This Week in Logistics News (May 27-31, 2013)

After a cold and wet holiday weekend, summer has arrived with a vengeance, with temperatures in the 90s yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Time to put away the turtlenecks and find my bathing suit.

It was a relatively quiet week for news, but here’s what caught my attention:

Descartes reported Q1 FY14 results this week. Revenues increased 14 percent and net income increased 8 percent compared to Q1 FY13. The company has achieved 34 consecutive quarters of profitability, and it has more than 146,000 parties connected to its Logistics Technology Platform exchanging more than 4.5 billion messages each year — a statistic that underscores the ongoing rise of supply chain operating networks.

On the 3PL front, Greenbriar Equity Group LLC acquired Transplace from an affiliate of CI Capital Partners, who together with Transplace’s management team bought the company from its original owners in 2009. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Under CI Capital Partners, Transplace made several acquisitions to grow its business and service footprint, including Celtic International, SCO Logistics, and Torus Freight Systems (now Transplace Canada). I assume we can expect more of the same with the new owners, based on the following quote from Jill Raker, Managing Director at Greenbriar:

“Transplace has an outstanding executive leadership team, an excellent customer base, and a differentiated set of logistics solutions. By partnering with Tom Sanderson, George Abernathy, Rich Hyland and Steve Golich, along with the rest of the Transplace management team, we expect to further grow the company across the full range of its service offerings to continue providing value to existing and new customers [emphasis mine].”

In technology news, Supply Vision has partnered with FindMyFreight.com, a web-based shipment tracking aggregator. According to the press release, “FindMyFreight.com will augment Supply Vision’s existing Transportation Management Systems though a simple API, allowing Supply Vision’s customers to track shipments from multiple carriers through their existing customer portal.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced this week “a new policy concerning vehicle automation, including its plans for research on related safety issues and recommendations for states related to the testing, licensing, and regulation of ‘autonomous’ or ‘self-driving’ vehicles.” According to the press release, NHTSA’s policy addresses:

  • An explanation of the many areas of vehicle innovation and types of automation that offer significant potential for enormous reductions in highway crashes and deaths;
  • A summary of the research NHTSA has planned or has begun to help ensure that all safety issues related to vehicle automation are explored and addressed; and
  • Recommendations to states that have authorized operation of self-driving vehicles, for test purposes, on how best to ensure safe operation as these new concepts are being tested on highways.

The NHTSA has also defined five levels of vehicle automation (starting with Level 0), with the highest level being Full Self-Driving Automation (Level 4), defined as, “The vehicle is designed to perform all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip. Such a design anticipates that the driver will provide destination or navigation input, but is not expected to be available for control at any time during the trip. This includes both occupied and unoccupied vehicles.”

Click here to download a copy of the NHTSA’s statement of policy on automated vehicles. The bottom line is that this announcement points to a big reality in the market: the development and testing of “self-driving” vehicles is progressing very quickly, and while industry executives expect fully-autonomous vehicles to be widely available by 2025, I’m betting it will happen sooner. For related commentary, see “Beware, Driverless Cars are Everywhere!

Finally, an article in the Wall Street Journal this week poses an interesting question: Is it better to cut ties with a supplier that doesn’t meet expectations — whether it’s safety standards, quality metrics, or other important factors — or is it better to work with them to improve? The answer is “It depends,” like so many other things related to supply chain management. Food for thought for a future posting, but I’d welcome your thoughts on the question, so post a comment and share your viewpoint.

Have a happy weekend!

Song of the Week: “This Ladder is Ours” by The Joy Formidable

Note: Descartes and Transplace are Logistics Viewpoints sponsors.

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