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Emerging Freight and Trucking Markets

Posted by Land Link on Nov 6, 2019 9:19:31 AM


The trucking sector is going through a major paradigm shift due to the ongoing digitization of the industry and the increased transparency resulting from the digitization and the launching of a trucking forward and freight futures market. It’s now three-dimensional market comprised of the spot, forward and trucking freight futures markets. As the trucking forward and futures markets gain traction, the three markets will become increasingly more interrelated.

Forward Market

The forward market is being established where shippers place “buy” orders to procure future trucking capacity anywhere from two weeks to six months plus out and carriers place “sell” orders to provide trucking capacity to shippers in the same time frame. As opposed to the existing non-standardized RFP based contract market,  forward contracts are binding and based on a standardized contract. They provide guaranteed load volume/trucking capacity and rates to shippers and carriers, and the contract rates can be hedged via trucking freight futures.

Trucking Freight Futures Market

The trucking rate futures market was launched at the end of March 2019 on the Nodal Exchange. The underlying rate, which the futures markets track, are indices produced by DAT and updated daily. There are seven directional lanes and four calculated indices, each with a 16-month series. Trucking freight futures provide a trucking rate volatility hedging tool for trucking carriers, shippers and third-party logistics (3PL) providers, allowing them to lock in a trucking rate today for up to 16-months in the future. What does this mean for trucking carriers, shippers and 3PLs? Due to this increased transparency, trucking rates will become more volatile, will change more frequently and will be increasingly influenced by changes in the trucking forward and freight futures markets. Carriers and shippers will be able to see changes in trucking rates around the country in all three markets on a more “real time” basis, causing rates in their lanes to adjust much faster.

Trucking freight futures provide a very effective way to hedge trucking rate risk, and the forward market provides a hedge to lock in guaranteed rates and load volume and trucking capacity on a multi-month basis. There are also viable cross-market hedging and profiting strategies that can be executed on in conjunction with the trucking forward and futures markets.

3-Dimensional Execution

The new three-dimensional market provides new ways for market participants to mitigate trucking rate risk, determine trucking rates and pricing and to procure trucking capacity or access load volume. The successful companies in this new market will be those that learn to engineer execution strategies via combined solutions from each of the three markets. Regardless of whether a market participant ever uses binding forward and or trucking freight futures, it will need to stay current on the pricing trends in both the trucking forward and freight futures markets as spot market rates in their lanes will be affected by both.

Technology is spawning hybrid markets in many sectors.  The successful logistics planner will be the one who understands these emerging markets.  To stay informed on this and many other Logistics topics, subscribe to our blog.

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Topics: Transportation News, Logistics Business, Shipping News, Logistics News, Industry Trends

Parcel Deliveries Clogging Up City Streets

Posted by Land Link on Oct 30, 2019 1:37:40 PM

The boom in online stores is increasing the demand for parcel delivery services, particularly in the big cities. New York, Chicago and Los Angeles are experiencing serious traffic issues due to the amount of parcel delivery vans clogging the city streets. Add to this the number of ride share drivers in any metropolitan area daily and it is easy to see how things are getting congested.

Consumers today are spending less time in local stores and more time online, buying not only retail items but also groceries from Peapod, office supplies from Postmates and whatever they need from Amazon. According to the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board, it’s estimated that, on average, every person in the U.S. generates demand for roughly 60 tons of freight each year. In 2010, the United States Post Service overtook both FedEx and UPS as the largest parcel-delivery service in the country and delivered 3.1 billion packages nationwide. Last year, the USPS delivered more than 5.1 billion packages. The growth in e-commerce is fueling a rise in the number of delivery vehicles box trucks, smaller vans and cars alike on city streets.

While truck traffic currently represents about 7% of urban traffic in American cities, it bears a disproportionate congestion cost of $28 billion, or about 17 percent of the total U.S. congestion costs in wasted hours and gas. Cities, struggling to keep up with the deluge of delivery drivers, are seeing their curb space and streets overtaken by delivery vehicles, to say nothing of the bonus pollution and road wear produced thanks to a deluge of Amazon Prime orders.

