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Logistics Intelligence Brief
Wednesday, September 14, 2022


Pressure building in Washington to avert rail strike

The Journal Of Commerce Ari Ashe September 13, 2022


Pressure was building in Washington Tuesday as the hours ticked down to a potentially crippling rail strike that would halt all cargo moved by the US’ five Class I railroads. That pressure was coming from both the White House and Capitol Hill ahead of a strike by workers or lockout by management early Friday.
While some sources who spoke to JOC.com believe a resolution will be reached, others have said the two largest unions — the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and Sheet Metal Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD) — will not budge on their concerns about working conditions, including sick time, attendance policies, and how often employees must be on call.
The White House revealed Tuesday that President Joe Biden called the two unions and railroads on Monday to urge the sides to avoid a work stoppage.

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White House Explores Rail-Freight Alternatives as Possible Strike Looms

The Wall Street Journal Andrew Restuccia et al. September 13, 2022


The White House is assessing how other transportation providers could fill potential gaps in the nation’s freight network as labor unions and railroads continue contract talks to avert a potential labor stoppage this week.
Companies are making contingency plans to ship goods, while their trade groups have called on lawmakers and the White House to act quickly to resolve the matter. The American Petroleum Institute, in a letter to congressional leaders on Tuesday, said the restrictions on hazardous materials that began this week ”could have profound impacts on the ability of our industry to deliver critical energy supplies.”

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Freight rail strike threatens supply chains, prompting White House planning

The Washington Post Jeff Stein et al. September 13, 2022


President Biden was briefed on the matter Tuesday morning, after he called the carriers and unions on Monday to press them to accept a deal, a White House official said. Senior officials at the White House are now leading daily meetings with the Departments of Agriculture, Transportation and Energy and other top agencies about how to mitigate the impact. Biden aides in particular are working to ensure that hazardous materials carried by rail are safely transported without hurting workers. The White House actions were described by multiple people with knowledge of the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal planning.

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Everything you need to know about the looming railroad strike

The Washington Post Hamza Shaban et al. September 13, 2022


When could the strike begin?
A federally mandated “cooling-off” period ends Friday, which opens the possibility of a strike, if employees refuse to go to work, or a lockout, if the carriers refuse to let workers do their jobs.
The nationwide rail shutdown is set to go into effect after midnight on Friday, and the Biden administration has already begun preparing for a potential crisis. But the disruptions are already unfolding.
Labor and management have been at an impasse over difficult issues such as sick time and penalties for missing work. If the parties can’t come to an agreement, the lockout would mark the first such strike in about three decades.

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Viewpoint: Moving toward disaggregation in the maritime and rail industries

Freight Waves Jake C. Russell September 13, 2022

Freight transportation makes up nearly 10% of U.S. national emissions. Modal shift — shifting loads from less efficient to more efficient modes of transportation — has long been seen as a key strategy to decarbonizing freight. For example, moving goods by rail is about four times more efficient than truck in terms of energy per ton-mile, in large part due to the significantly lower rolling resistance between steel wheels and rails compared to rubber on road. Water transport is even more efficient, using on average five to six times less energy than a truck moving the same load.
Despite these drastic differences in energy use, 60% of all freight moves in the U.S. — 2.3 trillion ton-miles — are done by truck, according to the DOT Freight Analysis Framework. A significant fraction of these are last-mile journeys — trips less than 100 miles — which are often only able to be performed on the road. However, 90% of middle-mile trips — 100 to 250 miles — and even about 50% of long-haul journeys — more than 250 miles — are still done by truck (see below).

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USA Truck shareholders greenlight DB Schenker deal

Transport Dive Edwin Lopez September 13, 2022

USA Truck cleared an internal hurdle in its sale to DB Schenker, as shareholders voted to approve the deal on Monday, according to a securities filing.
The $435 million deal, which was announced on June 24, would fold USA Truck into DB Schenker’s Land Transport Division in the Americas Region. It would also take the company of roughly 2,100 employees and 1,900 trucks private.
When shareholders met on Sept. 12, they approved the deal with more than 6.4 million votes for the proposal, compared to roughly 10,000 votes against it. Now shareholders have approved the sale, the deal between USA Truck and DB Schenker is expected to close on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022.

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Independent Owner-Operators And Small Trucking Companies Market Analysis

LinkedIn Dr. Jason Miller September 13, 2022

Remember the “Great Purge” of independent owner-operators and small trucking companies that received headlines from FreightWaves in June (https://lnkd.in/gy5EPasS)? While the official government statistics for trucking establishments operating in June won’t be released for three more months, last week we received the establishment count data as of March 2022 from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. QCEW represents a census of employer establishments (i.e., it is the universe of operations with at least one employee). Since most trucking firms operate one establishment, number of establishments is a good proxy for number of firms.
Implication: through March 2022, we saw no evidence that a “Great Purge” in trucking companies began. I trust population level data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that are derived from state-level unemployment insurance tax filings much more than reporting talking to a few firms.

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DAT Trendlines

DAT.com September 13, 2022

Truckload spot rates and load to truck ratios for the week of September 5 to 11, 2022.

