In it for the long haul?

Many companies rely on long-haul trucking to transport goods around the country. In many ways this is a flexible and efficient way to transport goods.  However, there is an ongoing shortage of long-haul truck drivers.  The job is unattractive for some people because it can involve long, difficult hours and many nights away from home, making it difficult to build a stable home life.

One alternative is short-haul trucking. Instead of drivers taking one load on a long journey, they could instead carry a load to a transfer point, then return home (hopefully with another load).  Loads are carried long distances by being transferred from truck to truck, and drivers are able to return home to one location each night.

A trucking company wants your team to investigate whether a switch to an all short-haul system is viable.  This company transports loads between the 10 of the largest metropolitan areas in the US central time zone: Austin TX, Chicago IL, Dallas/Fort Worth TX, Houston TX, Jackson MS, Memphis TN, Milwaukee WI, Minneapolis/St. Paul MN, Oklahoma City OK and Omaha NE.

 (1) Develop an estimate for the number of truck loads entering and exiting each of the above cities on an annual basis. Estimate the number of loads traveling between each pair of the above cities each year.

 (2) Estimate the number of drivers necessary to transport the loads in your estimate. Remember, driving distances should be limited so that roundtrips can be in one day (if possible). If you find it necessary to designate additional locations as transfer points between distant cities, make sure you indicate this.

(3) Compare your proposed short-haul network to a long-haul system where each driver takes the load the entire distance. Is the short-haul system competitive financially?

Your report should be understandable to the company executives who will consider your suggestions.  Explain your results and the methodology used to develop them.  Indicate the extent of uncertainty in your conclusions, sensitivity to changes or errors in available data and areas for potential improvement given additional resources.


You may find the following link helpful.


Problem submitted by Paul Taylor, an associate professor in the department of mathematics at Shippensburg University, Pennsylvania.