The problem, really, is that we now live in a world where the brick-and-mortar stores are only one part of the retail equation and, as many a “retail apocalypse” story is warning, they are a shrinking part. Demand is being driven by people in their individual homes and apartments ordering smaller amounts of goods with higher frequency: groceries one day, several items from Amazon the next. As more goods are ordered, more delivery trucks are dispatched on narrow city streets. Often, the box trucks will double-park in a two-lane street if there’s no loading zone to pull into, snarling traffic behind them.

Many American cities are also playing catch-up as they try to understand these new urban delivery challenges and systems. That’s due in part to the failures of urban planning and the nature of the trucking business. While matters of public policy like public transit, bike lanes and walkability fall within the purview of planning boards and municipal departments of transportation, freight has always been a purely private-sector enterprise. Cities don’t have reliable data on the number of delivery trucks coursing through their streets; let alone planning for them.

Looking For Solutions

Cities can’t just ticket their way out of the delivery-truck problem. For big commercial delivery companies, parking fines are just part of the cost of doing business. UPS paid New York City $18.7 million in parking fines in 2006. In 2011 in Washington, D.C., UPS alone received just shy of 32,000 tickets.

If enhanced enforcement isn’t the answer, diverting delivery traffic might be. Seattle is taking an inventory of all the remaining alley space in the city. Instead of letting developers extend housing lots into the alleys, they might be used to accommodate some of the incoming delivery traffic.

Delivery companies are also experimenting with ways to reduce their impact. Late last year, UPS introduced its first “eBike” deliveries in Portland, Oregon. The goal is twofold: Reduce carbon emissions while putting a delivery vehicle on the road small enough to take advantage of curb space. UPS is also integrating across its U.S. routes its new big-data tool, On-Road Integrated Optimization Navigation (ORION). As a UPS driver travels their route, ORION works in the background considering up to 200,000 possible routes before picking the most optimal route for a driver to take to reduce the overall time spent driving around from delivery to delivery. The next generation is going to be a real-time tool taking traffic into account.

UPS currently uses drones to help drivers in rural delivery locations. It’s unclear how practical drone delivery can be in a metropolitan area considering the risk of personal injury, theft and inaccurate consignee deliveries. The solution to the congestion problem will likely come from many angles over the coming years. We simply were not prepared for the online purchasing boom and have never caught up.

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Topics: Supply Chain Management, Transportation News, Logistics Business, Shipping News, Logistics News, Industry Trends, Technology

Emerging Warehouse Automation Technologies

Posted by Land Link on Oct 23, 2019 9:48:03 AM


Those in the logistics business have recently speculated as to the direction of technology as it relates to warehousing and distribution advancements. The pace at which technology is advancing is exciting and a little frightening at the same time. The applications seem almost endless and keeping up on the technology can be a daunting task. Let’s take a look at a few emerging technologies in warehouse automation.

Collaborative Robots Infiltrate Human Interaction

Collaborative robots may be described as round one of the robotic invasions into warehouse operations. In this round, robots are introduced to work alongside, and in collaboration with, humans in the day-to-day operations of the warehouse and distribution centers. Last summer, Forbes gave smart cobots, otherwise known as ‘collaborative robots,’ the illustrious title of “the future of work”. It’s a declaration that struck a chord with many, perhaps because the idea of warehouse associates working alongside robots is a simpler image to accept than a fully automated operation in which robots replace living, breathing human workers.

While cobots are quite flexible when it comes to application, the most talked about are the picking and packing variety currently being used by Amazon. Cobots are a no-brainer for large warehouses owned by multichannel retailers who have the extra capital to invest in the technology. These lightweight robots can be programmed quickly and controlled remotely, require just a few hours of set-up time, are often mobile, and, as far as we know, are safer than many of their stagnant, bolted-down competitors.   Cobots will likely give way to the next generation of robot which will largely replace humans if not entirely.

