This Week in Logistics News (December 4 -10)

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logistics newsIt is really feeling like the holiday season, as we got our first dusting of snow in the Boston area this week. And the holiday season means that once again another year is coming to an end. This was certainly another strange year, as the in-person conferences I usually look forward to were once again moved to a virtual environment. However, the on-demand nature of the virtual conference makes it easier to attend more sessions, which gives me more opportunities to learn from my peers. Today also marks the last news round-up of the year. I always find the news round-up exciting to write, as I end up reading more about supply chain and logistics than I would have thought possible. All of us at Logistics Viewpoints would like to thank our readers for continuing to tune in every week. We’d also like to thank all our sponsors for their continued support. Without our readers and sponsors, Logistics Viewpoints would not be possible. So, a big thank you from all of us, and we hope you all have a wonderful holiday season. And now on to this week’s logistics news.

The Biden administration released an updated National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking, with a new focus on gender and racial equity and workers’ rights. The new plan highlights underserved individuals, families, and communities. A key piece of the plan is focused on ending forced labor in global supply chains, which the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated. The White House National Security Council worked with the White House’s Gender Policy Council and Domestic Policy Council, as well as 20 other departments and agencies, to develop a plan based on four pillars: prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnerships. Prevention involves educating vulnerable populations about risks. Protection involves intervention and services to protect and assist victims. Prosecution involves holding those engaged in trafficking accountable. And partnerships involves strengthening efforts and working with allies.

Federal, state, and local border leaders, including Mexican officials, gathered at McAllen City Hall on Wednesday to celebrate the signing of a historic agreement that will give the Rio Grande Valley its second international cargo bridge with Mexico. For several years, leaders with the border cities of McAllen, Mission, and Granjeno have been pursuing efforts to expand the Anzalduas International Bridge, which connects to Reynosa, Mexico, to handle fully loaded trucks. Under the agreement, the municipalities have committed to giving the federal government a portion of the bridge, including buildings for cargo inspection and land that US Customs and Border Protection officials will need to properly funnel incoming commercial trucks from Mexico. In return, the municipalities will be allowed to keep the increased revenue once fully-loaded cargo trucks start crossing.

Given its success in the US, Amazon is looking to expand its contract driver model to five European countries. The program, which is called Amazon Freight Partner, will collaborate with small trucking countries in Germany, