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Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Logistics Intelligence Brief

Shippers/3PLs

Automation software maker targets 3PL customer service inefficiencies (Subscription Based)

The Journal Of Commerce Eric Johnson June 8, 2021

An automation-focused logistics technology startup on Tuesday said it has created a set of customer service-oriented bots designed to minimize resources that third-party logistics providers (3PLs) spend attracting and retaining shipper customers. RPA Labs, a Colorado-based company cofounded by ex-Catapult International CEO Matt Motsick, released the array of tools to automate interactions between 3PLs and their customers, vendors, and internal teams. The bots are built using a type of artificial intelligence (AI) called robotic process automation (RPA), which marries historical data and a library of logistics terminology compiled by RPA Labs to answer a range of questions, including for spot quotes, track and trace status, shipping line sailing schedules, and customer service inquiries. The platform, called RPA Engage, is designed to reduce the resources 3PLs, both domestic and international, dedicate to manually answering queries, whether by email, phone, or web portals. RPA Labs' tools, Motsick told JOC.com, are designed to interface with existing software used by 3PLs, including transportation management systems, visibility systems, rate management systems, and broader business management systems. The bots answer queries as a customer service chatbot would on a typical website, only they’re able to respond to complicated questions that involve pulling historical and real-time data from numerous systems and contextualize the response. The bots can be set up to respond on company websites, social media channels, text/SMS, and third-party applications.

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Walmart, Target Unveil Own Versions of Amazon Prime Day

Transport Topics/Penn Live Deb Kiner June 8, 2021

Not to be outdone, Walmart and Target have announced they will hold big sales that will compete with Amazon Prime Day. Amazon announced last week that Prime Day(s) will be held June 21-22. Walmart’s “Deals for Days” will kick off June 20 and continue through June 23. Target’s “Deal Days” are June 20-22.

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Brands turn to air cargo as inventory delays continue

Supply Chain Dive Edwin Lopez June 8, 2021

Whether it is semiconductors, jeans, masks or vaccines, many of the products in high demand at the moment can be shipped by air in the case of a disruption. For many shippers, though, bringing in goods by airfreight can significantly increase expenses. Peloton spent $100 million to speed shipping, including the use of airfreight and expedited ocean shipping. The logistical flexibility airfreight provides has been a lifeline and a boon for air cargo providers reeling from the pandemic. "Air freight has been in nonstop peak-season mode despite pandemic-induced capacity decline, while other disruptions, such as the Suez Canal blockage, drove even more demand to air," Matt Castle, a vice president of air freight products and services for C.H. Robinson, wrote.

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Government/Safety/Sustainability

Biden to investigate transportation supply/demand ‘mismatches’

Freight Waves John Gallagher June 8, 2021

To address those disruptions, one of the recommendations by the authors of the report — Jake Sullivan and Brian Deese, assistants to President Joe Biden — is that the administration establish a new Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force, to be led by the secretaries of Commerce, Transportation and Agriculture. It will focus on areas where there has been evidence of a “mismatch between supply and demand” within the transportation sector, along with the homebuilding and construction, semiconductor, and agriculture and food sectors. “The Task Force will bring the full capacity of the federal government to address near-term supply/demand mismatches,” the report states. “It will convene stakeholders to diagnose problems and surface solutions — large and small, public or private — that could help alleviate bottlenecks and supply constraints.” The task force recommendation comes at a time when spot rates for transportation capacity in the trucking and container shipping sectors have soared due to surges in demand as the country recovers from the pandemic.