On-Demand Warehousing

On-demand warehousing has been around for a while.  Now it has become more sophisticated in both space design and geographical placement all based upon big data.  Warehousing and DC centers need to be placed in strategic locations to meet the incredible delivery demands of today's consumers. Terabytes of data are being analyzed to decide exactly where to build strategic on-demand warehousing offering flexible utilization terms and easy highway access. Users want flexible warehouse space and supplier contracts that allow manufacturers to take advantage of the service as they scale and remove the services as they downsize. Third-party firms are offering up smart warehouses to manufacturers and suppliers at a fraction of the cost for the businesses to make the investments themselves. This means that even the most modest of startups can benefit from the use of the latest automated technologies, giving emerging businesses the opportunity to compete with the big guys on fulfillment time and accuracy.

Advanced Inventory Scanning Techniques

Fully automated warehouses  have been a hot topic as of late. Trailblazing companies, like Aquifi, have already found a way to automate the task of bar code and label scanning, eliminating the need for handheld scanning tools and the people who operate them. This technology is accomplished through a sophisticated smart dimensioning and 3D identification function that processes a warehouse’s items with more precision than ever before. It’s big news for operations that take advantage of tried and true asset tagging and bar coding. While these materials will not be replaced, the very scanners, and the people who use them, may soon be deemed obsolete.

3D Printing

3D printing has been around for a few years now.  It utilizes the 3rd dimension to not print, but build a particular item.  Most 3D applications are designed for simple replacement parts made out of basic materials. As printers become more sophisticated, the applications have expanded. The sneaker industry is just one example of 3D printing technology application. In the old days, making a customized piece of footwear meant a disruption in the everyday processing of the manufacturer’s movements and a much higher price tag for the customer. Ever since sneaker behemoth, Adidas, invested in 3D printing powerhouse Carbon, the once-fabled affordable customized sneaker is now a reality. In fact, consumers are so completely on board with this 3D-printed footwear option that Adidas is projected to sell millions of units in 2019 alone.

3D printing is also a powerful tool for plenty of other manufacturers, particularly those who are in the positions to take advantage of additive manufacturing according to the operation’s precise needs. This is a big win for manufacturers, as it reduces material waste and shortens processing time in one fell swoop. As technology continues to evolve, so does the variety find in the world’s smartest, most cutting-edge warehouses. Always pay attention to emerging automation technologies and the companies who are making them a reality. These are the very actors who will be dictating how we manufacture, distribute and consume goods in the years to come.

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Topics: Logistics Business, 3D Printing, Shipping News, Logistics News, Industry Trends, Technology

Freight Declines Continue Through September

Posted by Land Link on Oct 17, 2019 11:19:58 AM



The most recent edition of the Cass Freight Index Report issued this week by Cass Information Systems highlighted another month of freight transportation shipment and expenditure declines in September. The Cass freight index is widely considered the most accurate barometer of industry activity and trends.

September shipments, at 1.199, were up 0.8% compared to August and down 3.4% annually, marking the tenth consecutive month of annual shipment declines.

Shipments initially turned negative in December 2018 for the first time in 24 months, when it fell 0.8%. January and February were down 0.3% and 2.1%, respectively. As previously reported, the December and January shipment readings were up against respective all-time highs reached in December 2017 and January 2018, coupled with stabilizing patterns in nearly all underlying freight flows.

The culprit is generally considered to be weakness in spot market pricing for many transportation services, especially trucking, which is consistent with the negative Cass Shipments Index and, along with airfreight and railroad volume data, strengthens concerns about the economy and the risk of ongoing trade policy disputes. This weakness and decreases in the prime lending rate are supporting arguments for a looming recession.

The CASS report highlighted concerns regarding inflation and concerns about contract pricing and cancellation of transportation equipment orders, with four key factors playing a role, including:

1. Almost all modes of transportation used their pricing power to create    capacity, which first dampened and has now killed pricing power.

2. Spot pricing (not including fuel surcharge) in all three modes of truckload freight (dry van, reefer, and flatbed) has been falling for 15 months. Spot pricing, using dry van rates as a proxy, fell dramatically from its peak in June 2018 (more than $0.50 a mile) to at one point in May falling to more than 30.0%below contract pricing (a level Cass declared unsustainable). The highly discounted pricing available in the spot market has attracted an increased amount of demand, which has deteriorated pricing in the contract market (which is down $0.20 a mile or -9.7% in the last 14 months), and has begun to close the gap between contract and spot.

