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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2002. e-Transit: Electronic Business Strategies for Public Transportation, Volume 1, Supply Chain: Parts and Inventory Management. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24725.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2002. e-Transit: Electronic Business Strategies for Public Transportation, Volume 1, Supply Chain: Parts and Inventory Management. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24725.
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3CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION In 2000, TCRP published a research project statement entitled “eTransit: Electronic Business Strategies for Public Transportation.” The problem statement identified the objec- tive of this project as “. . . [to] provide flexible, ongoing, quick- response research designed to bring electronic business strate- gies to public transportation and mobility management.” The initial seven tasks for this project involved the following areas: 1. Supply chain (i.e., parts management, inventory man- agement); 2. Regulatory issues; 3. Application service providers; 4. Customer information; 5. Electronic payments and receipts; 6. Training and certification; and 7. Development of a series of electronic magazine (e-zine) articles to achieve more rapid dissemination and appli- cation of research results. This volume (Volume 1) of TCRP Report 84: e-Transit: Electronic Business Strategies for Public Transportation pro- vides research on Task 1 (i.e., the supply chain), with an objec- tive of providing transit property managers with insight into how firms with similar fleet operations have used a supply- chain approach to parts and materials inventory management. RESEARCH APPROACH The Task 1 work plan identified an Internet-based survey as the focal instrument for gathering information about how non-transit organizations used information technology to support vehicle fleet operations. Secondary information sources (such as periodicals, journals, books, and other reports) would complement the survey results and provide additional insight into findings. Organizations targeted for this research effort included utility companies, private fleets, and commercial motor car- riers. Target information was success stories on improved parts and inventory management through the application of supply-chain principles, understanding how the principles link with suppliers, the kinds of information exchanged, how information is exchanged, to whom information is available, and how it is used to enhance operations. The data gathered through the Internet-based survey would provide the basis for identifying relevant supply-chain practices and would pro- vide adequate information to identify appropriate firms for follow-up interviews. To provide a baseline for comparing non-transit with tran- sit supply chains, the following transit agencies completed a modified version of a draft web survey form: • San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), • Central Ohio Transit Authority, • Texas’ Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority, • Washington State’s King County DOT–Metro Transit Division (Metro), and • Pennsylvania’s Lehigh and Northampton Transit Author- ity (LANTA). While the sample size was not statistically significant, the survey did highlight the differences between these properties in size, equipment types, age, and parts-procurement practices, encouraging the consultant to focus on e-procurement prac- tices with the broadest application to transit properties. Using the information gathered through the transit survey effort and supplemented with information gleaned from prior TCRP reports on current and recommended transit purchas- ing, inventory and fleet maintenance practices (identified in this report’s bibliography and endnotes as appropriate), the research team finalized the Internet-based survey form. On September 26, 2001, the production version of the survey web- site was launched, ready to capture survey data. To support information-gathering efforts, the research team made multiple contacts with the following organizations, soliciting and receiving their support of this project both before and during the survey period: • The National Association of Fleet Administrators (NAFA), • The National Conference of State Fleet Administrators (NCFSA), • The Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Association (ATA), and • The National Private Truck Council. Additionally, the following monthly periodicals (with read- ers consisting of the target focus groups) agreed to advise their reporters of this survey effort:

• Utility Fleet Management Magazine, • Today’s Trucking, and • Commercial Carrier Journal. Based on conversations with the target organizations, sur- vey response was anticipated to be low until mid-October 2001. After receiving only four satisfactory responses (exclud- ing incomplete, duplicate, or inappropriate surveys) by late October, the research team once again solicited the target organizations for help. In early November, research team mem- bers directly contacted 19 trucking companies and 15 utility firms (via their websites) in an effort to bolster survey responses. When provided contact information for 35 utility fleet managers in late November, team members directly e-mailed these individuals asking them to submit surveys. This explains the more recent survey responses. (Appendix B contains the compiled results of all survey responses without identifying the firm or respondent.) By late November, it was obvious that survey responses were inadequate to provide any statistically significant infor- mation. Accordingly, the research focus shifted to the use of secondary sources and industry contacts to achieve project 4 objectives. Researchers searched Internet resources and peri- odicals and made direct contact with fleet operators to iden- tify fleets demonstrating innovative supply-chain links. This report reflects the results of these efforts. COMMENTS ON THE INTERNET SURVEY EFFORT While the response to the web-based survey approach was inadequate, the technology was successful in capturing the requested information from the participating respondents and provided major advantages in efficiency and accuracy com- pared with alternate approaches of telephone or paper-based surveys. In retrospect, the research team recognizes that non-transit fleets lacked adequate motivation to complete the survey, which was complicated by a reluctance to divulge firm-specific information. Additional factors that may have contributed to the poor response rate include limited access to the Internet and reluctance to use Internet-based surveys. In situations in which these factors are more favorable, Internet- based surveys can gather enormous amounts of data in a very efficient and accurate manner, supporting the kinds of data- base analysis envisioned in the original work plan.

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TRB's Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Report 84: e-Transit: Electronic Business Strategies for Public Transportation, Volume 1, Supply Chain: Parts and Inventory Management examines the supply-chain concept and identifies supply-chain strategies used by nontransit fleets to reduce investments in parts and inventory while increasing fleet availability.

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