This Week in Logistics News (November 10-14, 2014)

We normally do our Talking Logistics episodes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but we have one today at 12 ET with Alaster Love from Transplace, where we are going to discuss “Big Data and Analytics in Oil and Gas Transportation.” Since I still have some prep work to do, let’s go straight to the news that caught my attention this week:

It’s been almost a year since Amazon unveiled Amazon Prime Air, its drone program to deliver packages, and the company (along with Google, DHL, and others) continues to push forward its development efforts. According to The Guardian, “Amazon is planning to test drones in Cambridge, England, as the battle to offer consumers same-day deliveries heats up…Amazon is now expanding its R&D operations in Cambridge – two years after buying Cambridge-based startup Evi Technologies – to take advantage of the talent pool of academics and researchers in the area. The lab will focus on Prime Air.”

Want to work at Amazon to help develop Prime Air? Check out one of the job listings the company posted in the UK.

Last Friday I attended a CSCMP Executive Breakfast with guest speaker Jason Seidl from Cowan and Company where he provided an update on the rail, truckload, and less-than-truckload transportation markets. One of the topics he discussed was the rise in unionization efforts happening in trucking industry, specifically at FedEx and Con-way. As highlighted in a Reuters article this week:

After years of failed efforts, the Teamsters union has won a toehold in the trucking units of FedEx and Con-way and is targeting more facilities at both, potentially threatening what analysts see as a core competitive advantage for the companies.

The International Brotherhood Teamsters…has long tried to unionize workers at FedEx Corp and last month won votes to have union representation at two local FedEx Freight facilities out of three holding secret ballots…The Teamsters also won two out of four recent ballots at Con-way Freight, part of Con-way Inc, which according to industry estimates pays slightly more than FedEx but less than UPS.

This week, FedEx Freight drivers voted against the union in Newark, New Jersey, and Con-way Freight employees did the same in Manchester, New Hampshire. The bottom line, these unionization efforts, coupled with the industry’s efforts to attract and retain more drivers, is leading to increases in driver pay (see, for example, Con-way’s recent announcement about enhancements to driver pay package), which ultimately leads to higher rates for shippers.

At an investor conference this week, UPS discussed the growing impact of e-commerce on its business, and outlined several plans to enhance its operations. As reported in the Financial Times:

Under the most eye-catching plan – known as Synchronised Delivery Solution – a package due to be delivered to a given address will wait for others coming from other sources, which will then be delivered with it.

The company will also encourage more consumers to pick up and drop off packages at local shops offering the UPS Access Point pick-up and drop-off service.

The company expects to reduce annual costs by between $300m to $400m from 2017 by expanding use of its Orion route-planning software to all its US drivers, from about 40 per cent at present. The system has cut an average of seven to eight miles daily from existing users’ routes.

I’ll discuss more about UPS’ plans in a future post.

Finally, Transplace announced enhancements to its Customs Portal “to help shippers more efficiently and accurately manage the U.S.-Mexico customs process.” Here are some details from the press release:

“Using the Customs Portal, importers can interact with the shipper, broker, and multiple departments within their own organization through a single platform, enabling easier communication and visibility and ensuring the integrity of all data transmitted to Mexican Customs,” [said Jose Minarro, ‎customs brokerage director for Transplace].

The Customs Portal has multi-modal capability to clear air, ocean or land shipments through multiple ports of entry. The system comprehends inbound shipments at a Purchase Order (PO) or Advance Shipping Notice (ASN) level, automating the data input of each product line and eliminating the need for manual data entry. The system also features a centralized parts database for multi-port operations, allowing importers to add technical and use specifications for each part number.

As I wrote last month, all signs point to Mexico playing a greater role in supply chains, and facilitating the flow of information and documents across trading partners and customs agencies is a critical enabler.

And with that, have a happy weekend!

Song of the Week: “Nothing Left to Lose” by Mat Kearney

Note: Transplace is a Talking Logistics sponsor.