This Week in Logistics News (June 13 – 19)



Earlier this week, news broke about the California Labor Commission ruling on an Uber driver being classified as an employee, rather than a contractor. My understanding of the criteria used to make that determination is limited. But it does make me question whether this determination will eventually effect truck owner-operators. The first business model that came to mind is that of a mid-western family owned company’s historical owner-operator model, where they sold the truck to the owner operators, facilitated the tendering of loads, and established mileage compensation. Also, what about local parcel delivery subcontracted out by the large parcel carriers? Here is an IRS checklist for those of you interested in Federal guidelines.

Now on to this week’s logistics news:

Amazon doesn’t appear to be deterred by the California Labor Commission ruling cited above. The company is developing a mobile application that would recruit and pay individuals to deliver packages to destinations within their vicinity or destination.  The conceptual service, reported to be called “On My Way” would also partner with brick and mortar retailers to rent their space for storage. It is still not determined whether or not Amazon will go to market with this service.

Source: Association of American Railroads

Source: Association of American Railroads

Intermodal has been growing precipitously for a number of years and this week it achieved a new record in the US. For the week ending June 13, US intermodal volume was 283,363 containers and trailers, the highest week on record for intermodal units. This is in contrast to an 8.1 percent decrease in carloads, when compared to the same week last year. The commodity groups the dragged down the carloads are predominantly bulk commodities such as coal, petroleum, and metallic ores.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership took one step closer to becoming a reality this week as the US House of Representatives passed legislation to give President Obama “fast track” promotion authority. However, the Senate still needs to vote on the measure and this may prove to be difficult as this issue is a rare occasion where the Democratic President and the Republican majority of legislators appear to agree with each other more than the Democratic legislators. I’m guessing this will be an ongoing news story.

New research conducted by BCG and CH Robinson estimates that, following the completion of the Panama Canal Expansion, up to 10 percent of container traffic to the U.S. from East Asia could shift from West Coast ports to East Coast ports by 2020. The research involved scenario analysis considering various levels of demand, capacity, and costs. The report is titled Wide Open: How the Panama Canal Is Redrawing the Logistics Map. A copy can be downloaded at

Fetch Robotics, a start-up that is developing robots for logistics, announced a new round of private equity funding this week. I was personally briefed by Fetch Robotics on the company’s vision for its robots, Fetch and Freight. I can say that they have moved beyond the academic phase and are the closest vendor to making collaborative autonomous robotics a reality in the warehouse, to my knowledge.

ZimFun-File News: You can buy a one trillion Zimbabwean dollar note on eBay for only 35 US dollars! The only problem is that it is technically only worth 40 US cents. Zimbabwe officially switched to the US dollar last week. Reportedly, the Zimbabwean dollar reached inflation rates of 500 billion percent in 2008. I’m not even sure how many zeros that is- which is why I wrote it out in words instead of numbers!


Have a good weekend! This week’s video – Money for Nothing by Dire Straits


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