize an understanding of the parcel delivery industry. Next, Xentity identified and developed data sources and methods for the parcel delivery component. They formulated and evaluated the three most promising concepts for the BTS Household Logistics data program. Finally, Xentity identified and developed data sources and methods for an internet and phone-based home delivery services component.
Outcome and Benefit
Xentity’s efforts helped the BTS Household Logistics Data Program provide the highest quality and most comprehensive data on household parcel deliveries and delivery services in a practical way. The aforementioned three concepts now collect data on parcel home deliveries throughout the country. Also, they describe geographical patterns and demand characteristics for the internet and phone-based home delivery services component of the program.