Finding Data errors on a government Web site

The Department of Transportation Maritime Administration (MARAD) oversees the nation’s waterborne commerce. An energy consultant was recently on the MARAD Web site looking for modal fuel efficiency data for waterborne freight. He found data under the title, “Environmental Advantages of Inland Barge Transportation.”

The site contained information from a 1980 study by Sam E. Eastman that provided fuel efficiency data for truck, rail, river and the Great Lakes.

In its current offering, MARAD has misquoted the data in the report, citing, “Number of miles one ton can be carried per gallon of fuel,” which is incorrect-which should read, “ton-miles per gallon.” Additionally, the Eastman study is old and modal efficiencies have changed since it was written.

Compounding the problem of the use of faulty statistics is the fact that a number of U.S. Port Web sites quote and cite the MARAD data.

This information was uncovered by William G. Acker of Acker & Associates in Green Bay, Wisc. He has written many articles for Heating Piping & Air Conditioning, magazine, which is published by Penton Media Inc., and is a member of its Editorial Advisory Board.

At the time of this writing, MARAD continues to review the supporting data furnished it by Acker, and says it is considering—as it has for several months—possible corrections or removal of the data from its Web site.

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