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Logistics Intelligence Brief
Monday, January 10, 2022

Trucking

Top LTL executives see continuing upward rate pressure on shippers in ‘22

Logistics Management John D. Schulz January 7, 2022

Top trucking executives say their relentless rise in costs for everything from new and used trucks to fuel and driver pay will cause them to continue to ask shippers to pay more for freight services in 2022.
How much more? That depends on individual shipper demands, their freight characteristics, and how their tonnage fits into a carrier’s overall freight demand scheme.
“There will be many different influences at play when it comes to the conditions of the LTL marketplace in 2022,” Kent Williams, who assumed retiring Phil Pierce's position of executive vice president of sales and marketing, at Averitt Express, the nation’s 13th-largest LTL carrier, told LM.

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FedEx Warns of Shipping Delays as Omicron Hurts Staffing Levels

The Wall Street Journal Paul Ziobro January 7, 2022

Subscription-Based

“The explosive surge of the COVID-19 Omicron variant has caused a temporary shortage of available crew members and operational staff in the FedEx Express air network,” the company said in service alerts this week.
Severe winter storms around the country, including at its main air hub in Memphis, Tenn., are also posing challenges, FedEx said, adding, “The health and safety of our team members is our top priority.”
FedEx is enacting contingency plans to minimize service disruptions, including diverting packages for its Ground division to deliver.

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Parcel delivery’s phantom peak-mageddon

Freight Waves Mark Solomon January 8, 2022

To reinforce its message, UPS conducted a U.S. consumer survey in late October, which found that 95% of respondents said they would get a head start on holiday shopping if sales and promotions were launched earlier in the season. About one-quarter of respondents planned to finish their shopping before Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving when the traditional holiday cycle kicks off, compared to 17% in 2020. Approximately 60% of respondents said they planned to finish their shopping two weeks before Christmas, up from 52% in 2020.
The survey data “helped us to collaborate with our business customers and demonstrate not only the need to promote earlier in the season, but also the consumers’ willingness to buy into early promotions,” Zaccara said.
UPS and FedEx also set clear capacity parameters for customers early in the year, unlike 2020 when shippers found late in the game that there was little, if any, room at the delivery inn. While customers weren’t thrilled with capacity limits, they at least had time to develop contingency plans, said John Haber, head of the parcel unit of consultancy Transportation Insight LLC. Shippers will need to incorporate the reality of capacity limitations into future peak season planning because UPS and FedEx “are not budging” on the policy, Haber said.

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Workforce

US delivery employment soars as trucking slips

The Journal of Commerce William B. Cassidy January 7, 2022

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Less-than-truckload (LTL) companies added 800 employees in November, according to the non-adjusted BLS data. LTL trucking companies are still 8,200 employees short of their December 2018 high-water mark but have added 28,900 jobs since May 2020. LTL trucking executives have made workforce development a top priority in 2022, as they struggle with higher-than-normal employee turnover.
The data underscores the split between large long-haul for-hire carriers, whether truckload or LTL, and their smaller, short-haul counterparts. Local general freight trucking employment, which has increased since February, lost 500 jobs in November, the BLS data shows. But local trucking employment was up 7.2 percent in November, compared with a 2.8 percent increase for long-haul truckload.
Related: Freight Waves Employment report: More trucking jobs in December than 2 years ago

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Employers, Investors Take Notice of AI Tools to Speed Job Recruitment

The Wall Street Journal Angus Loten January 7, 2022

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Trucking company U.S. Xpress Enterprises Inc. uses conversational AI software to handle most of the early stages of the hiring process, including text exchanges with job applicants, said Amanda Thompson, the Chattanooga, Tenn.-based business’s chief people officer. When job seekers submit an application via a mobile device, the AI tool automatically replies with a series of preliminary questions, she said.

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Shippers/3PLs

While trucking expands into the final mile, Walmart eyes the final inch

CCJ Jason Cannon January 7, 2022

Walmart says the role of associate delivery driver is a new, up and coming full-time position in Walmart with InHome associates earning an additional $1.50 per hour over the average rate at their stores. To be considered for the service, an associate must have worked in a local Walmart store for at least a year and have undergone multiple background checks.
“This new role is yet another example of how technology is enabling us to offer new career opportunities that just didn’t exist a few years ago,” said Julie Murphy, executive vice president and chief people officer, Walmart U.S.
For drivers, it sounds like a pretty sweet gig: tooling around probably only a few miles from your store (delivery radius varies by area); dropping off carrots and whatnot (dog food and socks in my case); and getting to check out all the trendy and cool interior decor ideas around your neighborhood.

