Understanding and Modeling Middle-Mile Logistics Automation

Middle mile logistics, particularly drayage - a specific type of middle mile operation dealing with short-distance movements between transportation hubs and nearby facilities - presents a critical component in the national supply chain. Despite representing a small fraction of the total distance covered in intermodal shipments, drayage incurs a disproportionately large share of the overall shipping cost. In addition, when drayage movements occur in urban areas, they can exacerbate congestion on crowded urban road networks. The emergence of vehicle automation offers exciting opportunities to improve the efficiency, resiliency, and sustainability of drayage operations, yet it has not received adequate research attention. To address this gap, this project will use a mixed method approach - combining qualitative and quantitative research - to assess the potential of automation for drayage operations. On the qualitative side, the research team will carry out interviews and/or focus groups with stakeholders from prominent freight hubs, such as the Chicago metro region to obtain perspectives of practitioners on how automation can enhance middle-mile logistics. Through this, the team aim to glean valuable insights about possible deployment scenarios, and the challenges and opportunities of automation in drayage operations. On the quantitative front, the team will develop an optimization modeling capability to evaluate the impact of automation scenarios on drayage operation performance. The analysis will consider factors like cost, energy consumption, and emissions to comprehensively assess the benefits of automation. To ground the findings, the team will apply the developed optimization model(s) to one or more case studies in the context of drayage operations in the Chicago metro region. By combining the results of this research, the team will attempt to formulate recommendations that outline the possible pathways for drayage automation and related operations management. Ultimately, the outcome of this project will help pave the way for a more efficient and sustainable drayage sector that can significantly contribute to the improvement of the national supply chain.


  • English


  • Status: Active
  • Funding: $361632
  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology

    University Transportation Centers Program
    Department of Transportation
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Managing Organizations:

    Center for Freight Transportation for Efficient and Resilient Supply Chain

    University of Tennessee Knoxville
    Knoxville, TN  United States  37996
  • Project Managers:

    Bruner, Britain

    Kaplan, Marcella

  • Performing Organizations:

    University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC)

    842 W Taylor St
    Chicago, IL  United States  60607

    University of Tennessee, Knoxville

    Knoxville, TN  United States 
  • Principal Investigators:

    Zou, Bo

    Kawamura, Kazuya

    Sriraj, P

    Lin, Jane

    Jin, Mingzhou

  • Start Date: 20230816
  • Expected Completion Date: 20240531
  • Actual Completion Date: 0
  • USDOT Program: University Transportation Centers Program

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01895584
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Center for Freight Transportation for Efficient and Resilient Supply Chain
  • Files: UTC, RIP
  • Created Date: Oct 6 2023 6:09PM