Document Type


Publication Date

December 2000

Publication Title

Research report - Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California


Industrial Engineering | Operations Research, Systems Engineering and Industrial Engineering | Systems Engineering


If California were a nation, it would be the sixth largest economy in the world. Efficient goods movement is crucial to California’s economy. Air freight consists predominantly of high-value, time-sensitive or time-definite goods, e.g., electronic equipment, emergency shipments, overnight packages, etc. Timely delivery of air freight has been an important element of many manufacturing and service operations in California. Therefore, the air cargo industry is a vital part of the state’s economy. The objectives of this research include (a) investigating and suggesting how the public sector in California can assist the air cargo industry in providing efficient services to businesses and the general public and (b) learning from the air cargo industry about intermodal transportation operations and ITS deployment in general.We focused on the industry of integrated air-express forwarding, i.e., the segment of freight industry offering overnight and other time-definite delivery services, and on the industry’s operations in California. Our research included eight visits to air-freight operators in California. Through those visits and other research, we achieved a basic understanding of the industry and identified a number of salient features of its operations. Based on a small number of metrics quantifying the level of satisfaction of the customer, the industry developed a large number of performance measures for its internal operations. Through the tracking of the operational performance and service quality, efficiency problems are identified or anticipated, and solutions, including ITS and other advanced technologies, are proposed, evaluated with simulation and other industrial engineering techniques, and implemented.We identified many specific issues and public-sector innovation opportunities. The number-one concern of the industry is traffic congestion in metropolitan areas. In fact, some managers we visited with requested special public-sector attention to some particular issues and opportunities. A vicious cycle regarding the interaction of traffic congestion and integrated air-express forwarding (and perhaps the general short-haul freight industry) is that, to counter traffic congestion in metropolitan areas, the operators send out more trucks and, as a result, the congestion worsens, particularly on freight corridors. We suggested many factors that would facilitate ITS deployment as well as steps that would improve intermodal transportation. Many public-sector roles have been recommended. Unlike people movement, for which HOV lanes and public transit provide a possible way out of the effect of traffic congestion, freight movement sees no relief in sight. This is clearly one of the most critical issues facing the industry of integrated air-express forwarding and perhaps the entire short-haul freight industry. A major question is what the public sector can do to help.


This report documents research undertaken by the National Center of Excellence for Aviation Operations Research, under California Department of Transportation Research Contract No. 65A0010. Any opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).This report is also available at this link.