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Logistics Trends to Watch in 2020

Posted by Land Link on May 28, 2020 7:42:41 AM

Let’s take a break from the Covid-9 effect on the Logistics industry.  Things are slowing opening back up.  Hopefully, the trend continues with no significant spikes in infection rates.  That being said let’s look at some industry trends we should all be aware of this year.

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Topics: Freight Bill Auditing, Intermodal Freight, Logistics Business, Freight Bill Audit, 3D Printing, Industry Trends, Big Data

Supply Chain Recovery Post Corona Virus.  Formulate Your Plan Now.

Posted by Land Link on May 14, 2020 9:51:11 AM

 

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Topics: Supply Chain Management, Third Party Logistics, Freight Bill Auditing, Transportation News, Logistics Business, Freight Bill Audit, Logistics News, Industry Trends

The New Normal in Retail Will Be Far From Normal

Posted by Land Link Traffic Systems on May 6, 2020 12:26:03 PM

As retailers struggle with re-opening strategies it’s clear the new normal will be something we have never experienced.  Consumers in many areas of the world have tightened their wallets and eliminated discretionary spending because of lost jobs, lower wages and uncertainty about how long the COVID-19 pandemic will last.

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Topics: Supply Chain Management, Third Party Logistics, Freight Bill Auditing, Transportation News, Logistics Business, Freight Bill Audit, Logistics News, Industry Trends

Coronavirus Appears to be Plateauing in Many States

Posted by Land Link on Apr 16, 2020 4:02:22 PM


Many states have reported a leveling-off of new Covid-19 cases. Clearly a good sign but we are by no means out of the woods yet. It is unlikely anyone alive today remembers the Spanish flu of 1918, but we may be able to learn some things to expect as we hope to return to some normalcy in the coming months. The administration is already talking about target dates to reopen the country in stages. The fallout from Covid -19 is painfully clear for many people. Let’s try to anticipate what challenges are ahead.

From a logistics and supply chain perspective, while things are still very early, it stands to reason that the impact on all things trade, shipping, and moving freight is already quite significant. There is also, of course, a high level of uncertainty that comes with a pandemic such as this one, in the form of how long it may last for, what should or could businesses be doing to get through this period, and what happens now or next? And what they all have in common is that they are all valid questions that come with a shortage of valid answers, at least so far, for the most part. The impact on supply chains more broadly will be a function of (a) how long businesses remain closed (b) the extent to which there’s an impact on downstream supply chains and (c) the extent to which precautionary measures are taken by corporations including logistics firms. We may be able to glean some information on what to expect during the recovery period by looking at the post Spanish flu recovery.

What Can We Learn From the Spanish Flu Recovery

The immediate effects of the pandemic; postponed weddings, canceled vacations, empty supermarket shelves, sinking housing prices, salary cuts, and layoffs suggest no one will come out of this period without losing something but we are only at the beginning. Predicting how bad things will get economically is difficult. A viral outbreak of this scale has only happened once before in the industrialized world: the 1918 influenza pandemic that hit the world in two seasonal waves, killing 50 million people worldwide and 675,000 in the US. That pandemic occurred during World War I, which makes it hard to compare to now, even setting aside all the other changes in the past century but we may be able to draw some loose parallels.

Many businesses, especially those in the service and entertainment industries, suffered double-digit losses in revenue. Society as a whole recovered from the 1918 influenza quickly, but individuals who were affected by the influenza had their lives changed forever. Given our highly mobile and connected society, any future influenza pandemic is likely to be more severe in its reach, and perhaps in its virulence.

Two months into this current outbreak, massive layoffs have started, American industries have demanded bailouts, and unemployment rates have surged. Economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis are projecting total employment reductions of 47 million — an unemployment rate of 32.1%.

According to Forbes, every sector of the American economy is shrinking: Hotel chain Marriott International is furloughing tens of thousands of workers, Landry’s, the parent company of Del Frisco’s and Bubba Gump Shrimp, laid off 40,000 workers. Air Canada plans to lay off 5,100 members of its cabin crew. Shoe retailer DSW put 80% of its workers on a temporary unpaid leave of absence. This early carnage is understandable. How fast we recover will make all the difference to the U.S. economy.  Is this perhaps a wakeup call for domestic industry revitalization? There is a strong call to bring back the industrial revolution but are we too late?

