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Logistics Intelligence Brief
Thursday, March 23, 2023


Freight Rebound Hopes Are Fading Under an Inventory Glut

The Wall Street Journal Liz Young And Paul Berger March 22, 2023


Freight demand started slowing midway through 2022 as consumer spending pivoted from goods to services and big retailers found themselves overstuffed with inventories following a pandemic-driven rush to fill store shelves. Transport companies from truckers to container shipping lines have pointed to an anticipated rebound in the second half of this year, saying they expected companies to return to more typical, prepandemic ordering patterns after working through excess inventories.
Darren Hawkins, chief executive of Yellow Corp., one of the largest U.S. operators in the less-than-truckload market, in which truckers combine shipments from several customers in a single trailer, said its customers project that orders will climb in the second half of the year, although “they’re still taking a cautious approach.”

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DAT Truckload Volumes And Spot Rates

DAT Freight And Analytics March 21, 2023

Load-to-Truck Ratio (LTR)
Dry van load posts reversed the downward trend of the prior two weeks following a 4% w/w gain last week. Spot market capacity loosened for the third week, although identical to the previous year, following last week’s 1% increase. The net result was a slight dry van load-to-truck ratio (LTR) increase from 2.03 to 2.09.
Linehaul Spot Rates
Dry van linehaul rates continue to lose ground, decreasing by just under $0.01/mile last week to $1.72/mile. Spot rates continue to track closest with 2019 levels, ending last week at $0.12/mile higher. Based on the volume of loads moved, the average rate for the top 50 dry van lanes was $0.20/mile higher, which averaged $1.92/mile last week. On DATs Top 100 dry van lanes, linehaul rates decreased on 68% of lanes, increasing on only 11% with the balance remaining neutral.

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Knight-Swift, U.S. Xpress deal likely passes Go, ‘near zero chance’ it is a monopoly

CCJ Jason Cannon March 22, 2023

"The industry is still fragmented and we are a long way away from a firm gaining an unfair, dominant position in the market," agreed Tim Kraft, associate professor of operations and supply chain management at the Poole College of Management at North Carolina State University. "Instead, my two takeaways from the merger are: it’s a great opportunity to achieve economies of scale and strengthen their coverage for Knight-Swift; and I think we will continue to see consolidation in the industry. The pandemic demonstrated how critical the trucking industry is to the economy and really reshaped how the industry is viewed – it's a bigger input into companies' strategic thinking now. It's also hurt a number of smaller providers. Building super-sized carriers with real scale and leverage could dramatically reshape supply chains."

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February intermodal volumes see annual declines, reports IANA

Logistics Management Jeff Berman March 22, 2023

Total February volume—at 1,248,569 units—fell 7.3% annually. Trailers—at 61,211—saw a 27.6% annual decline, and domestic containers—at 611,460—were down 4.3%. All domestic equipment, which is comprised of trailers and domestic containers, were down 7.0%, to 672,671. ISO, or international, containers—at 575,898—dropped 7.6%.

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February Trailer Orders Down 2.6% Year-Over-Year

Transport Topics Connor D. Wolf March 22, 2023

U.S. trailer orders fell just shy of 26,000 units in February, falling short of the year-ago total, ACT Research reported.
Preliminary data shows orders decreased 2.6% year-over-year to 25,800 from 26,500, according to ACT. But sequentially they were up 6.1% with the prior month hitting 24,300 units. The year began with orders falling by over half after closing out last year at the second-highest level on record.
“The decline versus last year can largely be chalked up to backlog length,” said Jennifer McNealy, director of commercial vehicle market research at ACT. “Trailer backlogs at the start of 2023 are 50,000 units above year-ago levels. February’s preliminary data shows orders for dry vans and platform trailers driving the sequential uptick.”

