Above the Fold: Supply Chain Logistics News (May 31, 2024)


That is what we call our Thule cargo box that we put on top of our car. We only use it when we go on vacation, like last week when we went to our son’s college graduation and needed it to move his stuff back home.

I almost killed Jonah a few years ago.

It was only a few months after I bought it and I pulled into a parking lot to get money from an ATM. To leave the parking lot, however, I had to drive through a covered garage, and not remembering Jonah was on the car roof, I went in and…crunch!

Jonah was damaged by the parking lot roof. I had to slowly back out, remove Jonah from the car, drive through the garage to the exit side, then carry the injured Jonah to the car and put it back on. Luckily, the damage was not too bad. I was able to patch up the cracks with Gorilla tape.

I almost killed Jonah again this past weekend. 

Not remembering Jonah was on top, I started going into a covered garage, but with inches to spare, I heard Jonah cry out and I slammed on the brakes before it hit the roof. Unfortunately, there was a line of cars behind me, so I couldn’t back out. I had to repeat the process again, this time in the rain: take Jonah off the car, drive into the garage and park, carry Jonah to the car (with the help of a friendly stranger), and put it in the trunk. Sweating, wet, and flustered, I fast-walked to Barton Hall, where my wife and kids were already seated, to see my son walk across the graduation stage with his diploma.

If I don’t kill Jonah one day, it will surely kill me.

Moving on, here’s the supply chain and logistics news that caught my attention this week:

Cute Fast-Fashion Outfit for Only $12.99 (Toxins Included)

Last week I highlighted a report by Swiss advocacy group Public Eye that says “workers for some suppliers of Chinese fast fashion giant Shein are still working 75 hours a week, despite the company promising to improve conditions” (as reported by BBC News). I also highlighted a Saturday Night Live skit that poked fun at this fast-fashion trend, raising questions about forced labor, worker pay, and product quality.

Well, this week The Straight Times reports that “children’s products sold by Chinese-founded online shopping giant Shein contained toxic substances in amounts hundreds of times above acceptable levels.” According to the article:

Seoul authorities have been conducting weekly inspections of items sold by platforms including Shein, Temu and AliExpress.In the latest round, they selected eight products sold by Shein, including children’s shoes, leather bags and a belt, and found several to contain high amounts of phthalates – chemicals used to soften plastics.

One pair of shoes contained 428 times the permitted levels of phthalates – the highest observed so far during the Seoul inspections – and three bags had amounts as high as 153 times the limit, the city government said. 

Phthalates are widely used to soften plastic and are found in thousands of products, including containers, beauty products and toys. However, they have been known for decades to cause hormone disruptions and have been linked to obesity, heart disease, some cancers and fertility problems.

However, if you’ve been paying attention, this shouldn’t be surprising. Here’s the headline from an October 2021 CBC article: “Experts warn of high levels of chemicals in clothes by some fast-fashion retailers.” Here are the opening paragraphs from the article, which are basically the same as the ones quoted above from The Straight Times:

Canadians who purchase cheap fast fashion from online retailers may be exposing themselves to potentially toxic chemicals.

A Marketplace investigation found that out of 38 samples of children’s, adult’s and maternity clothes and accessories, one in five items had elevated levels of chemicals — including lead, PFAS and phthalates — that experts found concerning. 

That was almost three years ago, yet despite this news, people have kept buying from Shein, Temu and AliExpress. So, as the Saturday Night Skit comically points out, who cares about toxins in the clothes and that they were made with forced labor when you can get this cute outfit for only $12.99!

I’ll repeat what I said last week: At the end of the day, money talks. If consumers stopped buying from these e-commerce retailers, it would force everyone else in the supply chain to take aggressive actions to combat these problems. But the sad and honest truth is that consumers don’t really care about how these goods are made; they care more about price, look, and availability.

A 90-Year-Old Truck Driver Pulls Up to Your Dock

Earlier this month I wrote a post that generated a lot of discussion (“If An 18-Year-Old Truck Driver Comes To Pick Up Your Shipment”). It raised the following question: How comfortable would you be having an 18-year-old truck driver transporting one of your loads across state lines? Based on data from our Indago supply chain research community and the FMCSA, it seems like most carriers and shippers would prefer having older, more experienced drivers behind the wheel of a heavy-duty truck.

But is there an upper limit on how old a driver should be? How comfortable would you be having a 90-year-old truck driver transporting one of your loads across state lines?

This question popped into my head as I read about Doyle Archer who was officially recognized by Guinness World Records as the oldest male truck driver at 90 years 55 days old, as verified on February 2, 2024. Here are some excerpts from the post:

[Archer] has been driving trucks for over 60 years and has traveled approximately 5.5 million miles.

The last 20 years of Doyle’s career have been at Coomes Inc. in Phillipsburg, Kansas, where he was just named a “Million Mile Safe Driver” after traveling 1 million miles without any incident.

“I do not plan to retire any time soon,” he told us. “As long as my health holds, I will keep driving. I do not have the word ‘retire’ in my vocabulary.”

As long as he remains healthy and fit to drive, I say, “Ride on Mr. Archer!” His safety record speaks for itself.

And with that, have a meaningful weekend!

Song of the Week: “Heaven In Your Hands” by Cold War Kids