What’s Ahead is Uncertain

As we look ahead, more information about corona virus will be learned about, to be sure, but things understandably are moving slowly. Freight transportation activity, processes and volumes are likely to be impacted to varying degrees, of course. For now, we assess and move forward as best as possible. Events like this on a global level can make for trying and difficult times, but, as has been the case before, one can expect supply chain networks to adapt and adjust and do what needs to be done to keep economies and freight flows moving forward. Land Link Traffic Systems is available for your supply chain needs.

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

Urgent Restocking Continues to Boost Truckload Spot Rates and Load Volume

Posted by Land Link on Apr 1, 2020 4:00:28 PM


This month industry analysts are reporting significant upticks in spot rates and demand due to restocking demand from grocery and home good retailers. Spot market load volumes and rates for van and reefer equipment saw mostly significant gains in March due to the ongoing corona-virus pandemic, according to data issued by Portland, Oregon-based freight marketplace platform and information provider DAT.

For the week of March 16-March 22, DAT reported the following annual differences:

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

FMCSA Helping to Ease Regulations on Truckers During COVID-19

Posted by Land Link on Mar 24, 2020 3:39:30 PM

The FMCSA is showing a united front with the White House’s emergency declaration regarding Coronavirus. The declaration will cease enforcement of some HOS rules and ease enforcement on others for truckers. FMCSA officials said that this marks the first time the organization has issued nationwide HOS relief. There are many first-time events happening during COVID-19 and these efforts are clearly necessary to keep food and critical supplies moving.

“Because of the decisive leadership of President Trump and Secretary Chao, this declaration will help America’s commercial drivers get these critical goods to impacted areas faster and more efficiently,” said FMCSA Acting Administrator Jim Mullen in a statement. “FMCSA is continuing to closely monitor the coronavirus outbreak and stands ready to use its authority to protect the health and safety of the American people.”

FMCSA officials said that this declaration provides for regulatory relief for commercial motor vehicle operations providing direct assistance supporting emergency relief efforts intended to meet immediate needs for:

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Topics: Logistics Business, Shipping News, Logistics News

Develop a Strategy to Combat Dimensional Pricing

Posted by Land Link on Mar 11, 2020 10:00:00 AM

The debate over whether density-based pricing will succeed in toppling the traditional National Motor Freight Classification’s (NMFC) based pricing in the LTL industry is an ongoing debate. Carriers are pushing for dimensional pricing to combat the profitability of lightweight shipments. This is the basis of the argument. Under the NMFC classification density was taken into consideration as was packaging and commodity but it was largely based upon weight. Back in the day, carriers in a battle over business after deregulation, were offering FAK (Freight All Kinds ) tariffs to get the business. This strategy ultimately led to unprofitable operation ratios, subpar delivery performance and ultimately the bankruptcy of some major carriers. Jevic Transportation of Delanco, NJ is the first one that comes to my mind. Interestingly New Century transport, which was founded by Jevic‘s founder, adopted a similar strategy ending in the exact same fate. Considering this history and the recent high-profile bankruptcies of other major national freight carriers in recent years, one would have to conclude the days of beating up the carrier on rates is over. Unlike in the past, the LTL industry today has a massive volume of smaller shipments. There is also the challenge of completing same-day deliveries or time definite deliveries. Likewise, these shipments are not always of consistent size and density, making it difficult for LTL shippers to sustain profitability.

Today, if you want dependable service, you’re going to have to pay for it. Let’s see if we can help you avoid some of the pitfalls to come.

Dimensional Pricing

There is no secret to dimensional pricing. It’s really a simple equation; L x W x H / 139. It could be argued that the ecommerce boom started all this controversy overweight vs size. Ecommerce shippers have millions of items in inventory and a finite amount of box sizes. I’ve been personally amazed at the box size of some items I’ve received. It didn’t take long for the parcel carriers to figure that their trucks were dimming out before weighing out. This may have been the catalyst for dimensional pricing. It wasn’t long before the LTL carriers arrived at the same conclusion. They were charging by pound through diluted tariffs, not by the room the pallet actually occupied.

FedEx Freight, XPO Logistics, and other LTL carriers have been installing equipment that can scan a palletized shipment and, combined with scales, provide the cubic dimensions and weight needed to check the shipment classification. The consensus among LTL industry executives is that the current classification system is on its way out. The reality is that LTL carriers sell space in a trailer. Using the dimensions of a pallet identifies precisely how much space that shipment will require, thereby providing accurate real estate pricing.

