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December 15, 2017
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Logistics costs at a turning point

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This year's edition of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals' "State of Logistics Report" finds evidence of dramatic change in the drivers of U.S. business logistics costs.

The annual release of the "State of Logistics Report" is a big event. The annual research paper, issued by the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) and presented by Penske Logistics, is the only report to provide a comprehensive, quantified view of logistics' place and influence in the U.S. economy. In addition, it reviews developments of the past year that have affected business logistics costs in various categories, including transportation, inventory, and business administration.

The current iteration of the "State of Logistics Report"—the 27th—incorporates several changes. This is the first time the consulting firm A.T. Kearney has authored the report; previously, it was written by transportation analyst Rosalyn Wilson, who took over in 2004 following the death of the original author, Robert V. Delaney. There are some new data sources, and some calculation methodologies and assumptions have been modified. Also new this year are: a narrative about the economic environment impacting logistics; insights from shippers, carriers, and analysts; and a strategic overview of the state of the industry.

Fittingly, this year's report is titled "Logistics in Transition: New Drivers at the Wheel." That title reflects not just the changes mentioned above but also—and more importantly—the authors' finding that the drivers of business logistics costs changed significantly in 2015. Strong growth in business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce shifted more volume (and a bigger share of shippers' budgets) to parcel and express. A decline in demand for coal and falling oil prices led to a drop in spending on rail and pipeline transportation, and lower fuel prices drove down fuel surcharges in all modes. Overall, U.S. business logistics costs rose just 2.6 percent from 2014 to 2015, a little more than half the average annual increase from 2010 to 2014.

The report identifies other profound changes on the horizon. Consumers and e-commerce, the authors say, may eventually replace energy as the principal factor in transportation costs. Moreover, the rising cost of capital is pushing up inventory carrying costs even though inventory levels remain flat. Infrastructure shortcomings, new technologies, operational constraints like regulations and driver shortages, and accelerating demand for greater speed and accuracy will also place new pressures on shippers, carriers, and logistics service providers, the report suggests.

To help you keep up to date with these and other developments, CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly has published this, its seventh annual special issue on the "State of Logistics." Our cover story summarizes some key points from the 2016 "State of Logistics Report." We follow that with sector-by-sector analyses by respected consultants and analysts of trucking, rail, ocean, and air transportation; warehousing; inventory; technology; and third-party logistics. These analyses don't always agree in every detail with each other—or with the "State of Logistics Report," for that matter—but they all have one thing in common: They'll keep you informed about major trends and how you might respond to them, now and in the future.

This article was revised and updated on August 26, 2016.

Toby Gooley is Editor of CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly.

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