Feature Story: Logistics – Big Wheels Keep On Rollin’

By Ed Felton
From the September/October 2014 issue

The Port of Oswego provides on-dock rail-and-truck loading, making for a smooth transition of goods to market. The Port’s just-in-time storage capabilities provide additional flexibility to delivery schedules.
The Port of Oswego provides on-dock rail-and-truck loading, making for a smooth transition of goods to market. The Port’s just-in-time storage capabilities provide additional flexibility to delivery schedules. (Photo: Operation Oswego County, Inc.)

The logistics and distribution industry experienced uneven 2013 freight demand levels; the industry is anticipating a potentially severe capacity crisis, according to the 25th Annual State of Logistics Report, compiled by analyst Rosalyn Wilson, sponsored by Penske Logistics and released in June 2014 by the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP).

The report describes last year’s logistics environment as uneven. After a slow start to 2013, mid-year shipments were strong before a deep dive at the end of the year. Wilson predicts 2014 will end up as the best year in the past eight for freight transportation providers. In the first five months of this year, freight shipments are up 13.1 percent year-over-year and payments are up 13 percent. Here are some highlights:

Last year, U.S. business logistics costs rose to $1.39 trillion, slightly below the peak year of 2007 before the Great Recession. The $1.39 trillion spent last year was a 2.3 percent increase over 2012; however, that percentage gain was a significant drop from the 3.4 percent rise in 2012, according to the report.

A recent decline in logistics’ percentage of GDP is traced to lower volumes and lower spending on transportation and services. Inventory carrying costs and transportation costs rose slightly last year. Inventory carrying costs increased 2.8 percent, while transportation costs were up only 2 percent in due to weaker shipment volumes and a lack of growth in rates.

Other highlights include:

  • Trucking, the largest component of transport costs, rose just 1.6 percent in 2013, which Wilson called “one of the weakest revenue years in recent history.” That was despite a 6.1 percent rise in truck tonnage.
  • Rail transport costs rose 4.9 percent in 2013, with Class 1 freight revenue per ton-mile rising 5.3 percent. Overall rail traffic was up 9.2 percent.
  • Cost of water transport rose 4.5 percent, reversing the previous year’s downward slide. Ocean carriage is “slowly improving” despite additional capacity.
  • Airfreight revenue was unchanged in 2013, even though overall revenue tons carried by air fell 0.7 percent.


When the Panama Canal expansion is complete next year, supersized post-Panamax ships from Asia will be able to traverse the canal and, for the first time, have direct all-water shipping access to ports on the Gulf of Mexico and the East Coast. For years, these megaships docked on the West Coast, sending cargo to U.S. markets via train or truck. However, a wider and deeper Panama Canal is giving shipping companies less expensive options for shipping to Gulf and East Coast ports.

The Panama Canal expansion project is expected to alter global trade routes. As older, smaller ships come offline, they are being replaced with Super Post-Panamax cargo ships, some of which are three-and-a-half football fields wide. These ships can carry over twice the amount of cargo (12,500 TEUs or 20-foot containers) compared to the Panamax ships that hold no more than 5,000 TEU. Bigger ships and more cargo can result in economic windfall for a port.

As a result, Gulf and East Coast ports are vying to attract the bigger ships and all of the economic benefits that come with them. However, the ports have to be post-Panamax ready (PPR). This means ports must have both a 50-foot channel depth with sufficient channel width and turning basin size, cranes capable of loading and unloading Post Panamax ships, and terminal docks engineered to handle the new, bigger cranes required for such vessels.


Oswego County is a truly multi-modal location, with access to ground, rail, air, and water transportation for shipment of goods. Situated in Upstate New York, Oswego County is located centrally to New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Toronto and Montreal. A great location and a host of transportation options place Oswego County at the top of the list for site selectors.

The Port of Oswego Authority is a deep-water port on the shores of Lake Ontario. It is the first port of call on the great lakes within the St. Lawrence Seaway. As a hub in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System, it is part of over 2,300 miles of water transportation from Duluth, Minnesota to the Atlantic Ocean. The Port of Oswego provides on-dock rail and truck loading, making for a smooth transition of goods to market. The Port’s just-in-time storage capabilities provide additional flexibility to delivery schedules. Recent upgrades to the Port’s security system allow the Port to handle high-security shipments.

Oswego County also has access to water transportation via the NY State Barge Canal System for both commercial and recreational traffic. The canal system stretches from Albany to Buffalo, from the Great Lakes to the Hudson River, providing an additional connective corridor for the transport of goods and materials.

Oswego County is one of four contiguous counties that make up Foreign Trade Zone #90. The benefits of locating within a foreign trade zone could include the elimination, deferment or reduction of duties associated with materials and products being imported and exported within the zone, thus reducing overall cost of doing business.

CSX offers daily rail transportation to Oswego County. In addition to rail access at the Port, service is available throughout the County, with direct access at several sites and industrial parks. With a nearby switch yard, CSX provides access to more than 21,000 miles of track in 23 states and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec, plus 70 ocean, lake and river ports. Coupled with nationwide transloading and warehousing, CSX makes rail a very viable transportation option for Oswego County businesses.

