Forest products such as logs and wood chips are high-volume, high-weight, and low-value; transportation represents as much as 50 percent of their final cost. As a result, even minor inefficiencies such as truck routing can severely cut profit margins. In addition, truckers face bottlenecks due to the specialized equipment needed for loading and unloading forest products.

Self-loaders, like the one shown here, are used to load logs in rural areas

To analyze the efficiency of current trucking practices, the Improving Log Transportation with Data Based Monitoring and Analysis in Northern Wisconsin and Upper Peninsula of Michigan (CFIRE 04-10) project aimed to use small GPS devices to track trucking routes in regions with large amounts of logging, including Michigan’s upper peninsula. This data was useful for both individual truckers and companies that wished to use data-driven research to reduce transportation costs. The study was led by CFIRE affiliate researcher Richard Stewart.

Trucks included in the study were outfitted with both GPS trackers and a logbook for documenting stops and other events. Eight trucks were studied in the fall, and six trucks were studied in the winter, although one of the GPS units in the latter group failed. Though the small number makes the research difficult to analyze statistically, it still provides a rough estimate of the current situation and provides a methodology for future research.

The results of this project showed that large amounts of time are being spent loading and unloading the trucks, which may be expedited by modern equipment and better scheduling. In addition, truck idling was identified as a significant cost factor. Future research will aim to incorporate more drivers and continue to present results in economic terms, as well as identify cooperative solutions such as pooling deliveries.

To learn more about this project and to read the final report, visit the CFIRE 04-10 project page.

Use of Alternative Distribution Networks in Regional Food Supply Chains

July 24, 2014

The ability of small producers in a regional food system to survive market changes relies on their knowledge of distribution costs and benefits. Distribution methods can vary from roadside stands to long-distance shipments to urban centers, but shifting product from one mode of distribution to another poses financial risks to farmers. One of the goals [...]

Read the full article →

Simulation to Determine Viability of Urban Consolidation Centers

July 23, 2014

Upon entering an urban area, such as the final destination for a delivery, long-haul trucks face a spike in inefficiency caused by both increased vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and additional fuel use. One suggested strategy for mitigating the effects of the final mile problem (also known as the last mile problem) is the use of [...]

Read the full article →

Costs of Increased Loads on Wisconsin Railways Tested

July 11, 2014

Up to 50 percent of the sand used for the fracking process in the United States is sourced from Wisconsin. Frac sand is both heavy and has the potential to clog or foul the ballast supporting rail lines. These two effects add maintenance costs, and understanding them is critical to making decisions on how to [...]

Read the full article →

The Challenges of Import Safety

July 9, 2014

As the global market expands, concern over the safety of imports continues to rise. Many products are the result of world-spanning logistics that cross dozens of borders. Managing Challenges of Import Safety in a Global Market (CFIRE 03-02), a project led by CFIRE affiliate researcher Vicki Bier, brought together academics, regulators, and industry professionals to [...]

Read the full article →

GPS Tracking Augments Urban Traffic Modeling

July 8, 2014

The growth of urban traffic cannot be easily accommodated through additional lanes or roads. Existing buildings make reconstruction of congested streets difficult, and place emphasis on designing streets to handle future as well as current traffic before they become too difficult to alter. To this end, traffic modeling has become an important tool for urban [...]

Read the full article →

Using Digital Terrain Models to Improve GPS-Guided Road Construction

July 7, 2014

The growth of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) has enabled construction firms to utilize heavy equipment that is guided and controlled with GPS technology.  Use of 3D designs and digital terrain modeling (DTM) in conjunction with automated machine guidance reduces time and costs for delivery of transportation projects. The automated guidance cuts down on man-hours used [...]

Read the full article →