Shippers Prepare

Many shippers believe dimensional pricing amounts to a rate increase, and the number of shipments, they say, are re-billed once they go through a dimensioner, supporting their contention. It can also be argued the shippers are finally being charged an accurate rate. Shippers who are not prepared to invest in equipment to measure their shipments’ dimensional weight will have to adopt strict packaging protocols to package their freight in a uniform method as to avoid a dimensional pricing situation.

The ability to double stack pallets is a prime example. Under dimensional pricing a pallet that cannot be double stacked will be billed at 2 pallet spaces since the pallet will essentially occupy the air above it. To date, much of the use of dimensional pricing has been limited to W & I procedures at truck terminals. However, by capturing more and more dimensional shipment data, LTL carriers are laying the data foundation needed for the expanded use of dimensional pricing.

Our supply chain managers at Land Link Traffic Services can help with packaging strategies, supply chain management techniques to maximize lane and weight balancing strategies and overall shipment planning protocols to maximize your freight spend in this more expensive environment. Finally, the Coronavirus will certainly cause some challenging strain on the supply chain. Don’t wander through this uncharted territory alone. Contact us today for a supply chain consultation.  

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

Leveraging Your Transportation Provider Relationship To Gain Market Share

Posted by Land Link on Feb 26, 2020 9:00:41 AM


It’s no secret, in any business relationship, that the easier the relationship between customer and provider the more smoothly things run. In a shipper/provider relationship this is particularly important. The intricacies of logistics can be very challenging given the nature of all the moving parts; desirability of lanes, pickup and delivery restrictions, equipment availability and all the issues that can happen on the way to a 1000 mile delivery.  We have discussed the importance of becoming a preferred shipper in previous blogs. The impact of carrier relations on your supply chain is more important now than ever. Several factors are putting pressure on carrier/shipper relationships and performance. Fluctuating fuel costs, capacity issues, driver shortages, and carriers that abruptly go out of business can all take a toll on a shipper’s ability to get the right products to the right customer within the right time frame. Take the time to make some manageable changes to your supply chain protocols to improve operations, moral and overall supply chain efficiency.

Some Easy Fixes

There needs to be a culture shift in vendor relations, particularly when it comes to carriers. Historically, truckers have been treated as second-class citizens when it comes to, for example, driver accommodation and respect for one’s time. A reasonably comfortable waiting area for the driver is an inexpensive and easily implemented enhancement to the driver experience. Minimizing loading time is also an easy, low cost, improvement to loading and unloading dock protocol. 

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

Trucking Regulation Tweaks for 2020

Posted by Land Link on Feb 18, 2020 11:03:27 AM


The federal government has proposed long-awaited changes to the hours-of-service rules that would increase truck drivers’ flexibility while on duty.
FMCSA’s newly proposed HOS rule offers five main revisions to the existing HOS rules, which are based on extensive public comments shared with the agency since last year. The adjustments would happen in five areas:

1. Flexibility for the 30-minute break rule by tying the break requirement to eight hours of driving time without interruption for at least 30 minutes; and allowing the break to be satisfied by a driver using on-duty, not-driving status, rather than off-duty.

2. Modifying the sleeper-berth exception to allow drivers to split their required 10 hours off duty into two periods: one period of at least seven consecutive hours in the sleeper berth and the other period of at least two consecutive hours either off duty or in the sleeper berth. Neither period would count against the driver’s 14‑hour driving window.

3. Allowing one off-duty break of at least 30 minutes but not more than three hours that would pause a truck driver’s 14-hour driving window, provided the driver takes 10 consecutive hours off-duty at the end of the work shift.

4. Modifying the adverse driving conditions exception by extending by two hours the maximum window during which driving is permitted.

5. Changing to the short-haul exception available to certain commercial drivers by lengthening the drivers’ maximum on‑duty period from 12 to 14 hours and extending the distance limit within which the driver may operate from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.

The proposed rule would not increase driving time and would continue to prevent commercial operators from driving for more than eight consecutive hours without at least a 30-minute change in duty status.

Safety Remains The Driving Force For Both Sides

Most in the logistics industry consider trucking deregulated. While this perspective is accurate in a financial sense, the truth is trucking is among the most regulated industries in the country. It is important to understand government regulations add significantly to the cost of operations which, of course, is reflected in the rates. Most carrier executives question the depth and breadth of the regulations and how the federal regulators iron out their final rulemaking is critical to fleets’ efficiency and legal use of time. For example, a truck driver has 660 minutes (11 hours) of legal driving time during his or her 14-hour “on duty” time. How those minutes are divvied up not only matters to safety, but it’s a huge factor in both the driver’s compensation and the carrier’s financial wellbeing.  Among the challenges of drafting regulations for the trucking industry is the myriad of equipment types and services offered. Dry van, refrigerated, bulk carriers and other specialty carriers have present different safety concerns. Add to that mix carriers who transport more dangerous commodities such as hazardous materials like chemicals and munitions, fuel and over-dimensional loads and you end up with multiple regulations to cover all possibilities.

