Another week, another conference. This time I was in Boston for the ToolsGroup Supply Chain Transformation conference. The conference was full of great presentations and sessions, and I’ll share some of those in the coming weeks. The odd thing, though, was that for the second straight week, and second straight conference, during the CEO’s keynote, the fire alarm went off in the conference center. Last week, we all had to evacuate, but this week, our floor was lucky enough to be spared. With the LeanLogistics conference next week in Chicago, and JDA in Nashville two weeks after that, I can’t help but wonder if the trend will continue. At the very least, I’m sure that the trend of insightful presentations and interesting topics of discussion will continue. I’m just hoping that I’ve heard the end of fire alarms.
And now, on to the news.
- Import forecast turns upbeat
- Wal-Mart expands online grocery pickup to eight more cities
- CVSA’s annual Roadcheck inspection spree to focus on tire safety
- Ferry operators discuss connecting Cuba with Florida ports
- YRC Worldwide to offer expedited service
- Alibaba to invest in Chinese food-delivery app Ele.me
- Spot TL value declines
According to a report from US retailers, ocean-borne imports are growing faster than anticipated. Import volume at major U.S. container ports grew 3.7% in February from January to 1.54 million twenty-foot-equivalent units (TEUs), according to the monthly Global Port Tracker by the National Retail Federation and research firm Hackett Associates. The report estimates imports dipped slightly in March but that volumes will edge up to 1.61 million TEUs in both July and August. Initially, the reports estimated a 0.2% decrease in import volume in the first half of the year. With the latest figures, that estimate has been revised to a 1.8% increase in import volume. Although imports are up, retailers are still sitting on large amounts of inventory, showing that US consumers are not spending as freely as expected.
Wal-Mart is expanding its curbside grocery pick-up service into eight new markets. This expansion will increase the number of stores offering the service to over 200 in 30 cities. Using the service, shoppers can choose from about 30,000 to 40,000 mainly grocery items, which is about the same assortment as in stores. After ordering and paying online, customers drive to the store at a designated time and a “personal shopper” brings the groceries to your car. The cities included in the latest rollout are Kansas City, MO; Austin, TX; Boise, ID; Richmond, VA; Virginia Beach, VA; Provo, UT; Daphne, AL; and Charleston, SC.
The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) has announced its annual International Roadcheck will take place June 7-9. Nearly 75,000 inspections take place each year during the inspection spree, done by a joint effort of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and others. During Roadcheck, inspectors will primarily conduct full 37-step Level I inspections, which is the most thorough inspection. This year, the inspections will have a special emphasis on tire safety. Inspectors will be measuring tire tread depth, checking tire pressure, checking to make sure no items are lodged between dual tires and examining the overall condition of the tires to ensure no deep cuts or bulges exist in the sidewalls.
Ferry operators are discussing connecting Cuba with Florida ports. Along with carrying people to and from Cuba, ferry operators are interested in transporting cargo as well. Services have not yet begun, as the Cuban government has not approved a US ferry to use one of its ports yet. Starting next month, US cruise ships will begin sailing into Cuban ports. This will be a hearty test of the Cuban ports’ infrastructure and could go a long way to testing the feasibility of using ferry operators as cargo shippers between the two countries.
YRC Worldwide Inc. is the latest trucking company to offer expedited service for e-commerce customers and others willing to pay for faster delivery. The company, which is one of the largest trucking companies in the US, will offer an accelerated service for online retailers and shippers. The service, which will shave 1-2 days off transit times, will cost 15% extra than regular service. Accelerated shipments in YRC’s network will take priority and be loaded onto trucks ahead of standard shipments.
Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is investing in Chinese food-delivery app Ele.me. Along with its financial affiliate Ant Financial, the company is investing $1.25 billion to bolster its food delivery service. Alibaba also signed a cooperation agreement with Ele.me, under which its own online food-services platform, Koubei, will cooperate with Ele.me. This is another move by Alibaba to expand their marketshare and presence in the offline services delivery space.
And finally, spot truckload volume dipped 1% and the number of posted trucks increased 6.2% during the week ending April 9, reported DAT Solutions, which operates the DAT network of load boards. Flatbed load volume rose 9% and capacity increased 3% compared to the previous week, resulting in a 6% increase in the load-to-truck. Van load posts fell 13% and truck posts increased 7% as rates trended down on 63 of the top 100 van lanes. Nationally, the van load-to-truck ratio was 1.6, down from 1.9 the previous week, and the average van rate fell 4 cents to $1.53 per mile.
That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend, and the song of the week, Burning Down the House by the Talking Heads.