JULY 24, 2017 – The American Waterways Operators has released a new study that documents the contribution that the American tugboat, towboat and barge industry makes to the U.S. economy.
The study, developed through a cooperative agreement between AWO and the Maritime Administration (MARAD) and conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, explores the industry’s economic contributions to employment, gross domestic product, and taxes at the national and state levels; details the types and quantities of vital commodities transported on American waterways; and compares waterborne transport to other modes of freight transport in terms of efficiency, environmental impact and public safety.
One indication of the industry’s size that emerges from the study is that in 2014, there were 5,476 tugboats, towboats, and push boats and 31,043 barges operating on the U.S waterways.
The study estimates that, in 2014, the industry spent a total of $2.2 billion on new capital assets including new vessels, structures, and equipment, adding 66 new or rebuilt tugboats and towboats and 656 new or rebuilt barges to the fleet. In addition, the industry placed orders with U.S. shipyards for 24 new tugboats and towboats and 10 new oceangoing barges in 2014,
Highlights from the PricewaterhouseCoopers study include:
Jobs and GDP. The tugboat, towboat and barge industry supports over 300,000 jobs nationwide – including 50,000 in the industry itself, 38,000 of which are on board vessels – and has a total annual impact on GDP of $33.8 billion.
Cargo moved. The industry annually moves more than 760 million tons of cargo that fuels the American economy, including critical commodities like petroleum, agricultural products, chemicals, coal, and manufactured goods.
Efficiency and environmental benefit. One inland dry cargo barge can haul 1,750 tons of dry cargo, the equivalent of 16 bulk rail cars or 70 tractor trailers, with greater fuel efficiency and fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
AWO President & CEO Tom Allegretti commented:
“AWO could not be prouder to unveil this PricewaterhouseCoopers study thoroughly quantifying what the dedicated men and women who make up the tugboat, towboat and barge industry have long known, from decades of first-hand experience —The extent to which maritime freight transport serves as a critical pillar of the American economy. We are especially pleased to have partnered with MARAD to produce this invaluable resource, and we look forward to using it to educate policymakers, the media, and the public about the role this industry plays in fueling our nation’s prosperity.”
MARAD Executive Director Joel Szabat commented:
“The maritime industry enables the movement of goods and cargo quickly, efficiently, and at low cost between producers and markets along our nation’s waterways. Waterborne commerce opened up our nation to trade and helped transform a fledgling democracy into the economic superpower it is today. Energy efficient water transport continues to play a pivotal part in our nation’s transportation system and helps make America’s economy more competitive.”
Read the PricewaterhouseCoopers study HERE
Tennessee is all about transportation. Let’s count the ways:
- The state is blessed with a geographic location that places it at the heart of commerce in the United States. It borders eight states, more than any other except Missouri, which also borders eight.
- Tennessee’s highway network is unmatched. The state has access to eight interstate highways that put 60 percent of the nation’s population within a drive of 11 hours or less. I-40 runs across Tennessee for 455 miles – more than any other state – and that stretch of interstate frequently is rated as the best maintained in the U.S.
- Its air connections are top-notch, too. Memphis International is the busiest cargo airport in the western hemisphere. The state also has some 1,000 miles of navigable waterways, and six Class 1 railroads.
- More than 265,000 Tennesseans work in the transportation, logistics and distribution industry at companies as diverse as Walmart, Averitt Express, Norfolk Southern, Nike, and Macy’s, according to the state Department of Economic and Community Development.
- Building and maintaining the state’s transportation infrastructure supports more than 71,000 full-time jobs, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, including more than 35,000 directly involved in construction and related activities.
- The trucking industry, itself, accounts for more than 180,000 jobs, including nearly 75,000 truck drivers, per a Memphis Business Journal report.
- Tennessee’s largest publicly traded company – FedEx – is a transportation behemoth with more than $50 billion in revenue. Its Memphis hub sprawls over 862 acres, making it the largest sorting facility in the world. Its 42 miles of conveyor belts handle 1.3 million to 1.5 million packages every night, shipping them to 220 counties and territories across the globe.
- In East Tennessee, the state’s two largest privately held companies also are transportation-related giants. Pilot Flying J, with some $23 billion in revenue, operates more than 650 travel centers in 43 states and Canada, employing some 24,000, and is the No. 1 seller of over-the-road diesel fuel. HT Hackney is one of the country’s biggest distributors of wholesale food and retail items, delivering some 30,000 different products to more than 20,000 locations in 22 states. Its revenues top $4 billion, and it has some 3,400 employees.