Manufacturers Look To Technology for Help

Technology is constantly evolving, particularly for motor vehicles. Self-automated technologies such as automatic braking systems have already appeared in passenger vehicles and are rapidly becoming available for large semi-trucks as well. Safety systems recommended by AAA researchers include:
  • Air disc brakes, which significantly reduce the distance a large truck needs to stop.
  • Automatic emergency braking systems, which engage the brakes if the system detects the truck is about to collide with another vehicle or object.
  • Lane departure warning systems, which detect when a truck drifts from its intended lane and may hit vehicles in neighboring lanes.
  • Onboard video monitoring systems, which monitor the road in front of a truck or the driver’s actions inside the cab to detect when unsafe practices occur.

Some of these systems not only help reduce the risks of truck accidents but may also aid injured victims recover legally afterward. For example, onboard systems can record if the lane departure warnings triggered before the accident, or whether the automatic braking engaged. This can provide evidence that a truck driver was distracted, fatigued, or otherwise impaired behind the wheel. Onboard video monitoring systems are pretty much common these days. They provide a solid picture of what transpired in any incident. They are a welcome e addition to most fleets since they reduce litigation costs and help drivers become more safety conscious. 

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

Retailers Are Feeling The Pain In The Profit Line For Free Return Policy

Posted by Land Link on Jan 15, 2020 10:00:00 AM

Retailers are offering the most aggressive return policies in history but at what cost. Returns can be a disease,  aggressively attacking profit margins, gutting conversion rates, and ultimately threatening your business. In the U.S. alone, Statista estimates return deliveries will cost $550 billion by 2020, 75.2% more than four years prior. Worse, that number doesn’t include restocking expenses nor inventory losses. Nailing down exact numbers on return rates is notoriously difficult, but compiled data from separate sources paints a bleak portrait, especially for online retailers. The fierce competition among online retailers has forced the price margins so low that they cannot support the cost of these return policies.

In response, businesses are adding workers, increasing warehouse space, and establishing separate departments to handle reverse logistics. Returns are the new normal and central to customer experience but they don’t have to be a plague. In fact, how you deal with returns, before and after purchase, can differentiate your brand, create a competitive advantage and even make you more profitable.

Such generous return policies are an invitation for abuse. People are waiting months to return items rendering them useless to the retailer if the item is seasonal. Also, you have people using a particular product and carefully repackaging the item. The ends result is the same; the item is either not available to resell or it is not in sellable condition. Either way your looking at liquidation value for those items.

Some in the industry that created the monster are trying to put it back in its cage. They’re taking baby steps; not providing pre-paid mailing labels, requiring a receipt unless an unwanted item is carried to a store but also threatening to cut off serial returners, the most troublesome of the offenders.

These offenders are indeed a cause for concern among online retailers. Last year, $369 billion in merchandise, or 10% of total retail sales, was returned in the U.S., according to a study by research firm Appriss, up from $260 billion in previous years. The holiday season, of course, is the one to dread in the returns departments. United Parcel Service Inc. expected to handle more than 1 million such packages every day, reaching a peak of 1.9 million on Jan. 2, which would be a 26% increase from the 2019 high point.

How Retailers Are Dealing with Serial Returners

Habitual returners fall into two distinct types:

The Wardrober

People who buy items to wear once and have no intention of keeping them afterward. The Wardrober may not be able to afford the item or are taking advantage of overly lenient policies.

The Fitting Roomer

People who replicate the brick-and-mortar experience at home by purchasing different sizes and colors of the same item, pick their favorite, and return the rest.

In late 2018, The Wall Street Journal reported Amazon had begun banning shoppers — i.e., closing their accounts — who “made too many returns.” While extreme, such actions are often necessitated by the first type of habitual returner. Last year, Amazon also unveiled Prime Wardrobe which is free to members but limited to 3-8 items per order with a seven-day window to return before getting charged.

Retailers are now tracking serial returners and threatening harsh action. The bigger problem is the big retailers have made returns far too easy for shoppers. Trying now to pull back on that ease of shopping experience may backfire. It will be interesting to see the changes for the next holiday season.

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Topics: Logistics Business, Logistics News, Industry Trends