3. The cost of fuel (and resulting fuel surcharge) is included in the Cass Expenditures Index. Since the cost of diesel has been negative over the last 4 months on a YoY basis (down -5.4% June, down -5.8% in July, down -6.6% in August, down -7.9% in September), it is increasing the negative amount of pricing reported.

4. Whether driven by capacity addition/creation or lower fuel surcharges (or a combination of both, which is our best guess) the Expenditures Index has continued to decline: the September 2019 Index is down -4.5% from its peak in September 2018.

What To Expect

In the first half of 2019, around 640 trucking companies went bankrupt, according to industry data from Broughton Capital LLC. That's more than triple the amount of bankruptcies from the same period last year — 175.

The slow down in trucking has especially affected small carriers, who operate largely on the spot market. Trucking loads can either be picked up on demand through the spot market, or through a pre-arranged contract. The contract market comprises the vast majority of the trucking market, according to the American Trucking Associations.  Trucking has been in a recession since the first half of 2019, according to ACT Research. That fact doesn't surprise truck drivers, dozens of whom have seen their earnings slashed this year.

Spot market rates have crashed in 2019, while contract market rates haven't seen the same dip. According to the most recent Chainanalytics-Cowen Freight Indices report, dry van spot rates are down 16.1% from the same period in 2018. Contract rates in dry van are down 8.1%.

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Topics: Supply Chain Management, Third Party Logistics, Transportation News, Logistics Business, Shipping News, Logistics News

Economic Health Checkup

Posted by Land Link on Oct 8, 2019 11:48:03 AM


There have been rumblings throughout the industry of a potential recession or economic slow down. The transportation industry has historically been an excellent barometer of the overall economic health of our manufacturing sectors. If you manufacturer it, you must ship it. Therefore, the logistics sector has significant foresight into the health of manufacturing both domestically and internationally. Third quarter numbers are not in just yet so we'll take a look at quarters one and two as well as some speculation about the rest of the year to make a somewhat educated guess as to what we might expect for the remainder of 2019 and 2020.

Hard Asset Allocation

The trucking business is asset heavy; meaning, it takes a lot of money to be in this business. The average cost of a standard tractor is about $120,000. Add sleeping accommodations brings you to $150,000. Trailers can run between $20,000 and $50,000 depending upon their additional goodies. Carriers of any significant size generally add 10 plus power units and twice that in trailers when making such an asset upgrade. There is typically millions of dollars in asset purchases at risk every year and estimating demand for transportation services is a critical science for the success of any asset based logistics organization. Over or under asset commitment and utilization can literally make or break a company so let's take a look at current conditions and see if we can project just how many trucks we should buy this year.

Macro View Of The Economy

While the US economy continues to stand on relatively firm ground, GDP growth has converged to its long-run trend of about 2%. Consumer spending growth is holding up, fueled by low unemployment and rising wages. In contrast, business spending and investment are not providing much support to GDP. Additionally, net exports are and will continue to be a drag on overall growth while the US dollar remains strong and imports outpace exports. It is likely that some of these drags will be offset by stimulus, including increased federal non-defense government spending and monetary easing.

GNP Predictions For 2020

Gross national product (GNP) is a broad measure of a nation's total economic activity. GNP is the value of all finished goods and services produced in a country in one year. As previously stated, we in the trucking business get a sneak preview of the developing GNP through industry demand. The demand boom of the last two years seems to hang on even as new truck orders slow. The trucks keep coming as if searching for the lost freight market of 2018. US Class 8 truck registrations lept 29.1% in the first five months of 2019, according to IHS Markit, the parent company of JOC.com. Those trucks simply add to an already overflowing pool of capacity that is improving shipper pricing leverage.

As the third quarter rolls toward trucking’s autumn peak season, “a lot of carriers are going to be more stingy with capital expenditure and adding capacity,” Dan Van Alstine, president and chief operating officer of Ruan, a dedicated trucking and logistics company, said at the recent SMC3 2019 Connections Conference in Colorado Springs. The benefactors of the current environment may be the owner/operators who own their own equipment and pay their own operating expenses.  As you might imagine, those costs can be staggering for a small business owner when it costs $500 just to fill your gas tank..

