All week in the Boston area, and really the greater Northeast, there has been a smoky haze blanketing the sky. The cause: dense smoke from wildfires burning in Quebec. Around 75 million people in the United States are experiencing dangerous air conditions because of the smoke, with officials urging them to limit time outdoors and mask up for safety. Without substantial new smoke entering the US, the dangerous air conditions are expected to improve. But current weather patterns suggest the smoke will be trapped in impacted areas until it can dissipate, meaning improvements will come slowly. Most of the Washington, DC, metro area is now experiencing hazardous air conditions. Air quality in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia is still unhealthy but improving slightly from hazardous levels on Wednesday. New York, Charlotte, Detroit, Indianapolis, Delaware and Rhode Island, as well as other areas, remain under air quality alerts. The Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday morning flights nationwide were delayed 34 minutes on average due to the conditions, with the maximum delay lasting an hour and 47 minutes. The agency issued ground stops for Philadelphia and New York airports earlier in the day. And now on to this week’s logistics news.
- West Coast labor issues persist
- Absolut is introducing paper-based bottles
- 340,000 UPS workers are voting whether to authorize a massive strike
- Hurricane season kicks off with uncertain weather models
- ATRI assesses impact of marijuana on trucking
- Fewer truck transportation jobs in May than January
- BLET and Union Pacific Railroad reach paid sick leave agreement
Just hours after the reopening of the West Coast ports on Monday after multiple closures that began at the Port of Oakland last Friday when some union workers refused to report for assignments, issues remain at select terminals within ports from Los Angeles to Seattle, with labor slowdowns and shift closures. ITS Logistics said its truckers were turned away by the terminal operator Fenix Marine Services, which is owned by ocean carrier CMA-CGM, at the Port of Los Angeles during the first shift Monday. They were picking containers from a variety of ocean carriers. Containers processed through the terminal include those owned by Maersk, OOCL, COSCO. The Port of Long Beach is open and operating today after issues over the weekend, although two of its six container terminals were closed for the day shift. Operators of those terminals made the decision to close based on operational needs and were expected to reopen for the evening shift, the port said in a statement.
Are paper bottles about to become a mainstream option for eco-conscious consumers? While the idea has been attempted before, Absolut Vodka is now about to become the first global spirits brand to sell paper-based bottles commercially in the UK. As part of a three-month test, Absolut will sell the experimental bottles in the supermarket chain Tesco, after a previous experiment selling paper-based bottles at festivals. It’s part of the drink brand’s initiative to become carbon neutral by 2030. According to a press release, these 500ml-sized single-mold paper bottles are made from 57% paper with an integrated barrier of recyclable plastic. Customers can recycle the packaging as paper, and yes, while glass bottles are also recyclable, paper bottles are eight times lighter and easier to carry. Additionally, Absolut says these paper containers will not replace the iconic bottle designs but “complement” them.
As Americans become even more reliant on delivery, hundreds of thousands of UPS workers this week could authorize a strike that will bring the world’s biggest package courier to a standstill. UPS workers will vote this week on whether to authorize a strike if their union – the International Brotherhood of Teamsters – does not reach a new contract with UPS by August 1st. The vote results will be announced next week on June 16, the union said. Strike authorization votes are routine during contract negotiations, and almost always pass. A nationwide UPS strike would be the largest work stoppage in US history. The union represents more than half of UPS’s total global employee base – 340,000 UPS Teamsters – which includes drivers and package sorters. Voting will occur in person both at local union halls and at the gates of UPS facilities, according to the Teamsters.
As the North American hurricane season begins, weather models are generating conflicting forecasts, so logistics providers are preparing their resilience plans to be ready for anything. The Atlantic hurricane season stretches from June 1 to November 30, and according to the lead federal forecaster, this year will bring “near-normal hurricane activity,” the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) said May 25. That would mean a range of 12 to 17 total named storms, including 5 to 9 hurricanes, of which 1 to 4 could be major hurricanes. However, that forecast includes nearly equal chances of other outcomes, with a 40 percent chance of a near-normal season, a 30 percent chance of an above-normal season, and a 30% chance of a below-normal season. Indeed, a recent model from the University of Arizona concluded that 2023 would see above-average hurricane activity, after two years of relatively mild storm seasons. Fortunately, those researchers also said that fewer of those storms are predicted to make landfall.
More than 100,000 truck drivers have been removed from the industry in the past three years due to positive marijuana tests, and most have not returned, according to a new study by the American Transportation Research Institute. ATRI released the report, “Impacts of Marijuana Legalization on the Trucking Industry,” on June 5 in response to concerns about the increasing use of marijuana by truck drivers largely believed to be due to the recreational legalization of pot in 23 states. Drivers also can be placed in a prohibited status even for testing positive while using the drug for medicinal purposes. The ATRI report seeks to shed light on the continuing mystery of why so many medium- and large-truck drivers are leaving their jobs after failing a marijuana test — most likely accepting other jobs with lower pay rather than returning to the current nationwide driver pool that already is critically short.
Truck transportation jobs rose slightly between April and May but recent downward revisions mean that the net number of jobs in that sector over the last four months has declined. The figure released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were 1,609,200 seasonally adjusted jobs in the truck transportation sector in May. That is up 600 jobs from what is now reported for April. But the April report was revised downward almost 3,000 jobs from an original number of 1,612,500. March was also revised downward to 1,607,600 jobs, from 1,609,500 jobs reported last month. The BLS posts an initial estimate for employment totals, and that number is subject to revision for the following two months. It then becomes final until the annual revision that comes with the report released in February. Given the revisions for March and April, and the big drop in truck transportation employment reported in February, the end result is that the figure for January — which is final, barring any revisions next year — now stands at 1,611,400 jobs. The latest report for May is 2,200 jobs less than that.
Union Pacific Railroad reached an agreement with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) to provide paid sick leave to the approximately 5,600 locomotive engineers employed by the railroad. Under the agreement, BLET members will have up to seven paid days to use in the event of illness. Five days will be considered paid sick days with the ability to convert two additional paid leave days for use as paid sick time. The new agreement is effective August 1. “This agreement is really about health and safety,” said BLET National President Eddie Hall. “It’s not in our members’, the public’s, or the railroad’s best interest for engineers to be operating trains when they’re sick. Congratulations to our BLET General Chairmen and Union Pacific’s management who reached this agreement at the bargaining table.” Union Pacific now has sick leave agreements in place with 12 of its 13 labor unions, covering approximately 68 percent of Union Pacific’s craft employees.
That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend and the song of the week, Play with Fire by the Rolling Stones.