Why The Future Of E-Commerce Depends On Better Roads

by Michelle Brown

In the cavernous basement of the Olympic Building, a line of boxy, dark brown delivery trucks rolls out to the early-morning streets of downtown Los Angeles, a chorus of tires squeaking across smooth concrete. Five floors up, in the UPS district president’s office, Noel Massie allows himself a brief moment of contentment as he feels the building vibrate around him and then fall still with the last of his fleet’s departures. This is the reassuring physical signal that his part of the never-ceasing, get-it-now economy has successfully turned one more notch on its endless loop — a cycle repeated at 2,000 similar United Parcel Service delivery hubs around the country and the world.

It is fair to say that Massie’s days are dominated by two things: trucks and minutes. He has too many of one and too little of the other, with 2 million shipments hanging in the balance every day. He is the door-to-door economy incarnate. His fiefdom is the southern half of California, from the Mexican border to Fresno, plus Hawaii, southern Nevada, and western Arizona. Massie’s purview includes an array of far-flung distribution centers, truck terminals, an international airport, and 20,000 employees. He serves a customer base of Amazon-using, iPhone-buying, one-day-delivery shopaholics, along with many of the businesses that serve and sell to them. But his relentless delivery schedule is up against a landscape of traffic and sprawl seemingly designed to make daily drop-offs and pickups all but impossible. Read more at Harvard Business Review.