California State University, Long Beach
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Fifth Urban Freight Conference Adds More International Flavor

Published: October 1, 2013

Artwork by Dann Froehlich
Banner artwork by Dann Froehlich of Dann Froehlich Design

There will be a slight change to this year’s METRANS Urban Freight Conference—it’s truly gone international.

Previously known as the National Urban Freight Conference, the event has been more aptly renamed the International Urban Freight Conference (I-NUF) to better reflect the global nature of the conference, its themes, and presenters.

The conference, hosted by METRANS, will take place Oct. 8-10 at the Westin Long Beach Hotel and provides a forum for sharing emerging, multi-disciplinary research on all aspects of freight in metropolitan areas. The conference regularly draws researchers as well as representatives from industry and government.

“It truly has an international feel,” said Thomas O’Brien, director of Research for CSULB’s Center for International Trade and Transportation (CITT) and one of the event organizers. “It did before, but now it’s by design. We really felt we would have a truth-in-advertising issue if we said it was only a national urban freight conference. Because of the range of papers we hoped to solicit through the call for papers and the fact that we’ll be highlighting the kickoff of our Center of Excellence, this conference will have a significant international flavor.”

The Center of Excellence in urban freight research, called METROFREIGHT, was funded through a $3.7 million grant provided by the Volvo Research and Educational Foundations to the METRANS Transportation Center, a joint partnership of CSULB and the University of Southern California (USC). The center, working with CSULB and USC researchers as well as researchers in New York, Paris, France and Seoul, South Korea, will look at ways to streamline the transportation, handling and storage of goods in city centers while working to reduce the impact on traffic congestion, air quality and urban livability.

At the previous Urban Freight Conference in 2011, there were proposals from a handful of countries, but this year, researchers and practitioners from 17 nations submitted more than 120 presentations and papers. O’Brien anticipates an increase in attendance to go along with the new research, special sessions and site visits.

“One of the reasons we had decided to do this every two years is because of the academic research cycle,” said O’Brien. “By the time a project is proposed, funded, implemented and written about, it takes a lot longer than a year, so by going to a two-year cycle, we get newer papers which improved our marketing and attendance because people knew they weren’t coming to look at the same presentations. We’ve become a go-to conference in this particular discipline.”

The keynote luncheon speaker on Wednesday, Oct. 9, will be Charles Holland, vice president of engineering at United Parcel Service. He will offer perspectives on emerging trends in local package delivery including the impacts of e-commerce and home shopping on the urban freight business.

Featured in the spotlight luncheon interview on Tuesday, Oct. 8, will be Jake Racker, regional logistics director at Kroger Co. He will be interviewed by CSULB’s Mat Kaplan and discuss recent changes in distribution for the grocery industry especially in the area of automation.

That interview will tie into this year’s I-NUF site visit on Thursday, Oct. 10, from 12:30 to 5 p.m., with a tour of the Ralphs Grocery Co. Distribution Center in Paramount and the Alameda Corridor, a 20-mile freight rail expressway linking the Port of Long Beach and Port of Los Angeles to the transcontinental rail network near downtown Los Angeles.

“By connecting the first and the third day more explicitly,” O’Brien said, “I think that will be something that’s new and welcome. And it’s one way for people who can’t go on the site visit to get a sense of how the conference ends and how we try to tie it all together. It addresses the changing nature of distribution in the grocery industry, how technology has impacted it and how demand for new products has impacted it.”

O’Brien also noted that another area that will be closely looked at during the conference are first-mile/last-mile issues, referring to how products get to individuals particularly since there is a trend in more frequent, smaller deliveries.

“The last mile issue sometimes conflicts with the quality of life people expect,” he said. “People want to be able to park easily and don’t want interference with trucks, but at the same time they’re demanding that these trucks and vans deliver things to them quickly and often.”

There will also be numerous concurrent sessions throughout the first two-and-a-half days of the conference, covering a variety of industry-related topics. Clcik here for a full conference agenda..

For more information, call 562/985-2876 or e-mail Alix Traver.

The METRANS Transportation Center was established in 1998 through the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) as the first University Transportation Center in Southern California. METRANS is a joint partnership of CSULB and the University of Southern California.

–Shayne Schroeder