5 Facts About Logistic Transportation

August 07, 2019

What are logistics? Simply put, logistics are the steps needed to transport goods from one place to another. However, this simple explanation does not capture the sheer complexity of the process. Here are five little known facts about logistics.

Logistics is Not Just Trucking

In 2017, over 70% of freight, or over 10 billion tons, was transported by trucks. However, logistics includes coordination with ships, trains, and airplanes to load or unload cargo. One field of logistics that people often forget is the coordination with warehouses to load, unload, and store cargo until it is needed. For example, when a shipment of raw materials is to be split between one ship headed to Europe and one ship headed to South America, those raw materials may need to be stored temporarily until both ships arrive at the port to be loaded.

Logistics Covers Both Inbound and Outbound Transportation

Many businesses are familiar with outbound logistics, regardless of the size of the company. Small businesses that ship out a few products per day rely just as much on logistic transportation as national billion-dollar businesses that ship out truckloads of products per day.

However, fewer businesses are aware of supply chain logistics, which helps a business of any size to manage the delivery of inputs it requires to produce its products. Suppose a business uses aluminum sheets and steel screws to produce its products. Logistics are the steps that are taken to deliver those inputs at the right time and in the most efficient manner possible. Done correctly, a freight services and logistics company would transport the inputs so that they neither need to be warehoused to await delivery nor rushed to the factory via expedited freight services to avoid holding up production.

Logistics is Mathematics

Much of logistic transportation is based on mathematics. Why is this? Logistics take into account the time and cost of shipping. This requires consideration of distance, speed, and fuel consumption. The goal is to optimize the transportation process. This optimization benefits everyone, including the shipping company, receiving company, and transportation company, as less fuel and less time means lower costs and faster shipping.

This is even more complicated when multiple stops are required. For example, if the aluminum sheets a company needs are located at a port in New Jersey and the screws are located at a factory in Pennsylvania, it may be more efficient to use a single truck to transport both, rather than send separate trucks if the inputs need to be delivered to an assembly plant in Colorado.

This decision is not just based on gut instinct. To the contrary, all the information is fed into computer programs that determine the most efficient route for loading, transporting, and storing the cargo so that the customer receives exactly what they need at the exact time they need it.

Logistics is Sometimes Like Musical Chairs

Logistic transportation would be simplified if all cargo had exactly the same needs. However, this is not the case. Certain cargo, such as hazardous materials and perishable goods, require special handling and transportation. Logistics takes into account the needs for each shipment, such as coordinating hazmat trucking companies or reefer trucking companies for hazardous or perishable cargo.

Since specialty trucks are in lower supply and greater demand than non-specialized trucks, logistics involving these vehicles is often likened to musical chairs. This is because a trucking company must make sure there are enough trucks to go around, in addition to making sure the trucks are available at the necessary times and places.

Import/Export Transportation Logistics

Importing and exporting goods adds another layer of coordination to logistic transportation. Logistics services make sure shipments are delivered to ports, loaded onto ships or airplanes, and tracked while being transported overseas by shippers. Again, all this is done in the most efficient and timely manner possible, making sure everything is ready to go when the outbound ship or airplane is scheduled to leave and everything is ready to receive when the inbound ship or airplane is scheduled to arrive.

In sum, logistic transportation is the process of coordinating transportation in the most time and cost-efficient way. By coordinating with ships, airplanes, trains, and warehouses -- and using sophisticated computer programs -- companies can transport cargo where and when they need it.

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