This Week in Logistics News (March 14 – 20)

logistics newsWe all knew this day would come eventually. I just don’t think any of us saw it shaking out quite like this. After 20 years, 18 post-seasons, 14 Pro Bowls, 6 Super Bowl championships, 4 Super Bowl MVP awards, 3 regular season MVP awards, and the most dramatic comeback in Super Bowl history, Tom Brady is no longer a Patriot. My belief, along with most of those in new England, was that Brady would re-sign with the Patriots and end his career in Foxboro. However, this was not meant to be. Earlier this week, Brady sent a farewell message to the fans of New England saying he will be continuing his football journey elsewhere. And apparently that elsewhere is Tampa Bay? It is going to be strange to see him in a Bucs uniform next year, and if he plays another year after that, facing the Pats in what is sure to be a PrimeTime event. I wish Brady all the best and thank him for taking our mind off coronavirus, even if it was just for a minute. And now on to this week’s logistics news.

As the coronavirus pandemic takes it toll on the economy, Amazon is pushing back. The company is hiring 100,000 for full and part-time roles across the US, Canada, and Europe, as well as increasing wages $2 and hour on current salaries of $15 an hour or more. This all adds up to a $350 million investment from the online retail giant. Amazon senior vice president for worldwide operations Dave Clark wrote on the company’s blog “Amazon and our network of partners are helping communities around the world in a way that very few can—delivering critical supplies directly to the doorsteps of people who need them. Getting a priority item to your doorstep is vital as communities practice social-distancing, particularly for the elderly and others with underlying health issues.”

While it is hiring to try to keep up with the surge of online ordering, the reality is that even Amazon is not immune to product shortages. The company warned customers that it is experiencing delays in its Prime deliveries and running out of stock of popular household items. As a result, delivery timeframes are running longer than normal. Amazon has added a notice to the top of its marketplace this weekend that reads: “Inventory and delivery may be temporarily unavailable due to increased demand. Confirm availability at checkout.”

With the ongoing surge in online ordering to avoid congested stores, UPS and FedEx are easing their signature rules for home deliveries. While signatures have been a way to help protect the customer and reduce package theft, the new order of customer protection is to forgo routine signatures. Both UPS and FedEx have suspended the need for signatures on most deliveries. However, for those deliveries that do still require a signature, UPS is taking a novel approach. Drivers will leave a sticky note on the door before moving back a safe distance. Once the customer has signed the form, the driver will wait for the customer to leave and then retrieve the form. I imagine this will be the new norm for quite some time.

Customer signature capture is not the only thing changing for the delivery business. Many US delivery companies are putting a halt to “white glove” delivery services. This means that drivers will no longer deliver and set up TVs, furniture, exercise equipment, or other items inside a customer’s home. This is critically important to help protect drivers as well as the public in general. One example is Chicago-based SEKO, which has halted “over the threshold” service in Seattle, Spokane, Portland, and San Francisco. The company is calling every in-home delivery customer and giving them the option to delay, reschedule, or have items left on porches or in garages.

US highway-safety regulators are suspending rules that limit the amount of time that truck drivers can be on the road each day if they are carrying emergency supplies. This holds true for shipments of medical equipment, hand sanitizer, and food in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The move comes as hospitals report shortages of medical supplies and as retailers and manufacturers are straining under surging demand for essential items. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced the nationwide exemption late Friday, following President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency over the pandemic. According to the FMCSA, “the move will help America’s commercial drivers get these critical goods to impacted areas faster and more efficiently.”

In Northern California, multiple counties have been ordered to shelter in place. One of those counties is Alameda County, home to Oakland’s port and international airport. However, even with the shelter in place order in effect, The Port of Oakland and Oakland International Airport will keep operating. The port and airport have been deemed as a necessary gateway for global trade and transportation. The port authority said it would adopt a resilience plan to staff its operations while minimizing employee exposure to coronavirus. Officials are meeting with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union to determine what staffing levels are needed on the docks since there has been a slowdown in ocean vessel arrivals after China quarantined major industrial centers, resulting in limited exports in recent weeks.

One of the hardest to find products on the market right now is hand sanitizer. This is due to the massive amounts of hoarding that is happening nationwide. Help is now coming from an unlikely source: distilleries. Many distilleries across the country are using the alcohol in their facilities to create their own alcohol-based solutions. These distilleries are either packaging the sanitizer in small bottles for customers or recommending that customers bring their own bottles to the distillery. Many distilleries are quickly going through their supplies and are taking donations to ensure they can make more.

And finally, UPS will start testing the autonomous functionality of Gaussin electric vehicle trailers at its London advanced technology depot later this year. The company has already started testing the trailers or “shifters” with operators to help move semi-trailers and containers but will switch to autonomous testing in the second half of 2020. Gaussin and UPS Engineering teams have been in close collaboration since 2018 to co-develop an electric shifter vehicle.

That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend and the song of the week Led Zeppelin’s Ramble On.

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