DOT Secretary LaHood Gets IWLA Input on Infrastructure
Last week the International Warehouse Logistics Association participated as an invited guest at the first Freight Stakeholders Roundtable organized by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood had earlier announced the creation of the Freight Policy Council, which is intended to reach out to stakeholders about potential strategies for implementing the bi-partisan transportation legislation called Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, or MAP-21 for short, enacted on July 6.
Passed as a stop-gap measure in an election year, MAP-21 will provide funding for highway and other surface transportation programs at a level of more than $105 billion for fiscal years 2013 and 2014. It was adopted after the House, Senate and Administration failed to reach an agreement on a longer-range multi-year program.
IWLA members have long been deeply involved in the issues surrounding this country's transportation infrastructure and its impact on the efficient movement of freight. Our members are dependent on an efficient and fair transportation system that includes air, rail, highway and maritime. We know that a safe, efficient and reliable supply chain is critical to the U.S. economy.
In addition to having supported the timely reauthorization of the federal highway program, IWLA has backed new policies and an integrated planning to address traffic choke points, as well as the need for states need to include freight delivery systems in their transportation plans.
In his invitation to IWLA, Secretary LaHood said, "This session will also help inform and catalyze a national on-line dialogue regarding freight related interests to begin in mid-September."
We were happy to participate from the beginning of this process. Warehouse-based logistics providers are the key link in the nation's supply chain because our members operate across all modes and handle the total life cycle of the product from origin through reverse logistics and re-use. As a result, IWLA can bring to this national freight planning effort the viewpoint of the supply chain of shipper, receiver, customs broker, order fulfillment, re-use, and recycle without any modal preference except speed, safety and security to market.
And it is this goal of being able to finally move beyond the controversies caused by modal competition was in evidence during the panel discussion of three major industry stakeholders that kicked off last week's freight summit.
Panel members picked up on a point made by the DOT secretary in his introductory remarks – that the United States will add 100 million people to our population by the year 2050. Making the point that because of this rising demand modal interest will need to put their differences aside was panel member Randy Mullett, Vice President of Government Relations for Con-Way/Menlo Worldwide, an IWLA member.
"National freight policy is largely a matter of leadership," Mullett declared. "We have to get past the zero-sum game where we believe that if one mode wins, another loses. There will be more freight available than we all can handle."
(In addition to being another DC Velocity blogger, Mullett also serves as Vice Chairman of the National Cooperative Freight Research Program Oversight Committee. Sponsored by DOT's Research and Innovative Technology Administration and managed by the National Academy of Sciences, through its Transportation Research Board, the NCFRP conducts research on how public infrastructure investment impacts the performance of the freight transportation system.)
Of course, a perfect example of this kind of counter-productive "zero-sum game" is the opposition by the nation's railroads to allowing greater use of longer-combination vehicles by truckers. "The question is: How do we get the most out of the system we've already got?" Mullett said. He noted that when you look around the world at other countries truck transportation systems, the U.S. is not even in the top 20, and the nation we are closest to boasts a truck system 20% more efficient than ours.
Seeming to reach out in this regard was panel member Edward Hamberger, President of the Association of American Railroads, who pointed to the "I Love Trucks" button on his lapel. He noted that United Parcel Service is currently the railroads' No. 1 intermodal customer and that this is the fastest growing segment of the rail business. He also noted J.B. Hunt's recent financial report showing that 58 percent of its revenue came from intermodal freight.
The third panel member, William J. Kenwell, Senior Vice President & Chief Commercial Officer of Maersk Lines, also noted that the ocean shipping industry is inextricably interlinked with and dependent on the U.S. surface transportation system. The greatest challenge in planning for our transportation future continues to be dealing with inefficiencies in the first mile and last mile of freight movement, he pointed out.
During the Freight Stakeholders Roundtable DOT asked the attendees – including IWLA's Washington representative Patrick O'Connor – to discuss among themselves and later suggest possible performance measures and standards for developing and guiding for state freight plans. Rest assured that IWLA will continue to participate vigorously in this process.