By Eric Kulisch
TRB steps on State of the Union
The Transportation Research Board held its week-long annual conference in Washington the last full week of January. I found it odd that several committee meetings and panels were scheduled to run in the evening until 9:30 or later on the same day that President Obama gave his State of the Union address. The speech started at 9 p.m.
The TRB is a division of the National Research Council, a non-profit institution that disseminates research and provides expert advice on policy and programs to the Department of Transportation and others. The TRB gets DOT support and is closely aligned with the department.
It might have been appropriate to adjourn by 8:30 p.m. or 9 p.m. so that delegates could watch the president address the nation.
Alaska supply chain challenges
An audience member at one of the sessions during the Transportation Research Board annual conference asked Michael Erlandson, vice president government affairs for Supervalu, how the company deals with the unique challenges of stocking its grocery stores in Alaska.
“We haven’t had to get an icebreaker to bring anything in that I’m aware of,” he quipped, in reference to the recent rescue mission in which a U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker cleared the way for a Russian tanker to deliver fuel oil to the blocked-in town of Nome.
Weather and distance between communities are two of the biggest challenges the grocery chain faces, Erlandson said. Stores and warehouses in Alaska tend to keep more inventory than their counterparts in the lower 48 states because next-day deliveries are not the norm.
Centennials and a sesquicentennial
There are several noteworthy anniversaries this year in the freight transportation community.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the largest business organization in the world, is 100 years old this year. It was formed at the request of President Taft, who wanted input from the business sector. The chamber has a finger in every type of policy, including transportation infrastructure, trade and supply chain security. You can see a timeline of the chamber’s history and influence here.
Also celebrating its centennial is the Port of Vancouver, Wash. To learn more, visit the special Website set up to tell its story.
Meanwhile, the Union Pacific railroad turned 150 years old this year. The largest railroad in North America by revenue was created after President Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Act of 1862, which directed the UP and the Central Pacific to construct a transcontinental railroad. The railroad’s history is on display at www.up150.com.