Freight and Logistics News

Annual freight and logistics symposium scheduled for Dec. 2

Supply-chain and freight challenges and opportunities in a changing public and private environment

Image of Scott Dibble at the 2015 symposiumState Sen. Scott Dibble at the 2015 symposium

The 2016 symposium will address freight and supply-chain challenges and opportunities at the global, national, regional, and state level in a changing public and private environment.

Want to learn more? Plan now to attend the annual Freight and Logistics Symposium on Friday, December 2, at the Ramada Plaza Minneapolis.

At the symposium, Chuck Clowdis, managing director of transportation with IHS Markit’s economics and country risk sector, will explain how data enhances the ability of an area to tell its story to prospective firms looking for the best place to locate or relocate a facility. He will describe how the use of verifiable data can support transportation planning projects to assure that a city, county, state, or region can attract businesses that play a role in both domestic and global supply-chain design. Such data also can support grant applications, site planning, and land development to better attract jobs to an area by defining the area’s favorable transportation, workforce, and demographic assets.

The symposium also will feature a panel discussion exploring Minnesota’s freight competitiveness in the region, including how Minnesota-based companies are responding to supply-chain challenges and opportunities. The event will close with a discussion about the effects of this year’s election results on national freight issues and state transportation funding in 2017.

The annual symposium is designed to bring together members of the private sector and government to discuss current issues in the freight and logistics industry and to share public and private initiatives intended to strengthen the freight transportation system. Topics for each symposium are based on critical and emerging issues facing the freight and logistics industry.

The event is geared toward decision makers and practitioners from shippers, carriers, and other private sector organizations involved in logistics and transportation, as well as to government officials and staff, and representatives from nonprofit organizations and academic institutions.

The event is sponsored by the University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the Minnesota Freight Advisory Committee, the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals–Twin Cities Roundtable, the Metropolitan Council, and the Transportation Club of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

More information about the symposium, including registration, is available on the event web page. You may also contact Hannah Grune,

Transportation bottlenecks loom as a major issue for freight in Minnesota

Image taken of September quarterly meetingMany road construction projects planned for the next few years will have a major impact on highway traffic throughout the Twin Cities, according to MnDOT Metro District engineer Scott McBride. McBride, speaking at the September quarterly meeting of the Minnesota Freight Advisory Committee, presented a brief overview of upcoming MnDOT road construction plans for the metro area and the temporary construction-related bottlenecks they will create as MnDOT implements a long-term strategy to reduce bottlenecks systemwide.

McBride outlined where metro investments would be spent over the next 10 years. The first three years, which are part of the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), focus on preservation, project support, and bike and pedestrian projects. The final seven years are part of the Capital Highway Investment Plan (CHIP) and focus on metro pavement preservation. Other plans such as the Met Council Thrive 2040, Minnesota GO 50-Year Vision, Transportation Policy Plan, and the Statewide Multimodal Transportation Plan inform these plans at a high level.

Beyond the 10-year plan, Image of McBride speakingScott McBride McBride explained the need to focus on the “bridge bubble”—because most bridges will need repairs at that point. In addition, McBride expects another waiting challenge will be finding multimodal solutions for anticipated large-scale growth in the metro area.

Next, American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) vice president Dan Murray led a discussion exploring freight bottlenecks and freight performance measures in Minnesota. He asked members to think about bottlenecks specific to their industry and noted that primary performance measures should include average travel speeds, reliability measures, delays at border crossings, truck parking, incidents, and weather.

According to Murray, it’s possible using average travel speeds combined with truck data to see the highway system and bottlenecks on the system. With the data, too, it’s apparent that there is a lot of freight traveling through Chicago. Might there be a way for Minnesota to alleviate some of the congestion? Can Minnesota compete economically with Chicago?

For some answers, Image of Murray speakingDan Murray Murray pointed to the American Highway Users Alliance, which publishes an annual report on bottlenecks. ATRI has provided guidance on the report and contributed truck data and truck bottleneck information. Freight bottleneck analysis focuses specifically on key truck freight locations, of which half are congested. These data can be used to see where large bottlenecks exist and calculate the loss of productivity due to congestion. Carriers also are using this information to route trucks through the fastest cities.

Murray explained how to calculate the cost of delays. Data from all different sectors are collected and aggregated into the cost per mile and cost per hour of delay. Though the overall cost of congestion is declining, delays still produce large costs.

Freight performance measures, recommended by state DOTs, are meant as a way to monitor and address performance issues. Murray noted that these measures vary from industry to industry depending on the issues each industry faces, though the top two measures are average travel speed and reliability. He encouraged members to go beyond these simple measures and find deeper measures.

