This Week in Logistics News (April 2 – 8)

West-Palm-Beach-FLIt’s been a busy week. I spent the day Monday shoveling out from a ridiculous April snow storm. I don’t say ridiculous because we got a lot of snow – we probably only got about six inches. I say ridiculous because it’s April. It’s spring. The Red Sox season opener was scheduled. While it was a mild winter for us, that doesn’t make it alright to get snow in April. On Tuesday, I left snow covered Boston for warm, sunny West Palm Beach for the Descartes user conference. The conference, with the tag line “Logistics in Motion” was great. I caught some cool presentations, and took a deeper look into how Descartes views the industry in motion and how home delivery is a game changer in omni-channel. But I’ll write more about that next week in my Wednesday column.

And now, on the news.

truck deliveryWith e-commerce continuing to become the go-to option for many consumers, retailers are turning to big-rig trucking companies to make residential deliveries. UPS and FedEx are raising their prices for oversized items, with both companies nearly doubling the fee to $110 for oversize items in their parcel ground networks in November. FedEx recently said it soon it will assess a special handling surcharge to even more packages. With prices continuing to rise, big-rigs are the new option. But this certainly is posing its own unique set of problems. The home deliveries take a lot more time than a commercial delivery. This drives up costs. Additionally, navigating a truck down quiet, narrow, suburban streets is no easy feat. Truckers are trying to decide whether to specialize, partner, or ratchet up prices, which would pressure shippers and maybe consumers.

blackberryPhone maker Blackberry Ltd., unveiled its new BlackBerry Radar end-to-end asset tracking system for truck companies and fleets at last week’s Mid-American Trucking Show. The system allows carriers to track their trailers in real-time and provide detailed reports based on the data derived by the system. The system works via the installation of a small device on a trailers’ door and a web-based portal. The Radar generates rich, frequently updated information that enables operations managers, load planners, and dispatchers to make decisions for their organizations. The device should be commercially available this summer.

Chinese online retailer JD.com will work with Japanese logistics firm Yamato to speed up cross-border delivery of goods bought on JD’s overseas online marketplace, the company announced Wednesday. The partnership will allow goods that are shipped from Japan to clear customs faster, thereby getting them in the hands of customers faster. Just how fast? Japanese products bought on JD’s overseas online marketplace will be delivered to consumers in China four days after payment is made.

best-buy-logoBestBuy is rolling out same day delivery in 13 markets as it expands its partnership with Deliv. Best Buy first tested same-day delivery last fall in San Francisco in a partnership with Deliv, which uses a fleet of independent contractors as drivers. It added New York City to the program earlier this year and then rolled out same-day delivery to the other 11 markets where Deliv operates. Customers can track their orders in real-time to see when they will arrive. This is the latest move by a retailer trying to keep up with the likes of Amazon when it comes to same day delivery.

dash buttonAmazon is pushing ahead with the Dash Button. A year ago, when Amazon introduced the Dash Button, many thought it was an April Fool’s Day joke. The button has a single purpose – to re-order one specific product. The plastic widget has an adhesive strip allowing it to be attached anywhere around the house. The device is tied to a customer’s Amazon Prime account and orders are delivered in two days. After seeing that the Dash Buttons were driving sales, Amazon has decided to expand the program from 30 brands to over 100.

ParkingAccording to a panel of representatives from the U.S. DOT, the enforcement community, and owner-operator and large fleet interest groups, ‘all the money in the world’ may not be enough to solve trucking’s parking crisis. Simply adding more spaces along busy freight corridors is not enough to solve the problem. The problem for truckers is the need to remain compliant with federal safety rules while also finding a safe, secure place to park during off-duty rest periods. According to Scott Grenerth, head of regulatory affairs for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, “spaces obviously are good and are needed. But it’s going to take more than just spaces. We need them in the right places, and they need to be accessible and safe.”

And finally, spot truckload freight volume was up 11% nationally while the number of truck posts dipped 5.5 percent during the week ending April 2. The end of quarter usually drives freight volume as anyone with inventory that needs to get off the books moves it. Month-over-month, spot volume was 42% higher in March compared to February. March volume was 28% less compared to March 2015, however. In the van market, the number of posted loads increased 16% last week as the national average van rate added a penny to $1.57 per mile. The number of reefer load posts increased 3% while truck posts fell 2% last week. As a result, the national average reefer load-to-truck ratio rose 5% to 3.2 and the reefer rate was unchanged at $1.82 per mile. Demand and rates are trending up slowly in the spot reefer market.

That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend and the song of the week, Ramblin’ Man by the Allman Brothers.

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