This Week in Logistics News (September 26 – October 2)

In a normal year, Amazon launches its Prime Day sales extravaganza in the middle of summer. Well, as we all know, this is not a normal year. So, Amazon had to postpone its annual sale due to the impact coronavirus had on demand and shipping capabilities, with a promise of Prime Day at a later date. Well, the date has been announced. Amazon will hold Prime Day on October 13 – 14, with a heavy emphasis on grocery deals as that market has exploded over the last seven months. The timing is perfect for Amazon, as it has the chance to extend the holiday shopping season by a full month, which could alleviate some of the strains that will surely be caused by skyrocketing demand. Amazon’s competitors know this as well, and they certainly are not sitting idly by. Earlier this week Walmart and Target both announced plans to offer up their own deals during online events that just happen to line up with Prime Day. And now on to this week’s logistics news.

Trump administration officials gave a few more details Friday on President Trump’s plan to import lower-priced prescription drugs from Canada. The FDA issued a final rule allowing proposals for importation of certain drugs from Canada by states, as well as the District of Columbia, territories, tribes, and in certain circumstances, pharmacies and wholesalers. These programs will be managed by a program sponsor, which will be authorized by the FDA to facilitate the importation of certain prescription drugs approved in Canada and appropriately labeled and approved for use in the US. Eligible drugs would undergo testing for authenticity and degradation and to ensure the drugs meet established specifications and standards, after which they would be re-labeled with FDA-approved labeling.

Two federal judges ruled this week that the US Postal Service must hold on changes it had planned to make ahead of the election over concerns they would slow down mail delivery. These two rulings are the latest times a judge has rebuked USPS Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and the Trump administration after several Democratic-led states and others sued over the changes. The agency is under extra scrutiny now that more Americans are set to vote by mail in November’s general election because of the coronavirus pandemic. Judge Gerald McHugh of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled Monday that the Postal Service can’t restrict extra or late trips for mail delivery and can’t prohibit overtime so its workers can deliver mail.

As more and more people continue to turn to e-commerce, retailers are adjusting plans heading into the holiday season. This week, Bed Bath & Beyond announced that it will start offering same-day delivery of e-commerce orders. The retailer is partnering with Target-owned Shipt and Instacart to make the deliveries. While Bed Bath & Beyond is rolling out the program across 48 states, customers must reside in eligible zip codes to use the service. There will be a flat-rate fee of $4.99 for orders of more than $39. Existing Shipt customers will still receive free, same-day delivery on all orders above $35 when they shop directly through the Shipt platform.

Aside from partnering with Bed Bath & Beyond, Instacart is also partnering with Sephora, a French multinational chain of personal care and beauty stores. As part of the partnership, select Sephora stores in California and Canada will offer same-day delivery using Instacart. According to Sephora, 300-plus brands will be featured on Instacart. To access the service, members have to either pay a delivery fee to Instacart or have an existing Instacart membership. Delivery fees will be $3.99 for same-day orders over $35. Fees vary for one-hour deliveries, club store deliveries, and deliveries under $35. An annual membership for Instacart costs $99, and a monthly membership is $9.99 per month. Sephora plans to roll out the program to an additional 400 stores in the coming weeks.

Wegman Food Markets is making a push to reduce its carbon footprint. Part of its plan is to move towards a diesel-free fleet of trucks. The company has added to its fleet two compressed natural gas (CNG) trucks featuring near-zero NOx emissions Cummins engines, with one employing a Hyliion Hybrid CNG system for increased power. Wegmans has used CNG trucks in the past, but this latest move will be more beneficial. According to Matt Harris, Wegmans’ fleet maintenance department manager:

“Our early-model CNG trucks were everything we hoped they would be from a diesel reduction standpoint. However, when compared to our diesel-powered trucks, it was clear that if we wanted to continue to increase the ratio of CNG trucks in our fleet, improvements in the trucks’ performance were needed. Historically, one of the biggest limitations with the CNG driveline, which holds true for our first-generation CNG trucks, is its lower horsepower and torque output that limits the amount of weight you can haul. In Wegmans’ case, this is important because we often pull tandem trailer sets on the Thruway, and that requires a lot of power.”

Modesto-based Save Mart supermarkets has partnered with San Francisco firm Starship Technologies to bring autonomous, touchless grocery delivery to the Central Valley. Starship has been running pilots and campus delivery programs over the last few years, using autonomous mobile robots to make deliveries to your front door. Now the service has officially launched from the company’s flagship store on Oakdale Road and Sylvan Avenue, making Save Mart the first US grocery chain to partner with Starship for the delivery service. Deliveries are currently available to those within an approximately two-mile radius from the north Modesto store, but Save hopes to expand that range in coming weeks, and in the future possibly offer delivery from its other stores in the region.

Palm oil has been a hot topic lately, with many food and cosmetic manufacturing companies looking to improve traceability and eliminate deforestation. There has also been a lot of news around labor practices involving some of these manufacturers. This week the US announced plans to block shipments of palm oil from FGV Holdings Berhad, one of Malaysia’s largest palm oil companies and a joint-venture partner with American consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble. The US found indicators of forced labor, including concerns about child workers, along with other abuses such as physical and sexual violence. The action, announced a week after The Associated Press exposed major labor abuses in Malaysia’s palm oil industry, was triggered by a petition filed last year by nonprofit organizations.

Federal restrictions on truck drivers’ hours of service (HoS) caps are set to loosen, allowing fleets more flexibility in managing the number of hours their drivers are allowed to haul freight. The move follows several rulings by regulators at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to temporarily loosen such limits under a national state of emergency declared in March during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. The new rollout makes some of those changes permanent, with leaders at the US Department of Transportation (DOT) saying the changes are needed to “alleviate unnecessary burdens placed on drivers while maintaining safety on our nation’s highways and roads.”

That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend and the song of the week, Lou Reed’s Perfect Day.

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