This Week in Logistics News (January 5 – 11)

logistics newsI’ve written about the threat of cargo theft on here multiple times. One of the largest categories has always been food and beverage. Well, this week, more than $500,000 worth of Patron Tequila has been stolen from a Florida rest stop. After enjoying dinner, a truck driver noticed that his trailer (and the contents) were missing. The contents just happen to be 1,000 cases of Patron, with an estimated retail value of $507,105. Luckily, within two hours, the trailer, tequila, and thieves were located. The four men accused of stealing the tequila had only unloaded 20 of the 1,000 cases and now face charges of grand theft of $100,000 or more and burglary. And now, on to this week’s logistics news.

Last year, Target acquired Shipt, the crowd-sourced home delivery service for $550 million. The end goal behind the acquisition was to compete with Amazon, and the emerging presence of Walmart in the home delivery space. Now that it is a year into the acquisition, Target plans to open up the service to all of its major categories in the year ahead. Though Shipt remains an independent company, Target made the service available at nearly every store in time for the holiday shopping season. Target said that grocery items are the most popular use of the service, with the basics of eggs, milk, bananas, and strawberries among shoppers’ top picks. It will be interesting to watch how Target will continue to incorporate Shipt into its overall e-commerce plans.

As warehouse automation continues to improve and drive efficiency and profitability, Amazon is investing heavily in the space. The company is now investing in the French robotics firm Balyo as it continues to innovate in the autonomous forklift market. Under the terms of the deal, Amazon will receive free stock warrants representing up to 29 percent of Balyo’s capital which it can exercise depending on orders of the company’s products. Balyo, whose navigation system turns forklifts into self-driving vehicles, said it expected 2018 revenue to come in at 23.3 million euros, up 40 percent on the previous year. According to Balyo Chief Executive Fabien Bardinet, “this agreement represents an unprecedented opportunity for Balyo to grow its business and supports the soundness of our investments over the years to perfect our robotic solutions.”

Walmart is also increasing its investment in autonomous vehicles. The retail giant is piloting a program with Udelv to use autonomous-driving vans to deliver fresh groceries in Surprise, Arizona. Walmart is no stranger to self-driving vehicle pilots, having already partnered with Ford and Alphabet’s Waymo. Walmart is looking to expand its online grocery delivery to nearly 100 metropolitan areas in the coming months. Walmart is also looking at other ways to increase online grocery revenues, including dedicated click-and-collect areas for brick and mortar stores. In fact, earlier this week, Walmart rolled out a nationwide campaign that showed famous cars, including the Batmobile, Ghostbusters Ecto-1, Kit, Lightning McQueen, Dumb and Dumber’s Shaggin Wagon, Vacation’s station wagon, and the Mystery Machine pulling up to Walmart stores and using its online grocery pickup service.

Speaking of autonomous deliveries, Continental has unveiled its robot delivery dogs at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The technology has two components. First is the driverless vehicle itself, called the Continental Urban Mobility Experience (CUbE). These vehicles carry the “delivery dogs” to their final destinations. The second part is the “delivery dogs.” Essentially, the driverless CUbE will deploy a team of robotic dogs to make the final last mile deliveries. According to Continental Head of Systems and Technology, Chassis & Safety division Ralph Lauxmann, “both are autonomous and, in principle, both can be based on the same scalable technology portfolio. These synergies create an exciting potential for holistic delivery concepts using similar solutions for different platforms.”

Japan has ended its two-decade UK beef ban as Mad Cow Disease fears ease. The ban began in the mid-90’s as fear grew over the potential for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE); the ban will be lifted following recommendations from a food safety committee. Japan’s easing of restrictions on beef follows China which lifted the ban in June of 2018. In November, a panel of food safety experts also recommended Japan lift its age restrictions on US beef imports. Japan hasn’t allowed imports of American cattle older than 30 months due to concerns older animals have a higher risk of having BSE.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) ruled to pre-empt the state of California’s meal and rest break laws, prohibiting the state from enforcing them further. Until this decision, California held truck drivers to the same standard as other employees regarding meal and rest breaks, requiring employees to take a 30-minute meal break for every five hours worked on shifts longer than six hours, and a 10-minute rest break every four hours worked. The major reasoning for the finding was due to the necessity for trucks to cross state lines, California’s break laws made cross-border operations difficult for carriers to manage.

Last week I mentioned the second coming of the Christmas season – namely the fact that chairs, toys, and flat-screen televisions were washing up on the Dutch Coast as a result of the Panamanian-flagged MSC Zoe losing 270+ cargo containers in rough seas. Earlier this week, MSC has pledged to find all the containers that fell from the MSC Zoe last week and cover full costs of the clean-up. MSC wants to assure the public that it is committed to paying the costs. According to the company, “MSC is committed to continue searching the sea for the containers which fell overboard, until the last one is found. MSC will also ensure that the beaches of the Dutch and German coastlines are surveyed until all debris related to this incident has been cleared.”

That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend and the song of the week, Tequila by the Champs.

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