This Week in Logistics News (September 2 – 8)

The boys are back and they’re looking for trouble. The 2017-18 NFL season kicked off last night, with my hometown Patriots raising Super Bowl banner number 5. In a move that surprised some fans, Roger Goodell made the trip to Foxboro, much to the delight of the crowd and their clown towels. The night did not go exactly as planned however, with the Chiefs pulling off the upset 42-27. I had the chance to go to the game, but in the end decided not too. This was mostly due to the logistics of attending a weeknight game in Foxboro – dealing with traffic (both rush hour and normal game traffic), the parking, and the insanely late hour I get home. With the way the game went, I can say I made the right decision.

And now, on to the news.

Fuel haulers have been exempted from “hours regulations” in over 26 states due to Hurricane Harvey disruptions. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced that truckers hauling gasoline, diesel, aviation fuel, propane, and other home heating fuels in 26 states have been suspended. The exemption also applies to carriers and drivers “providing direct assistance to the emergency in the States of Texas and Louisiana.” The waiver for fuel haulers and relief load haulers will remain in effect until the emergency situation has been declared over or until Sept. 24 — whichever time is shorter, says FMCSA.

While drones have been in the news a lot lately for last mile deliveries and other supply chain inventory management processes, with the latest hurricane, drones are taking on a whole new role. In the first six days after the storm hit, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued more than 40 authorizations for emergency drone activities above Houston and surrounding areas. The authorizations included inspecting roadways, checking railroad tracks, and assessing the condition of water plants, oil refineries, and power lines. The number of authorizations has climbed to well over 100, and shows the practical side of the use of drones.

The impact of Hurricane Harvey has left many retailers facing a shortfall of supplies. And now, with a second potentially historic storm closing in on Florida, consumers and retailers alike are feeling the impact of the shortage. Big box stores quickly sold out of essentials, such as bottled water, toilet paper, generators, and other emergency supplies. With boats and trucks having difficulty getting back up to speed, retailers are scrambling to re-stock shelves in time for Hurricane Irma. While a state of emergency has been declared for Florida, and many residents are evacuating, retailers are sticking to their plans to re-stock as fast as possible to help those residents that decide to brave the storm.

Pitney Bowes has announced its acquisition of Newgistics, Inc. Based in Austin, TX, Newgistics is a parcel delivery, returns, fulfillment, and digital commerce solutions provider for retailers and e-commerce vendors. The main driver behind the move is to bolster Pitney Bowes’ domestic parcel market in the US while expanding their capabilities. Pitney Bowes will purchase all shares of the privately held company for approximately $475 million. The acquisition is expected to close by late third or early fourth quarter.

BASF is jumping into IoT for supply chain management. To do so, the company is combining blockchain technology with pallets. Well, these are not exactly “normal” pallets – they are “smart pallets” embedded with battery powered wireless transponders. The pallets are able to transmit their position, movement, ambient temperature, load state, and information regarding the pallets acceleration or impact suffered in transit. This move is just the beginning for BASF, and other companies, as blockchain and other IoT-enabled technologies are included in the supply chain.

UPS is looking at ways to bring on seasonal workers this holiday season in an interesting way. The company announced plans to hire delivery drivers using personal vehicles to help meet the growing holiday demand. The company would require workers to wear UPS uniforms and deliver packages fulltime, generally from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. This announcement does not sit well with the union representing thousands of UPS drivers across the country. The Teamsters Union has said that it “rejects the decision in the strongest possible terms.” The timing of this announcement is very interesting, as Teamsters and UPS are gearing up to negotiate an extension to their five-year labor contract, which expires July 31, 2018.

And finally, speaking of the holiday season, package delivery companies are getting ready for the big rush. According to the monthly job report released by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, courier and messenger companies added 3,900 jobs in August, the fifth straight monthly increase. The parcel sector has added over 7,000 jobs in the last two months, and 30,000 in the last year. The warehousing and storage sector added 900 jobs in August. I’ll have more on this later in the year, when I release my annual holiday prep article.

That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend and the song of the week, The Boys are Back by the Dropkick Murphys.