This Week in Logistics News (April 18 – 24)

2015_bostonmarathon_coursemapMonday, April 20th marked the 119th running of the Boston Marathon. Think about the logistics behind this event. 26.2 miles. 34 elite runners racing for $100,000 in prize money. 30,000 other runners trying to record a personal best, re-qualify, raise money for charity programs, or just finish. Thousands of volunteers at the start, finish, along the course, and in the medical tents. Millions of fans packing the streets of Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline, and Boston. An estimated 1000 port-a-potties, 150 pounds of petroleum jelly, 28,000 bananas, 35,000 gallons of water, and 1.4 million paper cups. Hundreds of buses transporting runners to the athlete’s village and starting line. 30,000 checked bags in buses in Downtown Boston. And the coordination of state and local officials, the Boston Athletic Association, and the people of Boston and the surrounding towns to make this event possible. My mind is spinning just thinking about everything that goes into this race (and I’m not even including the training). It is truly one of the best days of sports of the year (don’t forget the traditional early Red Sox game). And this year was no exception. While the conditions were cold, windy, and wet, the spirit of the Marathon was on full display. Congratulations to all the runners, and to everyone who helped make the event happen.

And now, on to the news.

Train Derailment in LynchburgTrains carrying crude oil will be restricted to a 40 mph speed limit in populated areas such as New York under an order by the U.S. Department of Transportation. There have been a number of derailments in recent months that has prompted this decision. The railroads have voluntarily agreed to the new speed limit what are called “High Threat Urban Areas.” This designation covers more than three dozen cities in the US, including Boston, New York, Chicago, and Washington. The emergency order makes that agreement mandatory for all railroads hauling 20 or more tank cars linked together or 35 cars in total that are filled with oil or other flammable liquids.

port-of-LAThe cargo backlog caused by the labor dispute in West Coast ports is causing massive gridlock at both East and West Coast ports. Following reports of a 700-truck line waiting to pick up loads at the Port of New York and New Jersey, the intermodal wing of the New Jersey Motor Truck Association last week published an open letter deflecting any blame placed on trucking and called for the port to change its hours to accommodate the recent surge in freight volume. Truckers are still working to clear the backlog following the new labor agreement reached in February. Nearly 100 trucking companies are also pursuing arbitration over late fees incurred in West Coast ports during the recent labor dispute that resulted in gridlock.

“Most cargo, as much as 90 percent, is drop-and-pick and surely can be accommodated with these access times,” the association writes. “We cannot stand still. This must be solved logically, not with truckmen and women being punished for trying to do their job, and make this what the Port of New York and New Jersey can and should be.”

asdaWal-Mart has been dramatically expanding its grocery business over the past few years. With competitors such as Amazon moving into the grocery delivery business, Wal-Mart is looking at new ways to reach the omni-channel customer. Namely, the company is testing online grocery delivery as well as in-store pick-up across five locations in the US. To do so, the company is looking at what one of its subsidiaries in the UK is doing. Asda, the British-based subsidiary of Wal-Mart, offers click-and-collect storage lockers across all of its stores. This enables consumers to order online and pick up their groceries from temperature controlled storage lockers at a time that is convenient for them. Asda is in the midst of constructing a “supercenter of lockers,” at a gas station on a major road between two of the U.K.’s biggest cities, Liverpool and Manchester. The unit will be loaded each morning by staff with customers’ orders for the day. Robotic arms will then reach in and move these into one of three compartments: frozen, chilled or room temperature. Once a customer punches in a code, the arms locate the orders from their compartments, and put them on a conveyor belt from which they emerge at a collection point for pick up. Wal-Mart will be watching to see how customers respond, and how the sales stack up against costs.

Amazon DHLAmazon is at it again. The online retail giant is teaming up with car maker Audi and shipping company DHL to offer a new service to a select group of Prime members in Munich. These customers will be able to receive their packages in the trunk of their car. How? Amazon customers with Internet-connected Audis agree to give DHL couriers electronic access to their trunks and then set the approximate location of their car and a window of time. The couriers then leave the package inside the trunks. Amazon said it hopes to roll the service out internationally after the experiment begins in Germany in May.

Deforestation-537x345And finally, McDonald’s has pledged to eliminate deforestation from its entire supply chain. The company pledged to only buy food and raw materials from around the world that don’t contribute to deforestation, a significant contributor to global warming. Two other top fast food chains, Dunkin’ Brands, and Yum! Brands, have made commitments to stop buying palm oil linked to deforestation. But McDonald’s announcement could be even bigger. Specifically, the company singled out beef, coffee, fiber-based packaging, palm oil, and poultry. Like palm oil, cattle production is a major driver of deforestation.

That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend, and the song of the week, Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger.

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