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Logistics Intelligence Brief
Monday, May 22, 2023


Retailers Near Restocking as Inventory Paring Winds Down

The Wall Street Journal Paul Page May 22, 2023


Big retailers are signaling they are nearly done paring back their excess inventories and are preparing to fill their shelves with new merchandise this fall, potentially brightening prospects for freight carriers looking for revived restocking to drive a shipping rebound.
Target Chief Operating Officer John Mulligan said on an earnings conference call Wednesday that the overstocking that weighed on the company last year was “in the rearview mirror” and that the retailer was turning toward getting fresh merchandise into stores for the fall.
“In terms of inventory, we’re in good shape,” Walmart Chief Executive Doug McMillon said on a Thursday earnings conference call. “In-stock is improving, and excess inventory keeps coming down. We see it in the numbers, and I’m seeing it on store and [Sam’s Club] visits.”

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Top US Shippers: Home construction decline drags down HHG import demand

The Journal Of Commerce William B. Cassidy May 19, 2023


Containerized imports of HHG, a category that includes appliances, cookware, furniture and other home-related goods, fell 5.5% in 2022 after leaping 24.8% and 14.5%, respectively, in the previous two years, according to PIERS, a sister product of the Journal of Commerce within S&P Global.
The decline was inevitable after two strong years of gains in containerized imports fueled by what was then booming demand for new housing and consumers with cash to burn during the COVID-19 pandemic. For HHG retailers, it signals a return to more normal sales and seasonality.
Real, non-seasonally adjusted private housing starts — the number of new houses for which construction began — dropped 42.4% from April to December 2022, according to the US Census Bureau. They have since climbed 25% through March but were still down 17% year over year. That’s very close to the seasonally adjusted decline of 17.2% from March 2022.

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Auto Dealers Finally Have Cars to Sell Again

The Wall Street Journal Ryan Felton May 20, 2023


Overall, dealerships had about 1.8 million vehicles in transit or on lots at the end of April, a 50% improvement compared with the same period in 2022—but still about half the stock available two years before, according to data from industry-research firm Wards Intelligence.
U.S. auto sales have remained resilient, mostly because of pent-up demand, and even picked up in the first quarter of this year as inventory levels improved. Buyers are also still paying historically high prices—the average vehicle sold for about $46,000 in April—and the amount of discounting on the car lot remains well below prepandemic levels, according to data analytics firm J.D. Power.

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Pandemic-induced trailer dislocation still hampering US truckload carriers

The Journal Of Commerce Eric Johnson May 19, 2023


Trailer marketplace technology provider vHub estimates that as much as 25% of nationwide dry van trailer capacity has been moved outside of its optimal location. That’s largely due to shippers in different sectors slowing down or speeding their shipment velocities, forcing carriers to move trailers farther outside preferred lanes.
“The trailer pool imbalance was catching up with transportation organizations of all sizes,” JD Redmon, chief revenue officer at vHub, told the Journal of Commerce, attributing the imbalance in part to higher spot rates during the pandemic inducing truckload carriers to expand into new lanes.

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BNSF to expand intermodal service in Texas

Freight Waves Joanna Marsh May 20, 2023

BNSF is increasing intermodal options in Texas by expanding service at the Port of Houston in response to what BNSF says is growing intermodal demand.
The western U.S. railroad plans to add more service options between the Barbours Cut Container Terminal at the Port of Houston, which has on-dock terminal capability, and BNSF’s intermodal facility at Alliance, Texas, which is nearby Dallas-Fort Worth and has benefited from expanded capacity and technology enhancements as well as existing live lift capabilities, according to a Monday release. BNSF is also expanding service between Barbours Cut and BNSF’s intermodal facility in Denver.
The new service, which will start on June 2, “supports greater supply chain efficiency and is made possible due to BNSF’s continued focus on providing access to key markets and enhanced service capabilities for our customers,” BNSF said. “Based on vessel arrival, these new intermodal service schedule updates have the potential to increase in frequency to meet growing intermodal demand at the Port of Houston.”

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POLA and POLB report April volume declines

Logistics Management Jeff Berman May 19, 2023

Total POLA volume—at 688,110 TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units) fell 22% compared to April 2022, which marked the second highest-volume month on record for POLA.
POLA imports fell 25% annually, to 343,689 TEU, and exports were down 12%, to 88,202 TEU. Empty containers saw a 23% annual decline, coming in at 256,220 TEU.
While volumes declined annually, April marked the second straight month of sequential improvements, with March volumes up 28% over February and April volumes up 10% over March. And on a year-to-date basis, total POLA volume—at 2,525,204 TEU—is down 29% compared to the same period a year ago, which represented the highest-volume four-month start to a year for POLA.

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Speed limiter debate rages on as FMCSA weighs mandate

Transport Dive Colin Campbell May 19, 2023

But speed-limited trucks were involved in half as many high-speed collisions as those not using speed limiters, the Truck Safety Coalition argued, citing 2012 Department of Transportation research. And American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear dismissed opposition to capping speeds as “irresponsible.”
“Driving as fast as you can as long as you like kicks safety to the curb,” Spear said in a statement. “Safety is a winning issue and ATA enjoys winning. This issue is no exception.”

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How Will We Know When Self-Driving Cars Are Safe? When They Can Handle the World’s Worst Drivers

The Wall Street Journal Christopher Mims May 20, 2023


Imagine learning to drive in a world that resembles the on-road insanity of “Mad Max” or “The Fast and the Furious.”
In this world, no one is obeying the law, or lane markings, and everyone, from distracted drivers to jaywalking pedestrians, is forcing you to make split-second, life-or-death decisions—on purpose.
Subjecting autonomous vehicles to such a world, say engineers, is precisely how manufacturers and regulators will know that they are ready to be handed responsibility for our very lives.

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