The improvements and advances in technologies deployed in the logistics system is one of the leading solutions to dealing with infrastructure challenges. Challenges such as capacity crunches, particularly in metro areas, and the fact that investments haven’t kept pace with demand, can be solved by using technology to get more out of the existing system. “Combining our info tech with our transportation system gives us more visibility and the ability to use our infrastructure 24 hours a day instead of during peak times,” Dowell says.
Dowell says operational issues can also be solved with incentives to encourage off peak pickups and deliveries so that everyone is not using the infrastructure system at the same time. “There are a lot of challenges and obstacles to doing that, but there have been success stories in terms of pilot studies,” she says. “Some companies have been able to successfully implement that.”
Moving beyond technology, there are existing resources that can increase capacities and efficiencies, including the potential of accessing inland waterways to move goods. However, the reason this mode isn’t used more is that it doesn’t quite meet the service requirements shippers demand or need in order to be competitive, Dowell says.
Another mode to consider is rail, where railroad companies are increasing investments in their systems. An example is ARG Trans (formerly Arizona Railroad Co.), which in 2003 purchased the San Pedro & Southwestern Railroad Co. from RailAmerica Inc. The San Pedro & Southwestern’s headquarters, operations and customer service are based at Benson, Ariz. The company moves agricultural chemicals, feed grains and building products. The San Pedro & Southwestern, a subsidiary of ARG, operates a transload facility serving southeast Arizona.
ARG is increasing its rail and related transportation activities in other communities. “We are growing by leaps and bounds,” says Peggy Davis, general manager, San Pedro & Southwestern. This year, ARG became the preferred operator for the 133-mile Coos Bay rail line in Oregon. The Oregon International Port of Coos Bay selected ARG to operate the Coos Bay Rail Link, which is undergoing nearly $24 million in repairs to upgrade the line from 10 mph to between 25 and 40 mph. Partial service of this former Central Oregon and Pacific track, which had been closed since 2007, was expected to begin in the summer, with full operations expected in the fall.