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Future Road Economic Competitiveness

Future Truck Value

The Freight Analysis Framework (FAF), produced through a partnership between the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), provides estimates for tonnage and value for goods transported by truck for three directional freight flows (to, from, and within the OKI region). In a comparison of 2020 and 2050 FAF forecasts, the highest growth is predicted for goods imported by truck into the OKI region. Forecasts for the 2050 value of truck goods has a dramatically higher growth percentage, independent of freight direction, than truck volume.

Impact of E-Commerce on Trucking

E-commerce continues to grow more rapidly across the country than overall retail growth. As of Q1 2022, e-commerce accounts for about 15%of all retail sales by value in the United States. Freight distribution is shifting towards more point-to-point shipments from warehouses to homes, creating more short trips in urban areas via parcel trucks. To adapt to increasing consumer demands for quicker product delivery, nationwide distribution centers will become smaller, more numerous, and relocate closer to major metropolitan areas. This has been reflected in the OKI Region through the recent development surrounding CVG.

There will continue to be significant pressure on shippers and goods receivers to reduce inventory costs. Retailers and manufacturers will continue to streamline their processes, dropping smaller amounts at more frequent intervals at stores and factories. This will drive ever-increasing demand for on-time truck deliveries in very short appointment windows (to the minute). This level of service will depend on reliable roadway freight corridors in congested urban areas

Continued Logistics Growth for the OKI Region

For more than a decade, Boone County has been experiencing a significant increase in truck freight growth due to its strategic location as a transportation hub in the OKI region. The county’s proximity to major highways, such as I-71, I-75, and I-275, makes it an ideal location for trucking companies to operate and distribute goods. Additionally, Butler County and its partners have invested heavily in infrastructure improvements to support the growing logistics industry. This includes expansion of air cargo facilities at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport (CVG) and roadway improvements to facilitate the movement of goods between planes and trucks.

The growth in truck freight has led to an increase in job opportunities, as a range of trucking firms and logistics companies have established operations in Boone County within close proximity to CVG. The county has also experienced an increase in the demand for warehouse and distribution space, which has led to the construction of new facilities.

Neighboring counties are working to attract logistics businesses to their areas due to this continued potential for economic growth and job creation. Kenton County, Boone’s eastern neighbor, also shares the I-75 and US 25 (Dixie Highway) corridors. As land becomes more expensive and scarcer in Boone County, Kenton is identifying potential opportunities to capitalize upon the demand for future logistics development.

Intelligent Transportation Systems

Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) improvements have been implemented throughout the OKI region for the past several years. One type of ITS improvement establishes a fiber optic communications platform to interconnect traffic signals and include fiber cable, network communications, and traffic signal controllers for an adaptive system are designed to improve the economic competitiveness of the neighborhoods in which they are implemented. These improvements provide the infrastructure necessary for intelligent urban freight delivery options.

  • In the OKI Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), there is a roadway project that includes $8.6 million in funding for ITS improvements in the West End, Queensgate, Pendleton and OTR neighborhoods.
  • The OKI 2050 Metropolitan Transportation Plan (2050 Plan) includes a project to install equipment to prepare for autonomous vehicles within the city of Middletown.

Personal Delivery Devices

Personal delivery devices (PDDs) refers to unmanned delivery robots that can navigate the last, short stretch of a delivery process by connecting commodities with their destination through monitoring technology. These last mile delivery robots rely on a robust system of sensors, computer vision systems, and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to navigate from a central hub to their destination. Autonomous PDDs are monitored remotely and most can be taken over by a human driver. PDD delivery is still in a stage of early adoption with numerous pilot projects underway. Though current PDD robots commonly handle on-demand deliveries for smaller payloads at speeds no greater than five miles an hour, their capacity is growing along with their speed thresholds and ability to navigate complex routes.

The economic competitive advantage of PDDs arise from one human operator’s ability to deploy numerous deliveries simultaneously from a single, central location. This minimizes labor, fuel and time costs while increasing delivery volume. In addition, PDDs smaller size and weight greatly reduce the wear and tear of infrastructure traditionally caused by trucks. By using multiple PDDs, truck trips can be removed from our congested roadways. Lastly, PDDs will run off of electricity or other alternative fuels, thereby decreasing last mile delivery’s carbon footprint.  

Sidewalk Bot
Source: HDR, Inc. (October 2022).

PDDs will be implemented primarily by the private sector without the reliance on publicly provided infrastructure. Similar to automated vehicles, PDDs may require GPS repeaters to accurately place themselves in dense urban environments. Additionally, sufficient cellular coverage (or whatever communication mechanism PDDs use) will be required to allow low-latency remote monitoring and operations. The onus to ensure these conditions are met will generally fall on the PDD operator.

Example of Personal Delivery Device Deployment

Grubhub has partnered with technology startup Cartken to deploy autonomous food delivery robots on Ohio State University’s campus. The PDD robots will deliver food to residence halls and specific buildings on campus that can’t be reached by car. Ohio State University’s dining services conducted a study that examined the average length and cost of delivery services on campus, prior to the use of delivery robots and found that most trips typically took over an hour with a delivery fee minimum of $5. Ohio State and Grubhub aim to reduce the delivery fee to $2.50 per PDD robot delivery.


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