This Week in Logistics News (June 14 – 20)

This past weekend I tried Uber for the first time. For those of you unfamiliar with Uber, it is basically a crowd sourced taxi that operates at a fraction of the cost of a typical taxi ride. All drivers must pass a rigorous background and driving check, and scheduling a ride is easy. Through their mobile app, after you request a ride, you see the driver’s name, photo, and car information (make, model, license plate). You can also track the car in real time to see when it will arrive. To me, the biggest benefit seems to be not having to pay cash for your ride – the whole transaction takes place within their mobile app, and a digital receipt is emailed to you after the ride.

Not surprisingly, taxi companies are not big fans and have staged protest in numerous cities around the world. These protests have driven traffic to a complete halt, disrupting normal traffic patterns as well as the delivery of goods and services. With lawsuits still pending, it will be interesting to see how the future of crowd sourced transportation shakes out.

And now, on to the news…

The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) released its 25th Annual “State of Logistics Report®. The report concludes that total U.S. business logistics costs in 2013 rose to $1.39 trillion, a 2.3 percent increase from the previous year. Logistics as a percent of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) declined for the second year in a row, indicating that the logistics sector is not keeping pace with the growth in the overall economy.

“This year’s report reveals that the transportation sector grew only 2.0 percent, with all modes experiencing modest gains in revenue. Despite the weak revenue picture, tonnage was up due to heavier average loads per shipment. The truck driver shortage is a top concern for most industry executives as the trucking sector faced significant capacity issues in 2013. The lack of drivers to fill seats in existing equipment, decline in productivity of existing drivers due to Hours of Service (HOS) Regulations, and coupled with an uptick in trucking company bankruptcies in 2013 contributed to constricting truck capacity as volume picked up.”

Clean Energy announced it has opened a liquefied natural gas fueling station in El Paso, Texas. This station is significant for the company’s “America’s Natural Gas Highway” strategy as it completes the liquefied natural gas fueling infrastructure for the Interstate 10 corridor between Los Angeles and Houston. While the initial cost of a truck that runs on natural gas is significantly higher than a diesel truck, the fuel cost savings in the first year alone can potentially  cover the difference.

“The I-10 from LA to Houston is another link in America’s goods-movement infrastructure now fueling with natural gas,” says Andrew Littlefair, Clean Energy president and CEO. “One corridor at a time, our nationwide network is opening and changing how America moves.”

6-17-14-Tonnage-Graph-for-Web-PostingTruck tonnage has risen again in May, placing it near an all-time high. Tonnage as measured by the American Trucking Associations’ For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index rose 1 percent in May from April, following a 0.9 percent increase in April. The index measured 129.7 in May, down about 1 percent from November 2013′s all-time high. According to ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello, “It isn’t just heavy freight for sectors like tank truck and flatbed from energy and housing that are improving this year. Now, generic dry van trailer freight is doing better as well, which wasn’t the case in 2013. This is a good sign for the economy.”

As the summer travel season begins, who wouldn’t want more detailed information on road conditions? Well New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine are joining forces to make this a reality. These states have collectively signed a $4.1 million, five-year contract with Texas-based Southwest Research Institute to develop an Advanced Transportation Management System. The new system would be an update to the states’ old software systems that internally notify police and emergency responders of accidents as well as alert the public of road conditions. The system will deliver information in real-time, across state lines, with data placed into a shared warehouse. The project will be completed by the end of 2015 or early 2016, at the latest.

And from the lighter side of the news, crews were working hard to clean up a spill of chicken by-products on a road in Camden, SC. Camden Police Chief Joe Floyd says a truck from Valley Protein was carrying the material down the road when the material began to leak out. Floyd said there were three separate leaks along the affected roadway. As the weather heats up, this is certainly not the type of road block one wants to encounter.

That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend and the song of the week, The Lovin’ Spoonful’s Summer in the City.

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