The Oswego County Airport offers two paved runways ideal for business, industry and private aviation. One runway, measuring 5,200 feet, runs north to south, while a second 4,000-foot runway travels east to west. There are approximately 170 acres of land available for industrial development immediately adjacent to the Oswego County Airport in the Oswego County Airport Industrial Park (AIP). The AIP has excellent potential for manufacturing or services companies which may find close proximity to air transport service advantageous. Syracuse Hancock International Airport is within minutes of Oswego County. In addition to worldwide passenger transport, Hancock has facilities for air freight transport including a 53,000-square-foot cargo building.

Oswego County has convenient access to Interstates 81 and 90 which provide north/south and east/west movement. Over 25 carriers provide both local and long-distance trucking to and from Oswego County. Connecting lines enable transport to every major US market. Local carriers provide transloading from truck to rail and offer myriad warehouse storage options, including dry, climate controlled and frozen.

In addition to multimodal logistical advantages, Oswego County has Greenfield sites ready to build on. All sites within three industrial parks have utilities and other necessary infrastructure in place. The Oswego County Industrial Park, being adjacent to NYS 481 and just minutes from Syracuse, NY, has attracted both manufacturing and R&D business investment recently.

Myriad transportation options, plentiful high-quality water and an existing workforce with prior food processing experience makes Oswego County a prime location for food processing manufacturers. This explains the recent growth spurt in the county’s food processing sector. Over the last two years, three new companies have expanded their food processing ventures in Oswego County. Oswego County has the available space, skilled workforce and infrastructure capacity for continued growth in this sector.

Many businesses rely on Oswego County’s vast transportation network on a daily basis. Novelis, Oswego County’s largest manufacturer, imports aluminum and exports product via ship, truck and rail through the Port of Oswego. Novelis also takes advantage of the Port’s just-in-time storage. The Port of Oswego is a designated grain location for Perdue Agribusiness. Perdue utilizes the Port for grain storage, as well as truck and rail transport. Sunoco transports corn in by truck from NYS farmers and by rail from farmers in the Mid-west directly to their Volney plant to produce Ethanol. The ethanol is then transported by truck and rail to Sunoco fuel terminals to be added to gasoline.

The combination of various forms of transportation with warehousing capabilities and specialized material handling equipment supports Oswego County’s stance as a true multi-modal location. The availability of ready-to-build sites and skilled workforce make Oswego County the ideal setting for manufacturing, food processing and R&D companies.


For companies seeking a central location that reaches numerous major metro areas, excellent transportation connections and a capable labor force, Joplin, MO is a great place to locate.

The Joplin Metro area in southwest Missouri is in the center of North American markets. Major metros such as Dallas, Kansas City, St. Louis, Tulsa, Little Rock and Memphis are just hours away. Transportation to those markets is efficient, thanks to Interstate highways and substantial rail connections. Commercial air service is available at Joplin Regional Airport and three other major airports within 90 minutes drive time.

Companies in the Joplin Metro area benefit from a productive, available labor pool of more than 93,000 people. Missouri Southern State University in Joplin offers a broad range of standard and business-specific classes, and a strong industrial technology program. Crowder College is a source for customized technical training. Overall, between the Joplin schools and MSSU, more than $100 million has been spent on educational facilities.

This 30,000-square-foot terminal replaced Joplin Airport’s existing facility, which was originally constructed in 1948. The tower, constructed of 16 reinforced steel piers (each 30 inches in diameter and drilled 20 inches into bedrock), was designed with stormy weather in mind: the glass on the tower is designed to withstand 120-mile-per-hour winds.

Joplin’s quality of living is enhanced with two major regional medical centers, more than 150 restaurants and a wide variety of retail from locally owned shops to the 114-store Northpark Mall.

With Wal-Mart’s headquarters in nearby Bentonville, AR (just 45 miles away), Joplin is well positioned geographically to serve as a distribution center for suppliers who have a directive to provide just-in-time deliveries. Joplin is located within two hours of six of Wal-Mart centers, which gives the region a logistics advantage for supplying the Wal-Mart system.

Joplin has an excellent location for distribution based on the population within 150 and 250 miles. A market of 5.2 million people can be reached within a 150-mile radius of the Joplin area. Among its competitors within that radius, Joplin’s population is the largest. The population in the local market has as much of an influence on distribution costs as the overall population within the distribution radius, as it is far cheaper to distribute to local customers than to customers that are at least two hours from the distribution center.

The Joplin Metro area’s position for serving national markets is nearly as advantageous as Chicago or Kansas City. Interstates 44 (east-west) and 49 (north-south) connect to every region in the country. Four airports within 110 miles serve the region, providing commercial and cargo service to markets throughout the world. Two Class 1 and one local railroad are important parts of the transportation system. Both UPS and FedEx offer daily early morning deliveries in Joplin and Neosho through their regional hub in Springfield, MO.

The Joplin area has several back office operations that have prepared a large pool of full- and part-time workers. Companies such as La-Z-Boy, General Mills and Owens-Corning transport their finished products from the area.