This Week in Logistics News (November 18-22, 2013)

Yesterday morning, I stood at my kitchen window and watched leaves fall from the trees. They floated down, one after another, to the dead grass below, where other leaves had fallen, yesterday and the day before. What made them drop today? I looked for patterns in their flight, but saw none. Each leaf acted alone, unaware of time and place, like me in the quiet house, watching leaves fall from the trees.

In this week’s news…

In 3PL news, XPO Logistics announced that it has acquired Optima Service Solutions, LLC, “a leading non-asset provider of last-mile logistics services for major retailers and manufacturers in the United States” for $26.6 million. This follows the company’s acquisition of 3PD this past July, another provider of heavy goods, last-mile logistics in North America. Here’s an excerpt of what Bradley Jacobs, chairman and CEO of XPO Logistics, said about the Optima acquisition:

It enhances our ability to provide a seamless in-home delivery experience for end customers, particularly with large appliances and electronics. In addition, Optima benefits from the same powerful tailwind as 3PD: the growing inclination of retailers and manufacturers to outsource the last-mile logistics of heavy goods [emphasis mine]. We plan to leverage these synergies, and integrate Optima’s proprietary software with our last-mile technology.

Last-mile logistics is not new, but it’s certainly a segment of the logistics market that is gaining a lot of attention from 3PLs and technology vendors alike. To paraphrase Jacobs, 3PLs and technology vendors are busy setting their sails to capture this strong tailwind.

The wind is also blowing strong in the direction of global expansion. This week, for example, C.H. Robinson announced that it has opened a new office in Basel, Switzerland. Over the past 20 years, the company has built a network of 52 offices with over 1,000 employees throughout Europe.

And HighJump Software announced a new partner in the Middle East, Dubai-based Norq Solutions that provides mobility solutions for warehouse management, field service, retail, and other industries. The company will offer the HighJump® Supply Chain Advantage suite to customers in the region. According to the press release, “HighJump Software currently has 17 international partners on six continents to support its double-digit growth in markets outside of the United States.”

On the technology front, TomTom Business Solutions launched “new road toll reporting functionality for its fleet management platform, providing transport companies with greater cost transparency for all European routes.” Here are some details from the press release:

WEBFLEET truck toll reporting provides a real-time breakdown of the toll costs incurred for each trip, allowing transport companies to better manage expenses and provide customers with transparent invoices.

 

The functionality accounts for all applicable national tolls in France, Germany, Austria and Slovakia. It will also cover the proposed French Ecotaxe, reporting on the CO2 emissions for each trip and estimating the total costs.

In other transportation-related news, UPS announced that UPS Ground, Air and International, and Air Freight rates within and between the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico will increase an average net of 4.9 percent. And Cass Information Systems reported that its Cass Truckload Linehaul Index set a new all-time high, “with truckload linehaul rates registering 0.9% higher than in October of last year and 0.7% higher than in September.” The press release goes on to say that “supply and demand in the truckload marketplace remain relatively balanced for now. Capacity continues to shrink slowly, while truck tonnage has been increasing.”

By now, most companies should have their transportation budgets in place for 2014. So, is your transportation budget increasing or decreasing in 2014, and by how much? Take my 5-second QuickPoll and see what others are saying.

Finally, labor tensions continue to simmer at the West Coast ports. This past Monday, “truck drivers from three companies at the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach began a 36-hour strike…and Port of Oakland truckers have threatened to walk out next week,” according to an article in Cargo Business News. These are just some passing showers; the real storm will come in June 2014, when the current agreement between ILWU workers and the ports expire. I suggest you start planning now, if you haven’t already, for possible disruptions this coming summer.

Have a happy weekend!

Song of the Week: “Let Her Go” by Passenger

Note: C.H. Robinson and HighJump Software are Logistics Viewpoints sponsors.