Hate driving behind trucks? Me too. A lot of people certainly get that “boxed in” and “claustrophobic” feeling when they are following a truck on a roadway. This feeling becomes more apparent when it is time to pass the truck, as the road up ahead is unknown. Well, Samsung is here to help. My colleague Steve Banker passed along an article about Samsung’s new “invisible” safety truck that may help to ease some concerns for those drivers who feel skittish around big rigs. The truck is not exactly invisible; it is more transparent. The truck combines a wireless camera on the front of the truck with four LED screens on the rear, transmitting the road ahead of the truck to the vehicles behind it. So as you’re driving behind these trucks, you can actually see the road ahead, making it safer and more comfortable to pass. This is especially important on one lane roads with passing zones, which was really the impetus behind the technology. We’re not sure when or if these trucks will hit the road (soon), due to the cost of the screens, but they can certainly make things more comfortable for drivers.
And now, on to the news.
- Amazon in the news:
- Japan to test the skies with delivery drones
- Pirates hacked shipping company, cherry-picking targets based on cargo
- Hisense targets American TV market with Mexican factory
- Oil tankers wait to unload cargo in Rotterdam
- SuperTruck Round II: raising the fuel economy bar
- Flatbed volume growing in Southeast — rates still lag
Amazon is looking to speed up its delivery times. Most people are familiar with the company’s Prime offering, which offers free 2-day shipping on qualified purchases. However, the company is now inviting drivers for its new “on-demand” delivery service to handle its standard packages. While the move has not officially been publicly announced, it is yet another initiative by Amazon to take more control over its deliveries. Amazon outlined details of its latest plan over the last few weeks in an email to contract drivers who deliver parcels for Amazon Flex, a program launched last year to handle deliveries of common household goods to customers using Prime Now, a mobile app that comes with Amazon’s popular $99-a-year Prime membership.
Amazon is also making inroads in the UK grocery market. In November, the company launched Amazon pantry in the UK, but it has struggled to gain any market share or really make an impact. This is due to the dominance of Asda in the space. But now, Amazon is partnering with supermarket chain William Morrison’s Plc. Morrison’s is the smallest chain of the Big 4 in the UK, behind Asda, Sainsbury’s, and Tesco, but gives Amazon a platform to expand. The partnership could be beneficial to both, given Amazon’s expertise in logistics and infrastructure and Morrison’s expertise in fresh food.
Japanese online retailer Rakuten and Yamato Transport, a unit of logistics company Yamato Holdings, will conduct field trials of drones with the aim of using them for home deliveries. The test flights are slated to begin as early as next month in the city of Chiba. The drones will fly from vacant land and other places to the city’s coastline. The project team will collect data on how coastal wind conditions and other factors impact flight, and make recommendations for the future of the program, which is set to kick off in 2020. Once the program launches, drones will start picking up packages from distribution centers in Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture, and other places and deliver them to a large-scale condominium development project in the prefecture.
An unnamed shipping company had its unpatched content management system hacked by sea-pirates. The pirates were then able to sort the ships at sea by the value of their cargo, enabling them to attack the ships that brought the highest value. The pirates would board the shipping company’s ships at regular intervals, equipped with bar code scanners, searching specific crates, and steal the high price merchandise. While the level of hacking was sophisticated, the hackers forgot to use a proxy to hide their IP address. This allowed Verizon’s RISK team to block the hacker’s IP, remove the Web shell, take down its server, reset passwords for all compromised accounts, and upgrade the CMS. So while the imminent threat is over, it is interesting to see the lengths cargo theft will go to.
Hisense, a television manufacturer from China, is the latest to invest in overseas production to fuel global expansion. Rising warehouse and labor costs in China have made it more difficult for companies to remain profitable, and as a result, are exploring other options. Hisense will put an additional $30 million toward a plant in Rosarito, Mexico it bought from Sharp Corp. last year. Hisense surpassed Sony Corp. to become the world’s third-largest TV maker by unit shipments last year, but sold just 2.8% of televisions purchased in North America. One aspect of this new plan that will help increase North American sales is by speeding up time to market. By building televisions in Mexico, the company can eliminate a month of travel time for the finished product. The ability to quickly deliver televisions to the US market will be incredibly beneficial.
Up to 50 oil tankers are waiting to unload cargo in the port of Rotterdam, the highest number since 2009. This is another sign that, amid a glut, crude is struggling to find a home. The number of tankers waiting in ports is partly due to the fact that onshore tanks are filled and buyers and sellers are scrambling to store oil where they can. This includes cargo ships, which are being sent on even longer voyages to keep the oil out of port gridlock. The longer routes are also giving sellers more time to find buyers. This is creating a logistical nightmare as oil production continues to outpace demand.
The Department of Energy has announced its SuperTruck II initiative. The initiative is meant to push manufacturers to improve heavy-duty freight efficiency by more than 100 percent over the most fuel efficient tractor-trailer combo from 2009. In an effort to raise the fuel economy bar, the DoE is investing $80 million in truck manufacturers. The Department says SuperTruck II will utilize a variety of truck and trailer technology approaches to achieve performance targets, such as improvements in engine efficiency, drivetrain efficiency, aerodynamic drag, tire rolling resistance, and vehicle weight.
And finally, flatbed volume is growing in the Southeast, but rates still lag. Rates typically rise in March, however, so a rebound could be on the way. Flatbed load-to-truck ratios, a demand indicator that favors truckers when the ratio is high, have been rising throughout February. Nationally, the ratio ended the month at 12.6 loads per truck. Demand has been especially strong in the Southeast. Overall, flatbed rates fell 3 cents last week to a national average of $1.80 per mile.
Interested in Omni-Channel Fulfillment? Register for a free webinar scheduled for March 10th, hosted by IBS and ARC Advisory Group, to hear about the findings from survey-based research on Omni-Channel Fulfillment. The webinar will be punctuated with contributions and insights by Graham Newland, IBS’ new Chief Customer Officer.
That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend, and the song of the week, Invisible Touch by Genesis.