- At the University of Tennessee, the Center for Transportation Research has been operating for 45 years and is now an internationally recognized center of innovation, with more than $10 million in sponsored research under contract. It plays a critical role in supporting the Tickle College of Engineering’s training of the state’s future transportation professionals.
- At UT’s Haslam College of Business, its graduate concentration in supply chain management is rated eighth best in the nation in the U.S. News rankings. That’s just behind Stanford University (but Stanford’s tuition is $66,540 per year, and UT’s is a bargain at $24,834 in-state and $43,252 out-of-state).
All of these are good reasons to dedicate this edition of the Greater Knoxville Business Journal to the topic of transportation and logistics. And there are plenty more, several of which you can read about inside.
Tennessee is on a roll, and the transportation industry is a big reason why.
When a US customer turns on a light switch, ‘99.98’ times out of 100, it will turn on. However, if a US customer raises their cell phone to get service, there’s only an 86% chance they’ll get a signal.
In our 2017 Utility Customer Study, we explored the topic of electric utility reliability, both in comparison with other service providers and with other electric utility attributes. The results were not as intuitive as one might think.
Finding 1: Cell phone providers are regarded as being more reliable than electric utilities
Research Finding. We asked respondents to select a word (out of 14) that they felt best described their electric utilities. Words selected most often were ‘ordinary’ and ‘reliable,’ followed by ‘competent,’ ‘up-to-date’ and ‘boring.’ There were also words that were never selected: ‘sophisticated,’ ‘intelligent,’ ‘exciting’ and ‘imaginative.’ To get a relative sense of performance, we asked the same question about the customers’ cell phone providers. Cell phone providers outperformed utility providers across all of the top-ranked positive attributes (‘reliable’, ‘competent’ and ‘up-to-date’). Most significantly, 8% more customers viewed their cell phone provider as ‘reliable’ than their electric utility.
Interpretation. When a system is already at >99% reliability, it is more difficult to impact customer perceptions through incremental improvements. In contrast, a cellphone provider that builds cell towers to increase coverage in a dead zone can impact a consumer’s experience quite significantly, creating a lasting impression of increased reliability.
Utility Communications Opportunity. Not only can utility providers remind customers of the near-perfect reliability of their service, but the fact that it is offered at a very affordable price shows that electric utilities are unparalleled in their operational excellence. The notion that electric utilities provide unbeatable, affordable reliability may not yet engender appreciation by consumers today, but it is no coincidence that 80% of respondents do NOT believe they spend too much on electricity.
Finding 2: The more ‘reliable’ that electric utilities were in a given region, the less ‘up to date’ they were.
Research Finding. We broke down the research findings by regions: West, Midwest, South, and Northeast. Ironically, there was an inverse relationship in the way customers ranked their utility as reliable and up to date; the more reliable they viewed their utility, the less up to date they found it. This negative correlation was most significant among all possible word pairs.
Interpretation. In regions where weather-related reliability has been an issue, people tend to pay more attention to their electric utilities and their efforts to restore service. As a result, any improvement in outage experience that a customer witnesses over time – e.g. better outage reporting and notification, improved time to restoration, etc – the more ‘up to date’ the utility is perceived to be. In fact, the ‘up to date’ experience may also have nothing to do with the outage itself – e.g. learn about our clean energy options – but it is the fact that customers try to reach out to their utilities that successfully exposes them to the messaging.
Utility Communications Opportunity. Reliability has been a table stake for utilities for decades, but being ‘out of sight’ (i.e. no incident) has led to being ‘out of mind’ among many utility customers. Proactively messaging on up-to-date topics that the 2017 Utility Customer cares about – e.g. clean energy solutions, DIY tools – is an important way to align innovative thinking with utilities’ core value proposition of reliability.
The following is an edited excerpt from “The Circular Economy: A Wealth of Flows” by Ken Webster (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2015).
Introduction: A circular economy has profound consequences for production, employment, education, money and finance but also induces a shift in public policy and taxation.
The economic advantage of this model lies in designing out waste, enabling access over ownership and favoring radical resources productivity, with the prospect of rebuilding natural capital and resilience. “The Circular Economy: A Wealth of Flows” provides a thorough overview of this regenerative model. This second edition [published in 2017] contains the following entirely new chapter, expanding on the role of digital, on how we see the world, how the economy really works and how we can act within it.
The circular economy is built on a feedback-rich systems perspective. This perspective was born out of computing. Previously, dreary and difficult manual calculation of what happens when the output of dynamic equations is fed back in as new input, time after time, meant the process did not usually go very far and the results were of limited use.
