UPS announced plans this week to open a $260 million shipping hub in Plainfield by 2019 – one of the first big logistics investments to come after the state passed its road funding plan.
The repairs and upgrades that $1 billion-a-year funding package will fund with tax and fee increases are a big deal for companies that rely on roads.
Conexus Indiana Vice President David Holt says the funding will give truckers a smoother ride and save his huge industry time and cash.
“It will help with congestion. It’s gonna help with safety,” Holt says. “It’s also gonna help private companies not have to spend as much money on maintenance on their trucks.”
Those savings can be reinvested in expansions like the one UPS is planning in Plainfield.
“I think they were probably looking at that before the funding happened, but now it’s just, you know – it’s gravy,” Holt says.
There are still some obstacles facing the logistics industry. For one thing, Holt says Indiana will get more out of its infrastructure upgrades if neighboring states make similar investments, and if federal regulations can ease interstate commerce across that infrastructure.
And this might sound crazy if you’ve been stuck in a procession of 18-wheelers on I-65 lately, but Indiana needs more truckers. Holt says jobs that require commercial driver’s licenses are the state’s third most in-demand profession.
“It’s hard to recruit folks to go into trucking,” he says. “Part of it’s a lifestyle issue, because some people don’t want to drive overnight and be gone and not see their kids for a couple days.”
He says younger, less experienced workers are especially likely to be saddled with those routes.
Conexus is developing its own certification program to make new CDL holders more employable and cheaper to insure.
It’ll train drivers in the extra skills companies usually have to teach new hires on their own dime – things like backing up into loading docks or driving through alleys.
Holt says they hope to launch the so-called CDL+ program next year.
Most delivery drivers need commercial licenses, too, including at UPS. The Atlanta-based package mover has nearly 10,000 total workers in Indiana. It wants to hire nearly 600 more as part of the Plainfield expansion.