There was a lot of anticipation around electric vehicle start-up Rivian going public. On the second day of trading, the company’s shares spiked, surpassing both Ford and General Motors by market cap. While it is still well below the market cap of Tesla, Rivian’s valuation topped $100 billion. The valuation means Amazon’s 20 percent stake in the business is now worth about $20 billion and puts Ford’s 12 percent stake at about $12 billion. Those are some pretty crazy numbers considering that Rivian has yet to establish a business model and is anticipating roughly $1 million in revenue for the third quarter. But I guess when Amazon is looking at a company as the future of its electric delivery fleet, having ordered 100,000 vehicles to be delivered by 2030, with 10,000 in operation by next year, it certainly helps. This will certainly be an interesting company to watch over the next decade. And now on to this week’s logistics news.
- Walmart is using autonomous trucks to ramp up grocery business
- White House moves to speed newly passed infrastructure funding for ports
- ATA-led coalition sues to block federal vaccine mandate
- Iron Ox launches autonomous greenhouse robot
- Retailers set science-based targets to address climate change
- Freight rates to stay high into 2022
- When FedEx, UPS, US Postal Service packages should be shipped for upcoming holiday season
The push for autonomous trucks is increasing, and some tests are getting more advanced than others. For the most part, the autonomous trucks that are being tested have used a safety driver to take control in case of an emergency. However, Walmart announced earlier this week that it has started using fully driverless trucks in its online grocery business, aiming to increase capacity and reduce inefficiencies. Walmart and Silicon Valley start-up Gatik said that, since August, they’ve operated two autonomous box trucks, without a safety driver, on a 7-mile loop daily for 12 hours. The Gatik trucks are loaded with online grocery orders from a Walmart fulfillment center and taken to a nearby Walmart Neighborhood Market grocery store in Bentonville, AR. The partnership is focused on the middle mile, which is the transport of goods within the supply chain most often from a warehouse to a fulfillment center or a warehouse to a retailer.
The Biden administration announced steps Tuesday to speed up the distribution of some of the $17 billion for ports in the infrastructure bill passed Friday, even before the bill has been signed into law, in an effort to relieve supply chain backlogs that have driven up prices and created project shortages. While many projects funded by the bill could take years to be completed, senior administration officials said they are working to accelerate that process, including a change in how grant money is allocated that will allow the Port of Savannah in Georgia, which has been snarled by congestion, to move cargo quicker. Beyond short-term fixes to ease congestion, Biden has said greater investment needs to be made to make the country’s ports more efficient and competitive longer term. Only four US ports are among the top 50 busiest ports in the world, and no US port is in the top 10, the administration said.
The American Trucking Association (ATA), along with three state trucking associations and a number of groups representing various facets of the supply chain, have sued the Biden Administration over its employer-based COVID-19 vaccine mandate. The lawsuit was filed in response to a November 4 Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule mandating that private companies with 100 or more employees ensure that their workers are COVID-19 vaccinated by January 4, or if not, are subject to weekly testing. In a statement, the ATA said that it supports efforts to encourage all Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19, but that this standard “arbitrarily picks winners and losers and puts employers in an untenable position of forcing workers to choose between working and their private medical decisions, which is something that cannot be allowed.”
There has been an increased interest in indoor farming over the last few years. And now, farming innovation company Iron Ox is ready to take the next step. The California-based company, which has expertise in plant science, robotics, and artificial intelligence, recently announced the launch of its mobile support robot named Grover. According to Iron Ox, the autonomous mobile robot can lift more than 1,000 pounds and assists in the monitoring, watering, and harvesting of a wide variety of crops, from leafy greens to strawberries, in greenhouses. Iron Ox says Grover is a key component of the company’s broader farming ecosystem, a closed-loop system that optimizes plant yield, reduce growth cycle time, and maximizes crop quality. The company aims to produce locally sourced fruits and vegetables that cost about the same as produce from conventional farms. Grover employs a differential drive system, multiple LiDAR systems, as well as upward and forward-facing camera systems. It is additionally equipped with a lift system to autonomously move 1,000-pound, 6-by-6-foot modules of hydroponically fed plants throughout the greenhouse.
The COP26 global climate change summit in Glasgow concludes this week with 190 world leaders and thousands of government officials, business representatives and nonprofit groups making commitments to address climate change threats. While other industries such as oil and gas, coal, cement, steel, aluminum, and automobiles and transportation play a larger role in climate change, retail leaders are stepping up to meet climate change goals. More than three dozen of the largest retailers in the US have set or committed to setting Science Based Targets (SBT) that provide a clear route to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The SBT process requires businesses to quantify their current emissions, set specific meaningful carbon reduction targets with measurable interim goals, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, report on their progress, and help others along the way. Retailers face a significant hurdle here though, as more than 90 percent of the emissions associated with their businesses occur outside of their direct control as part of their “scope 3” emissions.
According to a survey of owner-operators and small fleets conducted by Bloomberg and Truckstop.com, shippers will continue to see “robust” contractual pricing for moving their truckload freight heading into 2022 thanks to solid demand and lingering capacity constraints. According to Lee Klaskow, senior freight transportation and logistics analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, “the survey data shows what has likely become the tightest trucking market in a generation and looks poised to keep supporting spot rates into 2022. We believe contractual pricing may increase in the mid- to high-single digits next year because of limited driver availability and the prospects for robust demand created by economic recovery and a prolonged inventory-replenishment cycle.” Those conditions are being triggered by forces including steady demand due to restocking, structural shifts in e-commerce and peak-season preparation, and pent-up demand from increased port congestion.
Next week, I will be releasing my annual holiday logistics guide, as I have done for 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, and 2014. But for those looking for a jump start, FedEx, UPS, and the USPS have released their holiday shipping schedule. All three have said that you should be fine shipping Christmas gifts the week of December 13, but with the ongoing capacity crunch, it might be safer to make sure you have shipped items by December 10. The ground cutoff is December 15 for both FedEx and the Postal Service, while UPS doesn’t give a cutoff date. However, it does say that coast-to-coast shipping takes about a week, meaning it should be shipped no later than December 17. FedEx and UPS have both eliminated nearly all their delivery guarantees through the holiday season. The sole exception is UPS Next Day Air, which comes with a hefty price tag.
That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend and the song of the week, Eddy Grant’s Electric Avenue.