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Speed limiter debate starts anew with new bill controlling heavy trucks

Logistics Management John Schulz June 8, 2021

The Cullum Owings Large Truck Safe Operating Speed Act would codify into law a “speed limiter” rule that’s been under consideration for more than a decade. The bill is named for 22-year-old Atlanta resident Cullum Owings, who was killed in a car-truck collision in 2002 while returning to college. The legislation was long-championed by former Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson. It is endorsed by the Truckload Carriers Association, the Trucking Alliance, AAA, the Institute for Safer Trucking, Road Safe America and the Safe Operating Speed Alliance. “Millions of motorists are within a few feet of 80,000-pound tractor trailer rigs each day and there is no reason why that equipment should be driven at 75 or 80 or 85 miles per hour,” said Steve Williams, chairman and CEO of Maverick USA, Little Rock, Ark., co-founder and president of the Trucking Alliance and also a former chairman of the American Trucking Associations. OOIDA said large carriers’ use of speed limiters is primarily for fleet management purposes – a tool single truck operators and small fleets don’t require. OOIDA sees their effort to speed limit independent truckers as nothing more than an attempt to eliminate one of the few economic advantages small-business truckers currently enjoy. “Drivers hate speed limiters because of the operational and safety problems they create,” Spencer explained. “Large carriers would love nothing more than to ensure every truck and carrier is stuck with these devices, so their drivers stop fleeing for jobs at more trucker-friendly carriers,” Spencer added.

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President Biden Ends Infrastructure Talks With Senate GOP Group

The Wall Street Journal Andrew Duehren et al. June 9, 2021

President Biden called off an effort to reach an infrastructure compromise with several Senate Republicans after progress stalled, shifting his focus to a separate set of negotiations with a group of Republicans and Democrats in an effort to salvage a bipartisan deal on the issue. At the same time, Senate Democrats signaled they were preparing to move at least part of an infrastructure package forward through a process relying on only Democratic support. Weeks of discussions between Mr. Biden and a group of six Republicans had left the two sides still deeply divided on the size of an infrastructure package and how to pay for it. An exchange of offers last week did little to resolve the major disputes, with Republicans continuing to reject Mr. Biden’s ideas for raising revenue and the White House arguing that the Republicans’ counteroffers were too small.

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Industry

4 types of billion-dollar weather events tested supply chains in 2020

Transport Dive Shefali Kapadia And S.L. Fuller June 1, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic took center stage for supply chains in 2020, but it was far from the only risk event. Last year set a record of 22 weather and climate disaster events, each costing at least $1 billion, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information. The previous record for billion-dollar events in a year was 16, in 2017 and 2011. The costs of 22 events of 2020 combined exceeded $96 billion in damages. The combination of frequent natural disasters and the pandemic magnified the disruptions to supply chains, said Jon Davis, chief meteorologist at Everstream Analytics. "You had all these storms and all these weather events last year, then you had an underlined base state of COVID," Davis said. "It just multiplies the impact of all of those things."

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Long controversial and now cooking, LaserShip rides the parcel-delivery wave

Freight Waves Mark Solomon June 9, 2021

LaserShip was launched in 1986 as a document-delivery company. The dot-com boom of the late 1990s eventually pushed the Vienna, Virginia-based concern into the parcel-delivery world. Since then, it has assembled an impressive geographic footprint for a self-styled regional carrier. Privately held LaserShip’s ground-delivery network spans 23 states in the East and Midwest, as well as the District of Columbia. It operates 54 distribution centers and four sortation centers. LaserShip blankets the East Coast from Maine to Miami, serves markets as far west as Indianapolis, and offered seven-day-a-week deliveries long before it was mainstream. Its addressable market is believed to be about 107 million American consumers. It is exclusively a business-to-consumer (B2C) provider, with typically a one- to two-day delivery window. It does not use airfreight. It generated $715 million in 2020 revenue, according to SJ Consulting Group, a consultancy. Late last month, LaserShip added Tennessee to its network with service to Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville. The Tennessee service will increase LaserShip’s overall delivery coverage by 18%, the company said.

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Workforce

Job Openings Surge to Record 9.3 Million in April

Associated Press/Transport Topics Paul Wiseman June 8, 2021

U.S. employers posted a record 9.3 million job openings in April with the U.S. economy reopening at breakneck speed. The number of job openings soared 12% from the 8.3 million counted in March. But employers hired just 6.1 million, up 1% from March, according to a Labor Department report June 8, suggesting that positions are opening faster than companies can fill them.

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