I have a fondness for the letters ‘P' and ‘Q,' having used them in writing since the 80s. For trucking, the most important ‘P' is Profit, of course. While the economy has grown slowly, it has allowed transportation companies to remain profitable and for the value of stock to increase. The Dow Jones Transportation Average is over 9,000 now, where as it was under 6,000 in 2012.
Another important ‘P’ is Plan. Last week, DOT Secretary Foxx mentioned the importance of a future plan when talking at the annual Transportation Research Board meetings of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine. You can view the draft National Freight Strategic Plan. Not all plans are well thought out. Over a hundred years ago, the Panama Canal was built. Just last year, a ten-year plan to enlarge the canal was completed, allowing ships with 13,000 TEUs to go through (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units). Too bad ships with 18,000 TEUs have already docked in the USA and approximately 50% of the cargo ships on order are larger than the canal can handle. Also turns out that such large ships are very efficient on the sea, but muck up the ports when trying to transload the containers to trucks. This story reminded me of the basics of manufacturing flow as taught by Edward Deming and popularly discussed in the book “The Goal” where a single choke point in the manufacturing operation messes things up.
The plan many of us are interested in is the plan to fix the decaying infrastructure of roads and bridges. This plan has a few ‘Ps” as well. While most of us are familiar with Paying taxes (another ‘P’) and, maybe, know something about 3PLs (3rd Party Logistics), the industry and politicians are going to kick it up a notch and make it 3Ps for Public-Private-Partnerships. Perhaps it’s a recognition that politicians (oops, another ‘P’) are not the best to make long range plans. It certainly is a recognition that the public (yes, another ‘P’) can’t be paying for everything and we need private business to have some profit potential to invest in the future.
Let me end with two other ‘Ps’ that drive our industry. People and Parcels. People need parcels. Parcels contain everything from food and medicine to phones and pens and pointers. As long as our global population continues to increase, we are going to need to create and deliver more parcels to larger places. Just remember to "mind your P’s and Q’s."