Battling the Transportation Infrastructure Deficit

LDL Voice

More than 122 million households and 7.4 million businesses move 54 billion tons of goods across the U.S. every day. That’s nearly 63 tons per person per year. And by 2040, that amount is expected to increase by 40 percent (DOT).

While economic growth is good problem to have, it is indeed a problem. An aging infrastructure requires ongoing repairs to the country’s roads, bridges, maritime ports, and more, simply to keep pace. An estimated 65 percent of roads and 25 percent of bridges are currently in disrepair. Without improvements, more than $1 trillion in lost business and 3.5 million jobs are at stake. On top of that, road congestion costs U.S. shippers $10 billion per year in delays.  Bottlenecks, road construction, increased pressure on international ports and distribution hubs, and border concerns have challenged the existing supply chain infrastructure while posing significant threats to its future viability (DOT).  

The great news is that significant efforts are underway to improve transportation efficiency and increase capacity. Here are some of the latest initiatives that shippers and transportation providers should be aware of:

The GROW AMERICA Act earmarks $18 billion (of $478 billion total) in federal grant funding for projects that improve freight transportation. Intended to improve the movement and safety of freight across the country’s highways, railways, ports, and pipelines, this section of the act gives shippers and other transportation stakeholders a say in how the money gets spent and eliminates competition with non-freight projects. It also creates incentives for states that collaborate with other states, and those who create long-term freight strategic plans that help lay the foundation for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Freight Strategic Plan (DOT). 

Off-peak delivery projects in New York and Florida are testing approaches to pickups and deliveries during off hours in an attempt to combat congestion problems. Made possible by grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration, the projects incentivize retailers, food companies, hospital suppliers, and other vendors to develop pick-up and delivery processes at night and outside of rush hours (FHWA). The goal is to help companies reconfigure their supply chains by adopting low-cost operational strategies—changes that save shippers time and money, and recover lost productivity. Cities also benefit from reduced traffic congestion, shortened commute times, and improved air quality, which contributes to sustainability and a city’s overall “livability.” If successful, the pilot projects may be rolled out in other cities and nationwide (Handy Shipping Guide).

Smart Cities hold promise for shippers too. Supported by a $3.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation, the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratories are putting sensors on traffic lights to collect data on temperature, weather, light and sound, pedestrian movement, and of course, vehicular traffic. In addition to identifying patterns, the data could help researchers predict weather-related problems and help-re-route traffic in congested areas. Additional projects from the U.S. Department of Transportation focus on creating useful data connections between vehicles and infrastructure. For example, such connections will help officials in Wyoming monitor trucking corridors, while Tampa will send rush hour information to individuals’ smart phones (Government Technology News).     

As transportation infrastructure challenges continue to arise, it’s important for supply chain professionals to stay informed on these programs and work collectively to ensure the best outcome. Shippers should align themselves with forward-thinking partners who have their finger on the pulse of the latest infrastructure changes—those who can proactively plan for imminent changes and help advise you on the best way to move goods. Service providers that offer the latest technology, off-peak transit, and 24/7/365 support are ahead of the curve.  Interested in finding out what we’re doing to increase transportation efficiency and maintain 100% on-time delivery performance?  Contact us to learn more. 

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