Above the Fold: Supply Chain Logistics News (April 5, 2024)

One of the side effects of my thyroid surgery is that I’ve grown a beard.

It’s what happens when you stop shaving, as I did the first week after surgery. I was afraid of slicing open the fresh scar on my neck with the razor. So, I ended up with a beard and I’ve decided to keep it for now.

“It’s mostly pepper with a little salt on the chin,” an amused friend told me when we met for lunch recently. I corrected him: “That’s not salt, and I’m not a graybeard either.”

“What is it then?” he asked. 

“It’s marshmallow.” 

It happened many years ago, when I was roasting marshmallows with my wife and kids at the Cape. As I wrote in August 2017:

“They were huge marshmallows, the kind you have to bite three or four times to eat, and we poked them through long wooden sticks and held them over the grill until they turned brown and gooey. I took a bite into one and its melted bottom got stuck on my chin, bits of white caught in the prickles of my two-day beard. We all laughed, even the mosquitoes biting our skin, and the kids used their little fingers to pick my beard clean.”

But somehow, like a happy memory, the marshmallow keeps coming back, a little more each time.

And now, the supply chain and logistics news that caught my attention this week:

Blue Yonder Acquires One Network

This news dropped last Friday, on Good Friday, when many people were out of the office for the holiday weekend. It’s a strange day to send out a press release, especially one announcing an acquisition of this size ($839 million) and significance. I would have waited until Monday, but what do I know, I’m not a PR guy.

I’m still digesting the news, and I haven’t been briefed by the companies yet, so I’ll share my thoughts in a future post.

For now, I’ll raise two questions to think about:

  • Why are “traditional” supply chain and ERP software providers investing in network-based solutions?
  • If you’re a supply chain or logistics executive at a manufacturing or retail company, why does this growing focus on network-based solutions matter? Why should you care?

Again, I’ll explore those questions in an upcoming post.

An Electric Truck Mandate from the EPA? 

Also on Good Friday, the EPA announced “final national greenhouse gas pollution standards for heavy-duty vehicles, such as freight trucks and buses, for model years 2027 through 2032. The standards will avoid 1 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions and provide $13 billion in annualized net benefits to society related to public health, the climate, and savings for truck owners and operators.”

Are these new standards and stated benefits achievable? There’s certainly a lot of doubt in the industry. Here’s what American Trucking Associations (ATA) President and CEO Chris Spear had to say:

“ATA opposes this rule in its current form because the post-2030 targets remain entirely unachievable given the current state of zero-emission technology, the lack of charging infrastructure and restrictions on the power grid. Given the wide range of operations required of our industry to keep the economy running, a successful emission regulation must be technology neutral and cannot be one-size-fits-all. Any regulation that fails to account for the operational realities of trucking will set the industry and America’s supply chain up for failure.”

The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board offered this view:

EPA’s new emissions standards for heavy-duty trucks will effectively require that electric semi-trucks make up an increasing share of manufacturer sales from 2027 through 2032, similar to its recent rule for passenger cars. The difference is that the truck mandate is even more costly and fanciful…Power generation and transmission will have to massively expand to support millions of new “zero-emission” trucks. An electric semi consumes about seven times as much electricity on a single charge as a typical home does in a day. Truck charging depots can draw as much power from the grid as small cities.

I’ve also written about the challenges involved in using electric trucks for long-haul moves (see “A Strategy For Charging Electric Freight Trucks” and “Electric Freight Trucks: Not Happening Anytime Soon For Long-Haul Moves”).

You can also read reports by the Clean Freight Coalition and The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) on this topic.

My guess is that the timeline for these rules will likely get extended or modified down the road if we don’t make progress on resolving the many challenges involved, especially those related to the power grid and the availability of charging stations. The only thing I’m certain of, however, is that one way or another taxpayers will ultimately foot the bill for everything.

And with that, have a meaningful weekend!

Song of the Week: “Neon Pill” by Cage the Elephant