John Tompkins, freight project manager with the MnDOT freight office, said that MnDOT has already been developing categories of measures and directions they will be using in the Statewide Freight Plan. MnDOT is looking at both reliability and travel time as measures, but it has not adopted either yet. Tompkins noted a variety of views among MFAC members about mobility in Minnesota, and he stressed the importance of incorporating all modes.

In an exercise to identify bottlenecks and the underlying factors behind them, members identified some of the concerns in their industries:

  • With too few river crossings en route from Chicago to the Twin Cities, trucks have to travel north of the Twin Cities to cross from Wisconsin into Minnesota. 
  • The reliability and timing of shippers is an issue.
  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) implementation of new air space procedures has resulted in a decrease in peak capacity. (Note: Airport authorities are working to find creative ways for maintaining capacity during peak times.) 
  • Bottlenecks on I-94 from the Twin Cities to St. Cloud, and the ability to enter and exit I-94 near Highway 101 and Rogers, are becoming more challenging.
  • The interchange between I-694 and 35W and 35E causes delays. 
  • Despite recent investments, rail bottlenecks remain in the east metro area. In Duluth, a single uphill lane is being double-tracked with Canadian Pacific to address this issue.
  • Hazmat mobility between states via trucks and railroads is an issue. 

At the previous MFAC meeting in June, Steve Elmer (Metropolitan Council) and Donald Ludlow (CPCS Transcom) shared details about their Twin Cities Regional Truck Highway Corridor Study, which seeks to define key truck corridors in Minnesota and determine how congestion affects each. The study ties into the Met Council 2040 Transportation Policy Plan and, ultimately, aims to mitigate highway congestion. The project team includes representatives from Met Council, CPCS Transcom, and ATRI, as well as a Technical Advisory Group that consists of city, county, and private industry representatives.

Photos: David Gonzalez, MnDOT

Related resources:

Minnesota partners with neighboring states to improve traveler information

Interstates 90 Graphic of map with summaryEight states maintain the North/West Passage Traveler Information Website, which shows real-time travel information between Wisconsin and Washington along Interstates 90 and 94. The map above shows possible routes from Milwaukee going west past North Dakota, with boxes the user can check to show Road Work, Weather Alerts, Road Conditions, and other features of the route. and 94 between Wisconsin and Washington state are major corridors for commercial and recreational travel. Extreme winter weather conditions, prevalent in the northern states within this corridor, pose significant operational and travel-related challenges. Recognizing the value of coordinated, cross-border collaboration for ITS deployment, Minnesota in 2003 spearheaded the development of the North/West Passage transportation pooled-fund study.

The eight states involved in the study—Minnesota, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming—are predominantly rural and face similar transportation issues related to traffic management, traveler information, and commercial vehicle operations. They developed an ITS Integrated Work Plan and have completed nine work plans containing 50 projects.

The North/West Passage Traveler Information website, the group’s hallmark project, offers travel information for I-90 and I-94 in a single interactive map. In addition to checking weather conditions, road closures, and temporary truck restrictions, motorists can find the location of gas stops, rest areas, and parks.

The states are currently evaluating a program that allows citizens to report driving conditions so that they can be included in traveler information reporting (a pilot is under way with the MnDOT 511 system), and another project is comparing winter maintenance practices among corridor states.

“The biggest benefit of this pooled-fund study is that it allows MnDOT to see what its neighbors are doing when developing solutions for operational issues. This awareness really helps us make better decisions about our projects at the state level,” said Cory Johnson, traffic research director, MnDOT Office of Traffic, Safety and Technology.

Other major accomplishments:

  • North and South Dakota 511 callers can select to receive information on Minnesota’s highways.
  • An online portal for coordination of traffic management center operations, including guidelines, maps, and contact information helps to manage major events across states.
  • Development of one proposal made it possible to hire a contractor to perform work in two states.

Written by Shannon Fiecke, MnDOT Research Services

Related resources:

CTS Catalyst stories

  • What impacts will e-shopping and telecommuting have on our transportation future? (June 201Image of man telecommuting6)
    Information and communication technologies are changing how and where we work and shop by making virtual activities a viable alternative to traditional physical activities. The rapid growth of these technologies has important implications for the transportation system. In a recent project, University of Minnesota experts synthesized the effects telecommuting and teleshopping have on travel behavior and predicted their potential impacts on our transportation system in the decades to come. Read More

