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Engineering faculty transportation operations project selected as national award finalist

Elisabeth Weems and Anna Hartenbach  | Feb 26, 2018
Edelman Award

Engineering faculty transportation operations project selected as national award finalist

Elisabeth Weems and Anna Hartenbach | Feb 26, 2018

A wide-scale operations research project performed by an industrial and systems engineering faculty member was selected as one of six finalists for the national Franz Edelman Award for Achievement in Operations Research, Management Science, and Advanced Analytics.

Russ College Assistant Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering Felipe Aros-Vera collaborated on the project with 26 others while earning his doctorate in transportation engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). Bestowed by INFORMS, the leading international association for professionals in operations research and analytics, the award is one of the highest recognitions in operations research. Finalists are selected for outstanding operations research, management science and advanced analytics efforts.   

The project was part of a private-public-academic effort, “The New York City Off-Hour Delivery Program: A Business and Community-Friendly Sustainability Program,” which also included New York City and the U.S. Department of Transportation. It addressed urban delivery truck driver problems -- limited parking, increased risk of automobile accidents, traffic congestion, etc. – that lead to air and noise pollution. 

“My desire is always to do research on things that can be applied, which can change the way we do things nowadays,” Aros-Vera said.

The study evaluated the impact of incentives on a business’s choice to receive off-hour deliveries  – made after 6 p.m. and before 7 a.m. – including monetary incentives, governmental support and public recognition. The team found that late deliveries reduce vehicle emissions, congestion and increased driver satisfaction.

Based on their findings, the researchers offered policy recommendations in favor of the incentives for metropolitan areas to join other cities around the world pilot testing off-hour delivery policies. From there, Aros-Vera and team led the conceptualization, development and use of a behavioral microsimulation, which reproduced the relationship between truckers and businesses in Manhattan to solve vehicle routing problems.

“This tool enabled the New York City Department of Transportation to evaluate what combination of incentives they need to give to make a positive impact in the city,” he said. “The positive impact comes from all the trucks that move from the day to the night operation, reducing traffic congestion and pollution.”

According to INFORMS, the impact on sustainability has been tremendous. Not only has the program proven effective at reducing last-mile delivery costs and receiver-held inventories, but it’s decreasing the number of conflicts and accidents, and reducing vehicle emissions.

Aros-Vera said that when university researchers participate in policy-making processes with the public and private sectors, researchers can elaborate on problems an industry or agency is constantly facing.

“It’s extremely important to have partners who are actually doing the work, so that when you write a research paper they take that into account and can change how things are done,” he said.

Aros-Vera, who teaches supply chain engineering and operations research courses at Ohio University, said he uses the knowledge he gained from the study to explain the implications on supply chains and the environment to his students.

“We must worry about the efficiency of our supply chain and the impact that this activity has on the environment,” he said.

Colleen Carow contributed to this story.