A series of ongoing and increasingly more volatile threats across many fronts will face global supply chains and the trucking networks that support them in the years ahead-- ranging from high fuel prices and a capacity shortage to cargo theft, terrorism, and the impact freight transportation has on the environment.

Addressing all of those issues simultaneously and successfully will be a major struggle for any company involved in transportation, but especially for truckers, according to John Coyle, professor emeritus of supply chain & information systems at Penn State University. How to tackle all the issues confronting trucking will be the focus of its 19th Annual R. Hadly Waters Supply Chain Symposium to be held next week on April 22 and 23 by Penn State.

"The continuing shift of manufacturing operations in the U.S. to other countries has created a consumer nation that is heavily reliant on freight transportation systems," Coyle said . "These result in increased pressure on both gateways and inland transportation to meet growing freight transportation needs.

"Our transportation infrastructure is fast approaching its capacity, and capability to invest in this system is limited," continued Coyle. "In addition to these constraints, the fluctuation of fuel prices and concerns over global warming make transportation a major concern of today’s supply chain strategies. Both the transportation and freight industries now are making fundamental changes in their operation strategies."

"This is an environment that encourages open discussions on how to solve today's supply chain challenges," noted Bob Novack, associate professor at Penn State's Smeal College of Business and an organizer of the symposium, which is entitled "Managing the Risk and Complexity of Transportation in Today's Global Supply Chains."

Chris Lofgren, president & CEO of Schneider National and a keynote speaker at conference, added that after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and the recent quadrupling of fuel prices, it is easy to see how vulnerable transportation is to the effects of global influences.

"We live in very interesting times," Lofgren said. "Most of us have not navigated troubled waters such as these in our professional lives. While many effects continue from the early days of [trucking] deregulation, both time and special circumstances surrounding this deep recession will create new challenges as the economy turns around, and the industry must face growing regulatory, environmental, and general cost pressures."