Dependence On Owner/Operators

Owner/operators have historically been the filler for carriers to maintain an acceptable level of capacity for both equipment and drivers. We'll see just how far out carriers are willing to walk on the ledge of financial commitment going into 2020. It's potentially a pivotal year. The current administration is under some significant pressure to keep the economic fire stoked so carriers can maintain asset funding. The first and second quarters of 2020 should be very telling as to the general health of our domestic manufacturing base.

What To Expect

According to the most recent forecast released at the Federal Open Market Committee meeting on June 19, 2019, U.S. GDP growth is expected to slow to 2.1% in 2019 from 3% in 2018. It is expected to be 2% in 2020 and 1.8% in 2021. The projected slowdown in 2019 and beyond is a side effect of the trade war, a key component of Trump's economic policies.

The unemployment rate will average 3.6% in 2019. It will increase slightly to 3.7% in 2020 and 3.8% in 2021. That's lower than the Fed's 6.7% target but former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen noted a lot of workers are part-time and would prefer full-time work. Also, most job growth is in low-paying retail and food service industries. Some people have been out of work for so long that they'll never be able to return to the high-paying jobs they used to have. Structural unemployment (unemployment resulting from industrial reorganization, typically due to technological change, rather than fluctuations in supply or demand.) has increased.

We will be monitoring these economic indicators over the next 12 months very closely.  To stay informed on this topic and others in our industry, subscribe to our blog.

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Topics: Logistics Business, Shipping News, Logistics News, Industry Trends, Technology

UPS Is Granted FAA License

Posted by Land Link on Oct 2, 2019 1:52:20 PM

UPS announced this week that it is the first to receive the official nod from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate a full “drone airline,” which will allow it to expand its current small drone delivery service pilots into a country-wide network. Obviously, it’s a huge win for UPS Flight Forward, which is the dedicated UPS subsidiary the company announced it had formed earlier this year to focus entirely on building out the company’s drone delivery business. There’s still a lot left to do before you can expect UPS drones to be a regular fixture, or even at all visible in the lives of the average American.

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Topics: Transportation News, Logistics News, Industry Trends, Technology

The Disruption of Technology

Posted by Land Link on Sep 25, 2019 2:52:34 PM

Times are indeed evolving, especially around transport & logistics management. Technology is disrupting the supply chain industry at a rapid pace and has taken many by surprise. During this decade, e-commerce and IoT have irreversibly altered every aspect of logistics management. To remain successful, supply chain managers are increasing their adoption of cloud and technology platforms and applications. Innovative technologies, such as blockchain and machine learning, are being implemented today with the potential of significantly reshaping existing supply chain operating models. By 2023, at least 50% of large global companies will be using AI, advanced analytics and IoT in supply chain operations. That same year, over 30% of operational warehouse workers will be supplemented, not replaced, by collaborative robots. In the digital transformation age, logistics is once again undergoing a major shift. Logistics technologies, such as robotic warehouse systems, make automation a reality, while drones improve last-mile delivery capabilities and better tracking with tools like RFID tags, which improve visibility throughout the supply chain.

These technologies also contribute to a rise in big data and analytics in the logistics field. RFID tags and robotic warehouse systems generate and transmit data that, when combined with other data sources, allow companies to optimize the supply chain and make better predictions and forecasts to improve efficiency and boost the bottom line.

A Tech Powered Competitive Edge

In 2019 alone, an estimated 60% of millennials’ purchases were made online, up from 47% two years ago. Retailers are increasingly catering to this new target group and shifting their approach to accommodate the unprecedented demand for a seamless, tech-powered e-commerce experience. Amazon’s continued success is proving that millennials aren’t as impressed by store brands or prices as much as by the speed, cost, and convenience of delivery. In order to meet the demands of this growing group of consumers with significant spending power, the supply chain industry has to adapt to meet their buying behavior. In order to meet the demands of millennials for fast, convenient, and transparent e-commerce deliveries, supply chain managers are increasingly leveraging location intelligence and location data to raise visibility throughout their whole logistics process and to optimize their delivery routes. Real-time location tracking and real-time traffic updates are proving to be crucial for matching the one-day delivery expectations set by Amazon. Such technology allows retailers and logistics companies to seamlessly and reliably share data back and forth, to meet ETAs and improve the customer experience. Real-time, data-driven decision making, improved driver efficiency, optimized fleet performance, increased supply chain visibility, precise vehicle tracking, lower operational and insurance costs are just some of the benefits of implementing the right technology application.

