According to a recent article in the journal of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, it is time to re-design the distribution of freight to reduce cost and environmental impact. Current practice relies on using existing facilities, which were located according to location of raw materials and the markets for them.
When freight containers were introduced in the 1960s, existing ports were expanded to accommodate the larger ships but these ports were usually not well related to the final markets. Transportation hubs to distribute the goods were usually located in areas of low labour costs, regardless of the haulage distances. Because of this, over 40% of imports are transported to a distribution centre in the East Midlands and then forwarded to a final destination in south east England.
Now that freight transport has become much more costly financially and environmentally, it makes sense to locate container ports with their own distribution networks nearer to the final destination of the imports. A number of studies into freight distribution have been conducted over the past few years, and some of them will be discussed at the European Transport Conference in Glasgow from 10th to 12th October.