We already had the mathematics, the non-linear equations, just not the means to iterate them hundreds and thousands of times and to display the output meaningfully. The first modeling of real world systems emerged in the decades after WW2; modeling that is, which hadn’t been reduced to some oversimplified clockwork or “pipework.” It was not only a genuinely new way of seeing the world, but it became a new way of acting within it.
The potential for business models around products of service lies with what digital feedback does to disrupt the old relationships
In the late sixties, this systems worldview brought the first “big picture” take on the world of material resources, energy, population and economic growth, Limits to Growth (1972). A whole new landscape appeared, and by the late 1970s, so did a whole new language too: of tipping points, fractals, attractors, power-law relationships, topographies and the “butterfly effect.”
The “circular” in circular economy is a cipher for feedback, for closing the loop, but revealed in the light of the economy being part of an open system — bathed in the energy from the sun — and where decay and disorder are every bit a reality as regeneration and restoration. It’s a contrast to the analogy of economy as machine — extract-make-and-dispose. The only feedback is monetary.
Digital meets systems
Information and communications technology (ICT) and the circular economy have a very deep relationship quite apart from this big picture/different system orientation. The very means through which we can imagine prosperity in a circular economy is through a digital-meets-systems perspective.
The additional materials and energy related feedback loops illustrated so often in the circular economy “butterfly” diagram can be seen as a reflection of the possibilities emerging from this digital revolution. The feedback loops have long existed, yet before the digital revolution, they were relatively underdeveloped in a modern economy, swamped by throughput (the amount of material or items passing through a system or process).
These loops are now revitalized, perhaps even transformed (or they will be!) If Bill Clinton once insisted that “It’s the economy, stupid,” then a new prosperity or direction looks like this: “It’s in the feedback, stupid.
“The potential for business models around products of service, the sharing economy, product life extension and reuse, repair and reverse supply chains lies with what digital feedback does to disrupt the old relationships. If we know what is happening during all stages of the creation, the use of a product, its next use, the relationship with consumers and users in ways which were not possible before, then Elon Musk’s approach to Tesla is no surprise since it is more like software-with-wheels embedded in a navigation system than anything automotive.
Many people used to think that a circular economy shift was about materials and energy prices and availability, but in the future, it will seem as if resources price spikes were just the prompt to accelerate the application of digital and a systems perspective more broadly.
Digital pioneer Kevin Kelly considers that in the future, “everything which can be shared, will be shared.” He is anticipating a very different relationship: one of decentralized, on-demand services. “Moving from products to service is part of a broader trend, a shift to this new world where things are liquid. This liquidity is something that shapes and informs all the other trends. We have things that are flowing, we have the ability to decentralize things, we have the sense that things are always moving, in flux.”
It is this optimisation question that brings us back to the idea of stocks as well as flows. In the standard two cycles circular economy diagram [above], there are clearly two kinds of capital illustrated:
- On the biosphere side is natural capital. The focus here is to grasp and implement the systemic sort of thinking that points to regenerative agriculture as absolutely key. This can be added to a complementary system where materials cascade, from coherence to dissolution. It is the consumption cycle, after all, heading for regeneration through the soils, in the oceans and so on.
- On the other side is the user cycle. In the use pathway, the technosphere, it is maintenance of capital that is the key proposition, as Walter Stahel Stahel noted long ago. But here is also where the digital effects can be greatest. In redesigning on the basis of the user experience, the service for the user, then, by definition, the bulk of the materials here are directed to products which are used to provide services but are not used up, or at least can be kept in service as long as it is appropriate and at high utilisation rates.
In that sense, Kevin Kelly’s intuition seems to be a real direction of travel, at least for all the physical tools we use every day: the major white goods, telecoms, transport, buildings, offices and equipment. It is a perfect match for the eco-systemic thinking on the biosphere side to see ICT focused on creating easy convenient access to products and assets.
Overall it helps design out the throwaway society by shifting the consumption element to being a contribution to a regenerative cycle and the durables, to emphasize use, not consumption — while accepting that a cascade applies here too: from order to (eventual) disorder. The end point in the technosphere is clean molecules, ready for rebuilding products and infrastructure.
So, digital can be good news for knowledge, materials and energy. Shall we carry on the acceleration of its deployment? It would be impossible to stop it. Perhaps this mix of convergent technologies, an associated worldview, a refreshed economic lens is some sort of sign of a renaissance for our times. It seems there is much more at stake than physical resources.