While the technology in today's warehouses might seem like science-fiction to some, there was a time when automation and forklifts were not a reality. During these early days, warehouse employees had to carry goods in hundred pound sacks from the rail yard and assemble the pallets by hand.
Fast forward to 2017, while times may have changed since the advent of the Internet, the importance of this industry has not and its role remains the same: To support a well-designed supply chain by operating at the highest level of efficiency in today’s domestic and global markets.
Today, companies across the logistics industry are experts in securing maximum efficiencies in sourcing raw materials, designing supply chains, and managing distribution systems.
As President and CEO of the International Warehouse Logistics Association (ILWA), our members perform a wide variety of value-add services that reach beyond storage, including distribution system design, freight transportation, packaging, assembly and light manufacturing. IWLA members are a critical part of the U.S. supply chain. To maintain American economic competitiveness, third-party warehouses rely on advanced technology to ensure efficiency.
Our industry would be rightly criticized if we still relied on decades old technology or distribution methods, so why should Americans be content with 25-year-old freight transportation policy?
A modern transportation system has the power to supercharge the economy by fostering the more efficient flow of goods from manufacturers to warehouses, and IWLA is urging Congress to facilitate the creation of a system that better aligns the design of the nation's infrastructure with the demands of today's economy. It's no secret our infrastructure suffers from a chronic lack of funding. State and local spending on infrastructure dropped from 3 percent of GDP in 1960 to less than 2 percent in 2014, while GDP grew exponentially.
Years of Congressional inaction has created a network of failing roads and bridges that greatly reduces our ability to service the modern consumer. Inefficient routing, congested traffic patterns, and other issues cause massive delays, which increase transportation costs that are eventually passed on to consumers. The private sector continues to make investments in new technologies, including upgraded fleets and more, to unlock efficiencies in our transportation system.
However, we need the same forward-looking effort from our federal and state government partners.
Many emerging technologies, such as the innovations behind vehicle-to-infrastructure communication systems, should be supported by state and federal policies. Once implemented, these advanced transportation systems promise incredible improvements to road safety, efficiency, and travel times because of reduced congestion.
It is crucial that policymakers support cutting edge innovation, rather than hinder these efforts with unnecessary "red tape" and government over-regulation of the marketplace.
Twin 33s represent another source of untapped efficiency. The deployment of this trailer configuration would allow carriers to accommodate the rising number of lightweight, consumer-oriented, shipments without violating federal weight limits. Currently operating in 20 states, when used nationally, Twin 33s would decrease the number of unnecessary trips by providing adequate truck space to accommodate the modern consumer's purchasing habits and ultimately decrease the number of trucks on the road. Fewer trucks means fewer bottlenecks and increased efficiency across the system.
We cannot continue to ignore the institutional inefficiencies of our national freight transportation network. The logistics industry, their customers, and consumers refuse to sit idly while the nation's economic growth is stifled. It's time for freight policy to enter the 21st century.
Steve W. DeHaan is the President and CEO of the IWLA, a trade association that serves nearly 500 corporate members representing 3,000 warehousing locations since 1891.