  • Smartphones have the power to transform transportation with a wealth of new information (August 201Image of pedestrian using smartphone6)
    As people continue to become more interested in tracking their daily behaviors—through smartphone apps, for example—the resulting data could help transportation agencies gain insight on how people and vehicles move across networks. A recent report examines the current state of smartphone-based mobility sensing and measuring apps and discusses how these apps can be used to improve our transportation systems and deliver personalized travel behavior interventions in the future. Read More

  • In the gray area of speed laws, enforcement can spark controversy (October 201Image of flowers and gifts on the side of the road as tribute to fatality in accident6)
    Speed is a factor in approximately one-third of all U.S. fatal crashes and contributes to almost as many crashes as alcohol and distracted driving combined. One solution to address this safety issue—automated speed enforcement (ASE)—is highly controversial in Minnesota. A seminar from the University of Minnesota Roadway Safety Institute presented the nature of the controversy around ASE and recent research results.
    Read More

More news and information

FHWA ‘Talking Freight’ seminars
“Talking Freight” online seminars from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) provide transportation practitioners a way to broaden their freight knowledge base and develop new job skills. Seminars typically are held from 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. (Eastern) on the third Wednesday of each month. Please check the Talking Freight Seminars website for the latest information. Recorded sessions of previous seminars are available from the Talking Freight Archives. The most recent seminar was State Freight Plans and State Freight Advisory Committees – FAST Act Guidance Overview.

Under pressure: Around the world authorities are beginning to rely more heavily on portable weigh-in-motion systems (Traffic Technology International, June/July 2016)
Weigh-in-motion (WIM) systems are generally permanent, requiring expensive roadwork and time-consuming installation. Less is heard about portable systems, yet they are viewed by some as the surprise weapon in the WIM armory. In Minnesota, the legislature issued a ruling in 2009 that all state roads, unless labeled otherwise, were to be a 10-ton design. The authorities suddenly started to take more notice of how many overweight vehicles were on their roads and think about what kind of damage they were inflicting.

FAST and furious: A look at MAASTO states freight plan development
In his keynote address at the Ohio Planning Conference in July, Ernest Perry discussed how Mid-America Freight Coalition states, in an effort to meet the national freight planning requirements of the FAST Act, share best practices, work to align efforts, and provide regional and national leadership in collaborative freight development. The Mid-America Freight Coalition is a regional organization that cooperates in the planning, operation, preservation, and improvement of transportation infrastructure in the Midwest. The ten states of the AASHTO Mid-America Association of State Transportation Officials (MAASTO) share key interstate corridors, inland waterways, and the Great Lakes.

ATRI publishes findings on fleet fuel economy and fuel usage
In October, the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), in conjunction with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) and research sponsor ExxonMobil, published results of their investigation of fleet fuel economy and fuel usage. The study found the median fleet-wide fuel economy of 6.5 miles per gallon was being achieved through the use of a variety of fuel-saving technologies. For truck-tractors, aluminum wheels, speed limiters, and low rolling resistance tires were reported as the most common fuel-saving technologies. For trailers, low rolling resistance tires, aluminum wheels, and weight-saving technologies were identified as the most common technologies. Researchers also investigated fuel-saving technologies that have shown the best and worst returns on investment. The report found limited use of alternative fuels, with biodiesel blends identified as the most common alternative fuel being used today.

Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry–2016 (October 2016)
The past 12 months have seen a number of legislative and regulatory actions that have directly and indirectly impacted the trucking industry. This ATRI report presents the findings of the 2016 annual survey and analysis. It also compares the findings of previous years’ surveys, resulting in an indicator of rising, falling, and emerging priorities in the trucking industry.

Transportation Research Board (TRB) freight-related research

  • Multi-State, Multimodal, Oversize/Overweight Transportation (August 2016)
    This report is a compilation of existing permitting requirements for the transportation of oversize/overweight (OSOW) freight throughout the United States. It identifies and presents information about state-by-state differences in OSOW road transportation regulations and permitting practices, and the challenges these differences may pose for carriers. It discusses factors affecting modal competitiveness in OSOW transportation as well as opportunities for improved modal access. The report also discusses ongoing and potential opportunities to improve information and procedural applications, covering the permitting process and the need for improved communication and coordination.
  • Methodology for Estimating the Value of Travel Time Reliability for Truck Freight System Users (June 2016)
    This report describes a survey methodology and develops a Truck Freight Reliability Valuation Model to estimate the value of travel time reliability for truck freight system users for evaluating proposed highway infrastructure and operations investments. It provides a research approach to conduct a more detailed survey and modeling protocol to collect direct schedule delay and cost information.

CTS Freight and Logistics E-News is published three times a year by the Center for Transportation Studies at the University of Minnesota.

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