Tech Implementation Tips

Introducing new technology into an organization can be daunting, particularly if it disrupts everyday practices or decommissions tools that employees are comfortable with. Tech-savvy supply chain managers, who want to avoid common missteps like employee pushback or loss of service when integrating new technology, may find the following tips helpful.

1. Collaborate with IT, but lead the charge
While IT managers are the ones who will carry out the technology integration, it is the supply chain managers who should own the implementation process. Asking IT to manage the process from start to finish might seem like the easier and cleaner approach, but supply chain managers should be involved in the process to ensure applications and APIs are being utilized to fully meet their needs.

2. Provide education and training
Any successful technological implementation requires employee buy-in, so they understand why it is required, what it does, how it works, and the impact it will have on their job. Employee resistance to change is the most common factor in failed business transformations. To avoid this conflict, supply chain managers are advised to embrace transparency and keep an ‘open-door’ policy.

3. Request feedback
When rolling out new processes, supply chain managers shouldn’t forget to ask staff members for continuous feedback. With an open-feedback policy, managers can stay on top of how changes are being received, the impact of the changes on team morale, and collect suggestions on how to improve the newly implemented process.

Determining the correct technology is merely the first step and can become unhinged if the implementation process is not properly executed. Clearly identify and define the specific goals of the technology application. During the entire implementation process it is vital to ensure collaboration between logistics personnel and the technology team to maintain focus on the original goals. If not kept on track the technology team may wander. To find out more about how technology can improve your operations contact us today.

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The Evolution of the Mobile Supply Chain

Posted by Land Link on Sep 18, 2019 3:19:26 PM

The aggressive progression to everything mobile has been obvious. The Smart Phone opened an opportunistic Pandora's Box that will never close again. Today, mobility is king. "Several key trends are driving mobility investments that support supply chain operations, and more specifically, in-field fleet/transportation,” says David Krebs, VDC Research’s executive vice president of enterprise mobility and connected devices. “These include the ELD mandate that came into effect in December 2017 (with a final deadline is December 16, 2019) and the transition by many operators from the legacy Windows-powered mobile device to Android.”

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Ongoing Tariff War Demands Shippers Be More Efficient

Posted by Land Link on Sep 4, 2019 12:13:00 PM

President Trump's strategy regarding the Chinese tariffs has been to right a long time wrong. Again, this was a significant aspect of his presidential campaign. The position, which arguably has merit, may come at a substantial cost to the U.S. economy. The theft and mistreatment of intellectual property, a potential monopoly around 5G cellular technology, and the knock-off market of some very high-end consumer goods have had a major impact. It's a difficult pill to swallow, but until now no political official has been willing to tackle the issue. What remains to be seen is how far Trump will take this battle and how much collateral damage will result. The initial collateral damage is in the lane imbalance of exports vs. imports. In an ideal world, transportation providers would like to see a balance of full containers going and coming to whichever port to reposition assets to meet demand. The trade war is expected to have a detrimental effect on this sensitive balance, specifically regarding U.S. exports. The imbalance of shipping containers is but a symptom of misaligned supply and demand caused by the ongoing trade skirmishes. But it is also an indicator of real impact on the supply chain.

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Be Aware of Cargo Theft Risk Over The Labor Day Weekend

Posted by Land Link on Aug 29, 2019 9:14:05 PM

Cargo theft is the primary concern of shippers and logistics professionals over any national holiday weekend. Holiday weekends pose a higher threat because truckers will park their trucks, and warehouses will be shut for an extended period of time. Millions of dollars are lost, production schedules disrupted, and customers disappointed over the long holiday stretch.

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