US research: urban freight and road safety in the era of e-commerce

E-commerce has increased freight volumes and shifted freight vehicles to local streets and arterials. These changes have caused increasing concern over traffic safety in urban areas, but there has been limited investigation of road safety impacts. To advance understanding of this issue, a US research team examined recent trends in urban freight-related road safety in the US and the characteristics of these crashes. 

Though freight and overall crash fatality rates per vehicle mile traveled declined between 2005 and 2009, increases were observed between 2009 and 2015. Fatality rates increased 3% for all vehicle crashes, 17% for urban freight-involved crashes and 15% for urban freight-involved crashes not occurring on interstates.
Nonfatal injury rates for urban freight-involved crashes rose even more rapidly between 2009 and 2015. Nonfatal injury rates for urban freight-involved crashes increased 45%, rates for urban freight-involved crashes not occurring on interstates increased 40%, and overall nonfatal injury rates for all vehicle crashes increased 3% during this time.

Of all urban freight-related crashes resulting in nonfatal injury, the proportion occurring on non-interstate roads increased from 17% to 25% between 2005 and 2015, and these crashes were more likely to occur on weekdays between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m., when freight demand is high, than weekends or evenings. Conclusions: Freight-involved injury and fatality rates are rising more rapidly than overall road traffic-related rates, both in all areas and in urban areas. These crashes are also increasingly occurring on local roads and arterials as opposed to interstates.

The findings can help policymakers better understand the changing patterns of freight-related safety issues. As freight volumes increase in commercial and residential areas, planners must increasingly consider freight needs and ensure that space is allocated to this function. Additionally, changes to surveillance systems are necessary to better track burden and risk factors associated with these crashes and inform crash prevention efforts.

Source: Noreen McDonald, Quan Yuan & Rebecca Naumann (2019), Urban freight and road safety in the era of e-commerce, Traffic Injury Prevention, DOI: 10.1080/15389588.2019.1651930



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