Pilot Website Seeks to Lower Iowa Companies’ Shipping Costs

December 8, 2017 | Working together: Companies, Iowa schools mutually benefit from partnerships John Wahlert, Logistics Supply Chain Manager, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC, WahlertJohn@FirestoneAg.com

If your industry is like mine, you’re constantly looking for inefficiencies to eliminate so you can maximize productivity and improve profitability. And if your business ships goods internationally as does my employer — Bridgestone Americas — then you may have noticed an inefficiency when you schedule a shipment:

The trucker brings in an empty container, and you'll fill it and ship it back to the port. Meanwhile, other companies are importing containers into the state full of goods from around the world — and then hauling them back empty.

This is a significant, statewide inefficiency — and it makes no sense. Approximately 50,000 containers are coming into the state each year and many of them are leaving empty.

Today I’m asking for your help. There’s a new website called Container Locator (www.containerlocator.com) that enables companies to track down these empty containers, contact the ocean carrier and negotiate lower shipping rates by utilizing containers that would otherwise leave the state empty.

The website is currently in the pilot phase. From a technical standpoint, we know it works. The site uses a patent-pending process to purchase U.S. Customs data on shipping containers and quickly publishes the data in a searchable, online database.

Now we need companies like yours to integrate Container Locator into their shipping processes and put the website to the real-world test. Ultimately, companies like ours need to demonstrate a savings to our shipping costs from the use of this site.

Once we can demonstrate savings — and I believe we can — then we can prove the concept of the Container Locator website and make it a permanent tool in Iowa exporters’ toolbox.

Can you imagine the efficiency? Even if we could fill just half of the containers currently leaving the state empty, we would dramatically reduce the number of trucks on the interstate, reduce the carbon footprint of the shipping industry, and we would be money ahead to boot.

John Wahlert is the logistics supply chain manager for Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC. He is the chair of the Freight Roundtable of the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), where the idea for the Container Locator was first conceived in 2014. Bridgestone Americas Tire Operation is the U.S. subsidiary of Bridgestone Corp., the world’s largest tire and rubber company. BSAM and its subsidiaries develop, manufacture and market a wide range of Bridgestone, Firestone and associate brand tires to address the needs of a broad range of customers, including consumers, automotive and commercial vehicle original equipment manufacturers, and those in the agricultural, forestry and mining industries.