Q. You recently published a co-authored paper in which you describe the period since 2000 as two decades as 'fat years'. Why is that?
I would claim that the developments in freight modelling have been faster and more fundamental than in passenger models. I’ll give you an example from The Netherlands, where we developed a new urban simulation model, called MASS-GT. It is agent- and shipment-based and uses novel high-density data collection of truck trip diaries as empirical basis. Logistic choices are simulated (as in many passenger models) using discrete choice, such as the formation of trips into multiple-drop tours and simultaneous vehicle and shipment size choice.
Q. If these were fat years, what was the problem in the lean years before?
For a long time freight transport modelling was a field where only a limited amount of research took place, and the research that was done largely borrowed its key concepts from passenger transport modelling. A fundamental difference between passengers and freight transport is that for the latter a movement reflects the choices of many actors, simultaneously or sequentially. Data has been sparse and often outdated, incomplete and/or spatially aggregate.
Q. Am I correct when I say that the consumer will become more central in freight modelling and that this will lead to further consolidation of passenger and freight models?
Absolutely. We already see a shift towards agent-based models with several interacting agents and the possibility of learning behaviour. This is a fascinating intersection between passenger and freight transport modelling that can deal much more naturally with, for example, internet-shopping vs physical shopping trips and the associated rise in deliveries.
Q. What next?
Especially at the urban level, many freight-related problems exist, such as the contribution to air quality problems; but there are also potential solutions emerging that deserve modelling and require extending existing tools.
New developments in passenger transport modelling may be relevant for freight, such as discrete-continuous models and latent variable models possibly leading to explicitly dynamic models in the near future. I expect that the general tendency towards more shipment-level micro-simulation models will continue, in spite of the difficulty of obtaining disaggregate data, and that this will also include time period choice in freight transport. I can see a future in which freight and passenger transport models are fully integrated.
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