America’s aging transportation infrastructure can’t keep up with the pace of global commerce, says John Bowe, president of the Americas for global transportation provider APL and its sister company APL Logistics. If it isn’t overhauled, consumers and the U.S. economy will pay a steep price, he warns. Bowe recently spoke at a transportation symposium organized by the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics.
“The U.S. economy has been transformed by unprecedented growth in containerized imports,” Bowe continues. “Growth in the transportation infrastructure hasn’t kept pace. If we don’t fix this, supply chains will bog down, consumer prices will go up and the economy will suffer.”
To address the problem, Bowe is calling for public-private collaboration leading to: a national freight policy; significant new investment in the U.S. rail network; and increased productivity at U.S. ports. He cautions, however, that government can’t be counted on to pick up the massive cost of infrastructure improvement. “The private sector will have to play a larger role,” he says. “But we’ll look to government to provide incentives that stimulate investment.”
Containerized U.S. imports from Asia will grow by about 30% in the next three years, Bowe observes, but ports aren’t improving productivity fast enough to keep pace and railroads aren’t adding enough track, equipment or terminal capacity to handle the load.
“We’ve worked with shippers on temporary solutions,” Bowe points out. “We’ve made better use of alternative U.S. gateway ports, we’ve improved planning and forecasting, and we continue to work closely with our rail partners to manage through rail congestion. But there’ll come a time in the not too distant future when even these measures won’t be enough. We’re pushing too much cargo through a pipeline that is not growing fast enough. Eventually it will be overwhelmed. We need to act now to prevent gridlock.”