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Industry

New Studies Find Unprecedented Impact from Supply-Chain Turmoil

The Wall Street Journal Lydia O'Neal January 7, 2022

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The St. Louis Fed’s analysis seeks to measure the impact the turmoil of the past two years has had on an increasingly critical piece of the global economy.
Prices for moving goods by ocean from China to the U.S. West Coast swung more than 72 percentage points from an early-pandemic low to a peak in 2021’s third quarter of more than 50% above the long-term trend for container shipping rates, researchers at the regional Fed bank wrote in the report released this week.
That compares with a 41 percentage-point swing in the aftermath of the recession triggered by the 2007-2008 financial crisis, when shipping prices peaked in 2010 at just over 14% above the long-term trend, according to the report, which used import data from the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis and an index of freight rates from a shipping service provider.

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U.S. rail carload and intermodal volumes are mixed for December 2021, reports AAR

Logistics Management January 7, 2022

Intermodal containers and trailers—at 1,224,780—fell 8.2%, or 109,729 units, annually. Total December U.S. rail carload and intermodal volumes—at 2,360,615—was off 3.1%, or 75,811 units—annually.

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Is there an end in sight to supply chain disruption?

Financial Times Harry Dempsey January 8, 2022

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Bob Biesterfeld knows the depths of the global supply chain crisis first hand — he has hauliers still unloading Halloween costumes from containers at the Los Angeles and Long Beach port complex.
For the boss of CH Robinson, North America’s largest freight broker, the delayed shipments of vampire, ghost and witch outfits provides the perfect illustration of the turmoil in ocean shipping for the past 18 months. About 90 per cent of world trade moves by sea, and these logistical woes have tormented businesses across the globe from Argentine winemakers to Sri Lankan clothing producers.

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Supply-Chain Issues Leave New Homes Without Garage Doors and Gutters

The Wall Street Journal Nicole Friedman January 9, 2022

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Home builders have increased activity in the past year in response to robust home-buying demand and a shortage of homes in the existing-home market. In many cases, the surge in demand in late 2020 and early 2021 overwhelmed builders, forcing many to halt sales in some markets while they caught up.
Now the industry is struggling with global supply-chain woes. Pandemic-related factory closures, transportation delays and port-capacity limits have stymied the flow of many goods and materials critical for home building, including windows, garage doors, appliances and paint. Freezing weather and power outages in Texas in February led to a shortage of resin, which is used in many home-building products.

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Government/Safety/Sustainability

Younger Driver Pilot Program: DOT Takes First Steps

Truckinginfo.com Deborah Lockridge January 7, 2022

The Biden administration is trying to fast-track a new pilot program to bring younger drivers into the trucking industry through an apprenticeship program.
It's All About the Data
The FMCSA is asking for emergency permission to collect data from the motor carriers in the program in order to report the following to Congress.
1. The findings and conclusions on the ability of technologies or training provided to apprentices as part of the pilot program to successfully improve safety;
2. An analysis of the safety record of participating apprentices as compared to other CMV drivers;
3. The number of drivers that discontinued participation in the apprenticeship program before completion;
4. A comparison of the safety records of participating drivers before, during, and after each probationary period; and
5. A comparison of each participating driver’s average on-duty time, driving time, and time spent away from home terminal before, during, and after each probationary period.

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Technology/Innovation

Level 4 Autonomous Vehicles Expected to Take Hold in 2024

Transport Topics Connor D. Wolf January 6, 2022

Autonomous vehicles on the higher end of the technological scale may only be a couple of years away from greater adoption, panelists said at a CES 2022 session Jan. 5.
Vehicles with autonomous capabilities typically are organized in classes, with Level 5 being the highest. Level 1 is the lowest class of automation and is defined by including a single automated system for driver assistance such as steering or cruise control. Level 4, on the other hand, does not require human interaction in most circumstances. But a driver still has the option to manually override.

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Robot Trucks Get U.S. Tests, Raising Self-Driving Safety Stakes

Bloomberg Keith Laing January 9, 2022

The push to get driverless trucks on the nation’s roadways comes as safety concerns and the pace of development has delayed the adoption of fully autonomous passenger vehicles. Tesla Inc. has come the closest with its Autopilot feature, a driver-assistance system, but is the subject of a probe by U.S. auto safety regulators. Legislation the industry says it needs to get more fully autonomous vehicles on the road has been stalled in Congress.
Questions over safety are amplified by the thought of 18-wheelers weighing 80,000 pounds (36,300 kilograms) barreling down U.S. highways. Safety advocates say the technology is still unproven and may lead to more fatal crashes, given that 12.6% of all crashes on U.S. roads in 2020 involved a large truck, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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