22nd Annual Freight and Logistics Symposium: Natural Disaster Disruption in the Freight System

Friday, December 6, 2019, 7:30 am–12:00 pm

1330 Industrial Blvd NE
Minneapolis, MN

Hurricane flooding and winds with palm trees and houses
Photo: Shutterstock

About the Symposium

The 2019 symposium explored how the public and private sectors can and should respond to natural disasters that cause disruptions in the freight system. In the keynote presentation, Jeffrey Dorko, assistant administrator for logistics at FEMA’s Office of Response and Recovery, discussed replacing and restoring capacity in supply chains affected by natural disasters.

Following the keynote, a panel of representatives from the public and private sector shared perspectives on opportunities and challenges around infrastructure resiliency. In addition, speakers from the University of New Orleans Transportation Institute and the Minnesota Department of Transportation offered insights on disaster response, recovery, and resiliency.

Topical Summaries

The Role of the Private Sector During a Natural Disaster

The private-sector freight industry could increase the speed and efficiency of disaster relief, in terms of shipping capacity as well as planning and logistics. But efficiency needs to be balanced with fairness to avoid disasters being used as a means for profit. Speakers from the public and private sectors discussed both sides of the issue.

Communication and Planning During a Natural Disaster

When disaster strikes, effective communication and planning systems are as essential as speedy response. Presenters used Hurricane Katrina in 2005 as an example of what happens when these systems break down. They also discussed what problems still exist in the freight industry and how to fix them.

Climate Change and Infrastructure Resiliency

Extreme weather patterns as a result of climate change are a major concern for transportation agencies, and infrastructure changes are needed to ensure the system can handle increased stress. Presenters examined some of the setbacks currently facing infrastructure resilience in the United States as well as some promising initiatives led by the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the federal government.

Sharing Data to Facilitate Disaster Response

In our digital world, GPS, traffic cameras, and other technology are making it increasingly easy to track and model traffic flow. Sharing this data has become key to effective disaster relief. Presenters discussed potential sources and applications of data and how issues with privacy and proprietary information might be addressed.

Symposium Presentations

Keynote: Replacing and Restoring Capacity in Disaster Supply Chains

Panel: Infrastructure Resiliency

Moderator: Elizabeth Ogard, Prime Focus LLC

Presentation: Response and Recovery Efforts Post-Hurricane Katrina

Presentations: MnDOT Disaster Response and Resiliency


This symposium was sponsored by the Center for Transportation Studies at the University of Minnesota, in cooperation with: