Supply chain spooks and frights
In what has become a defining story of the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain struggles again were an inescapable topic in the news over the past week.
As this story from the Wall Street Journal points out, the most frightening part of Halloween this year is whether the trappings of Halloween will actually be available on store shelves and via online orders. Consumers and retailers are getting creative in managing peak season this year, which ramps up before Halloween and extends through year’s end.
Also in supply chain news, President Joe Biden last week announced that the White House had brokered a deal between port authorities, unions, and cargo owners to allow ports and drayage operations to run 24/7, perhaps on a long-term basis.
As several trucking-focused media outlets reported, however, some trucking trade associations are skeptical of the plan, questioning whether the White House’s deal will actually work and whether it addresses the root issues that have snared the proper flow of goods.
Meanwhile, while West Coast ports are buried in a flotilla of incoming ships and containers and are trying to claw out, East Coast ports are preparing for freight to be rerouted there — and they’re hoping to avoid the type of ‘Armageddon’ seen on the West Coast.
However, their efforts might be a little late — ships are already starting to queue off the coast of Georgia and South Carolina and ports in Savannah and Charleston are already seeing backlogs rise.
Autonomous trucking race heats up
The country’s largest truckload fleet, Knight-Swift, was one of several fleets lining up to place orders from autonomous truck developer Embark, who opened reservations to trucking companies this month. So far, some 14,200 orders have been placed for Embark rigs.
Autonomous trucking developers continue to catch headlines, as a purported shortage of qualified truck drivers has been partially to blame for the aforementioned supply chain struggles and as automated tech advances.
In addition to Embark’s big week, autonomous developer Locomotion announced a partnership with stalwart engine builder Cummins, and Aurora Innovation released a roadmap for its deployment of autonomous trucking tech, as well as a plan to start trading shares publicly on the Nasdaq. Also, AV developer Plus announced it had delivered its first autonomous units to Chinese truck manufacturer FAW for integration into new FAW units.
Freight brokerage and logistics consolidation continues
In the same week that the CEO of Transplace said there would soon be a “rapid consolidation” in the logistics segment (Transplace was acquired by digital broker Uber Freight this summer), major freight brokerage Hub Group announced it is acquiring ChopTank, a specialized refrigerated brokerage that’s expected to post half a billion in revenue this year.
And earlier this month, ArcBest, parent company of large carriers Panther Express and ABF Freight and a brokerage operator in its own right, acquired MoLo solutions, a truckload brokerage startup out of Chicago.