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Charleston Business

New tech is helping the ultra-busy logistics industry keep costs down

Jan 16, 2019 11:02AM ● By Kathleen Maris
By Richard Breen

Too much business is a good problem to have, and that’s what the logistics sector expects to continue into 2019.

“I think conditions will still be strong,” says Rick Todd, president and chief executive of the S.C. Trucking Association. “Business expansion in general will continue to tighten trucking capacity.”

Todd says cost pressures, from diesel prices to driver shortages to rising insurance and labor costs, will get passed on to trucking customers.

“It forces our customers to try to find efficiencies,” he says.

Which may not be a bad thing, according to Suzanne Dickerson, director of logistics initiatives with the S.C. Council on Competitiveness.

“That is exciting for us because a lot of these efficiencies are being achieved through technological advances,” she says.

Dickerson says becoming more efficient will also benefit the industry if economic growth tapers.

Not that a cooling is expected anytime soon. The S.C. Ports Authority is planning for a 5 percent increase in container volume on top of a record 2018.

“The upsizing of vessels on the weekly services calling S.C. Ports has been a major driver of increased volumes, and growth of both manufacturing (exports) and population (imports) were also drivers of SCPA’s growth,” says Kelsi Childress, a SCPA spokeswoman. “The automotive industry, including import parts/components/tires and export finished vehicles, as well as export plastics from the Gulf [of Mexico] and agriculture products from the Midwest, are areas of particular strength for the port’s container business.”

In addition to operating the Port of Charleston, the Ports Authority has opened inland port facilities in Greer and Dillon, using rail to disperse containers passing through the port.

“We are also planning for strong volumes at both inland port facilities this fiscal year,” Childress says.