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Supply Chain Innovation Lab projects address Florida’s freight and logistics network

TAMPA – Researchers with the University of South Florida Supply Chain Innovation Lab at the Muma College of Business have completed two sister projects aimed at helping to improve the state’s freight transportation and logistics network.

Both projects, funded by the Florida Department of Transportation, address the need for more robust freight and logistics systems to support the state’s growing population and attract more companies to the state.

These projects were led by Seckin Ozkul, principal investigator, and Rob Hooker, who served as co-principal investigator. Both are faculty in the School of Marketing and Innovation within the Muma College of Business. 

In one project, researchers identified prime locations in the state that would be attractive to freight, manufacturing, and logistics companies looking to set up their business in Florida.

These potential transportation and logistics hubs, described as a Logistics Activity Center (LAC), are clustered in industrial land use areas and are ideal for companies that have high freight activity and need an efficient and effective way to transport their goods, according to the report.

image of seckin ozkul

“What we are after are shovel-ready sites. We developed criteria for a successful Logistics Activity Center and pinpointed areas where companies can make freight-friendly infrastructure investments,” said Ozkul, an assistant professor of instruction and the director of the Supply Chain Innovation Lab, which is within the Monica Wooden Center for Supply Chain Management and Sustainability in the Muma College of Business.

Researchers created a heat map, that includes all of Florida’s 67 counties, showing the locations with a “high” and “very high” LAC development potential.

image of land use map

“The findings of this study are extremely useful in locating optimal LAC spots at a county level,” Ozkul said. “As a result, it will help local and state agencies attract businesses to Florida and to maximize the economic development potential of the state.”

The research project, titled “Florida Department of Transportation Land Use Analysis to Enhance Successful Logistics Activity Center Development in Florida,” was funded with $267,243 in federal dollars.

Trade Imbalance and Empty Backhauls

The second project coincides with the land use mapping project by examining ways to reduce the costs associated with having truck drivers deliver goods to Florida consumers but are leaving the state with empty or partially-empty loads.

This truckload imbalance adds to the logistics cost of each trip and leads to increased costs to the consumer. Researchers studied data from truck weigh-in-motion stations located throughout the state of Florida, and also near the Georgia and Alabama border. 

“Shippers are charging us to bring commodities to Florida, but they are also charging us for the return trip. We’re trying to help the public pay less for the same goods by reducing the number of empty backhauling trucks,” Ozkul said.

Part of the project examined the state’s skilled workforce data to determine whether upcoming industries have the workforce to support increased production and thus, alleviate the empty backhauling issue.

image of state map

“There is a lot of potentials for Florida to alleviate the empty backhauls through our workforce and upcoming industries and technology. We just need to come up with out-of-the-box incentives and an educational component,” he said.

That research project, titled “Florida Department of Transportation Identification of Prospective Solutions for the Florida Trade Imbalance and Empty Backhauls,” was funded with $239,900 in federal dollars.

More Research on the Horizon

On a related note, researchers in the Supply Chain Innovation Lab recently started work on two additional projects.

“Both projects will add to the supply chain management literature and advance the larger understanding of supply chain management and logistics in Florida, in the U.S., and in the world,” Ozkul said.

  • One project is collaborating with Texas A&M University to reduce the number of commercial heavy vehicle trips needed to carry the same volume of cargo, with the goal of increasing vehicle trip efficiency, reducing roadway congestion, and maximizing economic savings.
image of supply chain center

The project “Cargo Optimization to Reduce Commercial Heavy Vehicle Trips on the Roadway and Its Economic Savings,” is being funded by the National Institute of Congestion Reduction, a national University Transportation Center. The total project budget is $135,700 and the USF portion is $50,000.

  • The second project is working to identify locations for truck staging areas in the Tampa Bay region to accommodate short-term parking so truck drivers can safely wait for their delivery window. The lab is also tasked with researching policies and regulations that may be necessary for these truck parking facilities.

The project “Geospatial Identification of Truck Staging Needs in the Tampa Bay Region and Its Economic Impact” is funded by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). The $137,793 project will encompass FDOT’s District 7 which covers Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas counties.

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