Data Driven Identification of COVID-19 Impacts on E-Commerce and Freight Movement

Online shopping has grown rapidly worldwide for the past two decades. In the U.S., the share of online retail sales grew from 4% in 2009 to 9.8% for the third quarter in 2018 [US Department of Commerce, 2018]. This growth generates significant freight movement demand. The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) reports a 17.7 % increase in urban truck vehicle miles of travel (VMT) in the U.S from 2011 to 2016, which is drastically higher than rural truck VMT (2.2 % increase) for the same time period [Hooper and Murray, 2019]. The recent pandemic significantly accelerates this trend. Walmart grocery e-commerce increased over 74% during the pandemic, and consumer spending on Amazon between May and July 2020 increased by 60% from the same time in 2019 (Facteus, 2020). Researchers expect that e-commerce sales will reach $6.5 trillion by 2023 with a nearly 20% growth in 2020. Studies reported that people develop their new habit to use online shopping in their daily routine, which substitute and complement their shopping trips and activities permanently (Abiad, A., Arao, R. M., & Dagli, S.. 2020). This research will comprehensively explore the current trends of online and off-line shopping activities by utilizing data fusion and analytics to gain insight into how e-commerce might influence future passenger travel and freight movements. The study will investigate how last-mile operations have impacted network disruptions, air quality, and safety. Understanding the freight movements at micro-levels will provide valuable knowledge on effectively allocating resources and developing policy and planning strategies, such as adjusting parking policy, promoting off-peak delivery, and adjusting the capacities of roadway infrastructure, to properly control and manage increased shipment movements to preserve existing infrastructure, reduce congestion and air quality impacts, and enhance road safety. The outcome of this study will answer the following important questions for freight planning, management, and operation. In particular, this study will answer the following research questions: (1) How do the trends of online and off-line shopping activities change over time in the COVID-19 era? (2) What are the corresponding safety, traffic, and environmental impacts caused by increased last-mile operations of e-commerce activities? The strategic plans obtained from the study will maximize the efficiency of freight management during and after the pandemic when the demand and patterns of online shopping and e-commerce activities may greatly change over time. Decision-making that considers the resource allocations to reduce congestion effects and crash risks due to the increased number of trucks may require a more effective strategy by understanding the shift and changes in e-commerce activities. The research outcomes will be shared with practitioners, policy-makers, and universities through Workshops, Webinars and Conferences to attract discussions from the transportation operation and management sectors, particularly from the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC), Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), and other regional MPOs. The findings will strongly support short- and long-term transportation and infrastructure planning for policy makers and planners especially when optimizing maintenance and operation resources for future transportation strategies after the pandemic.


  • English


  • Status: Active
  • Funding: $108000
  • Contract Numbers:


  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology

    University Transportation Centers Program
    Department of Transportation
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Managing Organizations:

    Transportation Consortium of South-Central States (Tran-SET)

    Louisiana State University
    Baton Rouge, LA  United States  70803
  • Project Managers:

    Mousa, Momen

  • Performing Organizations:

    University of Texas at Arlington

    Box 19308
    Arlington, TX  United States  76019-0308
  • Principal Investigators:

    Hyun, Kate

  • Start Date: 20210801
  • Expected Completion Date: 20230201
  • Actual Completion Date: 0
  • USDOT Program: University Transportation Centers Program

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01833054
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Consortium of South-Central States (Tran-SET)
  • Contract Numbers: 69A3551747106
  • Files: UTC, RIP
  • Created Date: Jan 20 2022 5:12PM