Highway Access 101
Although highway accessibility is consistently ranked at or near the top of the site selection factors, other factors may cause a company to opt for a site near a road less traveled.
Will O’Shea, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, XPO Last Mile (Aug/Sep 09)
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Road Quality, Congestion, and More
That's why aiming for good highway access has to be about more than just mere proximity. Among other things, it has to be about choosing good-quality highways, which is often more easily said than done. Should your company opt to locate its facility near one of our country's more poorly maintained sections of highway - which describes about one-third of our country's major roadways according to the American Society of Civil Engineers - your employees and trucking personnel could pay the price in terms of extra vehicle operating costs (approximately $400 per vehicle per year according to a recent report issued by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials). Or they could find themselves routinely facing substantial traffic delays if repairs are made somewhere down the line.
It has to be about understanding the rules of the road in each area you're considering, because approximately 20 percent of U.S. states have set a slower speed limit for trucks on their highways - a factor that could be especially significant if the location you're considering will need to accommodate a lot of truck pick-ups or deliveries.
And it has to involve a good measure of your own due diligence, because maps, local organizations, and chambers of commerce can tell you only so much about the true ebb and flow of an area's traffic.
Integrating All the Factors
Last, but certainly not least, it has to be about integration. Few of us are lucky enough to be able to choose a site with a clean slate and no strings attached. Instead, most of us are bound by realities ranging from longstanding relationships in specific manufacturing venues to customers who need deliveries made all over the map. Maybe we're limited by budget constraints. Perhaps our hands are tied because of the kinds of facilities that are available in our areas of choice. Or maybe we've been told we have to look within a certain area because of especially strong tax incentives. Whatever the parameters, always remember that no matter how important highway access seems, no highly accessible site is truly right unless it has the ability to mesh with your business and customer service objectives - and to fit in with the corporate culture you want to have.
Plus, even though those of us who are logistics professionals would always prefer that you make things easier on your supply chains by making transportation a priority before you choose a site, the essence of our profession is finding a way to efficiently deliver the goods no matter what. We have a lot of tools and techniques at our disposal to help companies overcome a wide variety of transportation and other obstacles, and many of us thrive on the challenge of using them.
Are highways and highway access as critical as people say they are? Absolutely. But can your company survive if every other factor points to a site near a road less traveled? Quite possibly, because good logistics practices and personnel can make all the difference.
Will O'Shea is chief sales & marketing officer for 3PD, Inc., one of North America's largest providers of large-product, last-mile logistics services. He gratefully acknowledges the use of data from the American Association Of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the American Society of Civil Engineers, the National Atlas of the United States, the Federal Highway Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Office of Highway Policy Information, the Road Information Program, and the Texas Transportation Institute.