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Work Begins to Expand Key Texas-Mexico Entry for Trucks

Transport Topics Noel Fletcher March 22, 2023

Construction at a Texas-Mexico border crossing has begun on a new commercial inspection and processing facility to make it easier and faster for truckers to bring freight through Anzalduas Port of Entry.
After expected completion in 11 months, the Anzalduas International Bridge and U.S.-Mexico land entry port will fully support commercial cargo. Currently, it only receives empty cargo trucks traveling southbound.
New operational facilities there will relieve congestion and pressure at the only commercial bridge (the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge) in the Hidalgo region with Mexico, where an average of 9,300 commercial trucks per week experience long lines waiting some 100 minutes to pass through during peak traffic times.

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Investments in supply chain tech set to see big jump

DC Velocity Susan K. Lacefield March 22, 2023

The 2023 MHI Annual Industry Report, “The Responsible Supply Chain: Transparency, Sustainability, and the Case for Business,” found that 74% of supply chain leaders are increasing their supply chain technology investments—10 points higher than the previous year’s survey (which had also shown an increase). Now in its tenth year, the report is based on a survey of more than 2,000 supply chain professionals.
Link: MHI 2023 Annual Industry Report

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C.H. Robinson going slow on a new CEO

Freight Waves Mark Solomon March 22, 2023

“There are a lot of people scratching their heads as to why this is taking as long as it is,” said a high-level transportation executive familiar with the process.”
Like UPS CEO Carol B. Tomé, who had a deep understanding of UPS’ business after decades of collaboration with The Home Depot Inc. (NYSE: HD), where she was CFO, Barber knows how to bridge shipper-3PL-carrier relationships from his 37 years at UPS.
Brittain Ladd, a prominent logistics consultant, said it “seems strange” that Robinson hasn’t officially selected Barber. “This tells me [Robinson] moves slow or that Barber isn’t the guy,” Ladd said in an email.
Ladd said it’s possible Robinson received pushback from investors who want the company to “do something big by picking a more technologically progressive CEO.”

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US retail sector leads corporate defaults: S&P Global

Retail Dive Nate Delesline lll March 22, 2023

• The tally of corporate defaults this year through Feb. 28 was at its highest since 2009. Retail led the way, with seven out of 23 defaults, or 30% of the global tally, through the end of February, S&P Global Ratings said in a report this month.
• Retail “continues to face challenges from logistics, labor, and supplier cost inflation, all squeezing margins for both retailers and their suppliers. Nearly half of retail issuers rated B- or lower have negative S&P outlooks or credit watch implications. As a result, “further downgrades as well as a potential increase in defaults” is possible, S&P said.

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Homeland Security launches ‘Operation Blue Lotus’ to target fentanyl

The Washington Post Nick Miroff March 21, 2023


The campaign will use new scanning technology, more drug-sniffing dogs and other detection tools to ramp up interdiction efforts and build criminal cases, officials said.
U.S. authorities are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to install powerful new scanning machines along the southern border, including two in Nogales, that will allow for a tenfold increase in the number of commercial vehicles they can screen. But fentanyl remains very difficult to detect.
More than 107,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2021, a record, and two-thirds of those deaths were caused by fentanyl, according to the most recent available data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Link: Department Of Homeland Security DHS’s new Operation Blue Lotus has already stopped more than 900 pounds of fentanyl from entering the United States

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Cooking Oil Shortage Looms as Biofuels Gain Appeal

Transport Topics/Bloomberg Anuradha Raghu March 22, 2023

Biofuels account for a large share of the vegetable oil market but only a fraction of energy demand, Mielke said. He’s concerned that combined biofuel targets are overdoing what the global market for oils and fats can satisfy.
The U.S., Europe, Brazil and Indonesia are responsible for most of the biodiesel, renewable diesel and biojet fuel consumption growth. The U.S. uses a mixture of feedstocks such as soybean oil, rapeseed oil, used cooking oil and animal fats. Europe is producing from wastes, residues and rapeseed oil. Indonesia mainly uses palm oil to produce biodiesel, while Brazil relies on soybean oil.

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