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Off-price retailers shift tactics as inventory gluts squeeze the industry

Supply Chain Dive Sarah Zimmerman September 13, 2022

As businesses aggressively pursue markdowns to clear excess inventory, off-price retailers are now finding themselves in direct competition with brand name stores.
Burlington Stores, Ross and Nordstrom Rack are among those that have experienced declining demand as consumers seek discounts at big-name box stores such as Target and Walmart. To keep up, off-price stores are now slashing prices even further and trying to improve their product assortment.
“The promotional environment has gotten so aggressive in such a short period of time that we need to make the move on [marking down] the goods,” said Ross CEO Barbara Rentler on a Q2 earnings call. “Otherwise, we’re not offering the customer the value that she wants and needs.”

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Discounts could fuel unprecedented holiday shopping season

Axios Kelly Tyko September 13, 2022

Meanwhile, economists at Deloitte have a different forecast and predict growth of 13.5% in e-commerce sales this holiday season, pushing sales up to $262 billion, according to a new report out today, Axios’ Kate Marino reports.
• The expected e-commerce growth is in stark contrast to overall holiday sales, which Deloitte estimates will grow by a smaller 4%–6% — less than the current annual inflation rate (8.5%).
By the numbers: Consumers say they will spend less as they watch their budgets.
• 41% of Americans are planning to spend less this holiday season compared to 2021, according to a recent survey by Trustpilot, a consumer reviews platform.
• Nearly 30% plan to reduce holiday spending by up to 20%, but 20% plan to reduce spending by more than 50%.
Related: CNBC Holiday shopping season expected to be muted as inflation squeezes shoppers

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Number of Female Technicians in Transportation Remains Low

Transport Topics September 13, 2022

The percentage of female technicians working at transportation companies remains low, the Women In Trucking Association (WIT) Index found Sept. 12.
The 2022 WIT Index found approximately 13.7% of all the drivers surveyed are female. The index also found that 3.7% of technicians in transportation companies are women.
“There is a severe shortage of diesel technicians and women can play a role in addressing this need,” WIT President Ellen Voie said in a statement. “Our foundation provides scholarships to women seeking training in this area as well and we make every effort to promote this career to women.”

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Amazon to Fund Raises for Delivery Drivers Amid Tight Labor Market

The Wall Street Journal Danna Mattioli September 13, 2022


Amazon.com Inc. said it is planning to raise pay and benefits for its delivery partners, as the e-commerce giant gears up for the peak holiday season amid a persistently tight labor market.
The company will invest $450 million to fund wage increases and other benefits for delivery drivers employed by members of its Delivery Service Partners network, it said in a release. The company started the program in 2018, encouraging entrepreneurs to start their own fleets of drivers with initial investments of as little as $10,000.
Other benefits as part of the new initiative include up to $5,250 a year for drivers to pay for educational programs, and financial support for a 401(k) investment plan for drivers.

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Kentucky targets commercial motor vehicles with driver-focused cameras

Land Line SJ Munoz September 13, 2022

Kentucky authorities say the use of driver-focused cameras is an effort to limit distracted driving in commercial motor vehicles. Meanwhile, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association said it is apprehensive about the practice.
The Laurel County Interstate 75 northbound weigh station is the first location equipped with the driver-focused cameras.
Installed by Perceptics, these driver-focused cameras are said to capture near real-time, high-resolution images of the vehicle, license plate, U.S. DOT and KYU numbers and inside of the cab. These images are then sent to the Kentucky Automated Truck Screening system for officers to identify if a vehicle inspection is needed, according to the Perceptics website.

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Tesla’s Autopilot Heads to Trial

Bloomberg Malthi Nayak September 13, 2022


Ten seconds before Jeremy Banner’s Tesla Model 3 plowed into the underbelly of a tractor-trailer, he switched on Autopilot. The crash killed the father of three when the top of his car was sheared off, so there’s no way to know exactly what happened that Friday in March three years ago. But an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board found that Banner probably didn’t see the truck crossing a two-lane Florida highway on his way to work. Tesla’s driver assistance feature apparently didn’t see it either. At least not in time to save the 50-year-old’s life.

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Electric vehicles are one option for less-polluting big-rig trucks

National Retail Federation Scot Case September 12, 2022

Long-haul trucks present significantly more complex challenges. They travel thousands of miles along routes that can change dramatically on very short notice: A truck carrying a load of products from a distribution center to a retail store might get diverted to another store location after departing the distribution center, if the other store suddenly has a greater need for the products.
The distances long-haul trucks must travel along less predictable and highly flexible routes means that any fuel used to power the trucks needs to be widely available and easily accessible across broad geographies. That makes transitioning away from diesel particularly challenging for this use-case scenario currently.
Further complicating the transition to less-polluting, alternatively fueled vehicles are the challenges and costs of maintaining a fleet of non-standardized vehicles. In a traditional truck fleet composed only of diesel-powered trucks, maintaining a supply of routinely needed truck parts for repairs and maintenance is fairly easy because the parts to maintain one truck typically fit all the other trucks.

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