Land Footprint for Freight Distribution

Land Footprint for Freight Distribution

Source: adapted from A. McKinnon (2009) “The Present and Future Land Requirements of Logistical Activities”, Land Use Policy, Vol. 26S, pp. S293-S301.

The land footprint of freight distribution takes two major dimensions:

  • Transportation. Both modes and terminals consume space for the setting of their respective infrastructures. The footprint of infrastructures such as roads and ports can be extensive, particularly in large metropolitan areas where global material flows converge. The true transportation footprint for freight distribution is difficult to assess as many infrastructures, such as roads and airports, are dominantly used for passenger movements and can thus be considered as shared facilities.
  • Storage. Include various facilities to hold freight in inventory such as bulk storage facilities (e.g. oil reservoirs or grain silos) and warehousing facilities for break-bulk. Distribution centers are particularly space-consuming as a wide array of added value activities are performed, including consolidation and deconsolidation, cross-docking and storage. Specialized facilities, such as cold storage, are also to be considered.

The footprint to supply this system with energy (such as petroleum and electricity) is considered as external since the same energy system is used to supply a whole range of economic activities outside freight distribution (e.g. passenger cars).

There has been a convergence in the use of transportation assets for logistical purposes, all of which trying to rationalize scarce real estate assets, which include:

  • Inland ports. Facilities commonly designed in co-location with terminal infrastructures (particularly rail) and offering a wide array of logistical infrastructures and services. They partially compensate for pressures in the footprint of port terminals.
  • Inventory at terminal strategies. They use the storage capacity available at terminals as a temporary buffer within freight distribution systems part of inventory management. This is also been referred as “terminalization”.
  • Inventory in transit strategies. Consider using the storage capacity available while in the transport process. The mode thus becomes a mobile warehouse and part of inventory management strategies as long as the flows have a good level of reliability.