2021 Georgia Logistics Summit Tackles Lessons from 2020; Highlights Georgia’s Leadership on Road Ahead

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

The Georgia Center of Innovation for Logistics, a division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD), presented the first-ever virtual Georgia Logistics Summit (galogisticssummit.com), with hundreds of participants from across the state gathering online for the event. This year’s Logistics Summit, held on March 23, featured several industry experts who shared insights about the pandemic’s effect on supply chains and logistics, issues affecting trucking, and Georgia’s leadership on the road forward

]The Georgia Logistics Summit was created in 2009 to bring together all aspects of the logistics industry, and has grown to become one of the Southeast’s most important logistics and supply chain-centered events.

“Whether you needed a vaccine, a Peloton Bike, or toilet paper in 2020, logistics was front and center. I applaud Georgia’s investment in the Center of Innovation as they help grow logistics expertise in Georgia companies and facilitate the connections that bring the products you need to your local store or front door,” said moderator Alan Amling, Ph.D., an executive advisory board member at Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute (GTMI) and a Distinguished Fellow at the Global Supply Chain Institute at the University of Tennessee.

Amling moderated two panels, “Resiliency in Crisis and Lessons Learned,” and “Impacts of Overnight Spike in e-Commerce.” These panels featured leaders from Fulfillment.com, Irving Tissue, The Home Depot, and XPO Logistics, with topics ranging from improved efficiencies and reverse logistics to shifting customer expectations and opportunities outside core business operations.

Amling explained that logistics has “transitioned from a tactical function to a strategic priority” as companies seek to be resilient in times of crisis and opportunistic as e-commerce changes the face of retail. He suggested that Georgia companies can “put the lessons learned [from featured panelists] to use this week.”

Keynote remarks were delivered by President and COO Rebecca Brewster of Marietta-based American Transportation Research Institute, who provided national and state trucking perspectives. Brewster’s presentation included top concerns among the trucking industry, including the need to prioritize recruiting and training new truck drivers due to the shortage, the need for additional truck parking, and other areas including insurance costs.

Brewster also contrasted the Truck Activity Index from Georgia versus Michigan. In Georgia, thanks to the diversity of the state’s economic base, Georgia’s truck activity drop-off in spring 2020 was still approximately 25 points less than the drop-off experienced in Michigan, where manufacturing carries a larger portion of the state’s economic base and the work stoppage in manufacturing was longer due to the state’s pandemic response. At the conclusion of her remarks, Brewster reminded participants that comprehensive, free industry data is available at truckingresearch.org

Governor Brian P. Kemp made a special point to thank the industry for setting the pace to keep Georgia’s economy on the right track despite a global pandemic. Via video, he highlighted the economic development records set during the first half of fiscal year 2021, including $6 billion in economic development projects and expansions. Kemp credited the “hardworking Georgians across industries who keep Georgia products moving through our state and around the world – our truckers, logistics engineers, equipment operators, and transportation managers,” for their work in helping keep Georgia the No. 1 State for Business.

The 2021 Summit focused on numerous issues transforming the trucking industry and offered panels that honed in on the ongoing logistical impacts and acceleration of technology due to COVID-19, national and state trucking trends and issues, and fulfillment and delivery impacts of COVID-19 on both retail and last-mile aspects of online shopping.

Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry, P.E., praised the efforts by the Georgia Freight and Logistics Commission and touched on innovation already underway in Georgia with traffic signal connectedness and improvements in the freight industry through in-cab updates to keep drivers informed with timely updates that help keep them and others safe and freight moving on time.

McMurry also highlighted the I-75 Commercial Vehicle Lanes project from Macon to McDonough. This project, the first-of-its-kind in the nation, will improve mobility and safety for freight operators and passenger vehicles by constructing barriers separated commercial vehicle-only lanes northbound along I-75. The already heavily traveled corridor currently sees approximately 12,000 commercial vehicles every day, and that number is projected to double within the next 30 years.

During the “Shifts and Acceleration of Technology in the Trucking Industry” panel moderated by McMurry, executives from Estes Express Lines and RoadSync discussed everything from the acceleration of easier, contactless payment transactions to addressing staffing concerns during the brief deceleration early in the pandemic, and quickly shifting gears again by adding new staff.

The Summit also included remarks from GDEcD Commissioner Pat Wilson, who acknowledged the dramatic rise in e-commerce during the pandemic and the resulting growth in fulfillment and distribution centers, food processing facilities, and other large projects with needs based on timeliness and access to consumers.

Georgia became one of the top ten largest exporting states in 2020, and Wilson thanked industries for their innovative mindsets and the partners and leaders across Georgia in business and government who have been future-focused to develop Georgia’s ports, railways, roads, and additional infrastructure for the smooth movement of goods.

Home to 85% of third-party logistics companies, Georgia is ranked No. 1 for infrastructure and access to global markets by Area Development. The state is also home to the busiest and most efficient airport in the world, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, and the fastest-growing port in the U.S. at the Port of Savannah. In addition, Georgia offers a robust rail and highway infrastructure, with 1,200 miles of interstate highways, including I-75, I-85, I-95, and I-20, and 20,000 miles of federal and state highways, and 5,000 miles of rail.

“One of the ways we fulfill our mission at the Georgia Center of Innovation for Logistics is by providing opportunities like this to inform the industry of activities and trends that might inspire innovation in your companies,” concluded Georgia Center of Innovation for Logistics Director Sandy Lake.

Participants are invited to next year’s in-person Summit in Macon, Georgia, on March 16, 2022. For additional information on the 2021 Georgia Logistics Summit and to stay up-to-date on next year’s plans, visit galogisticssummit.com.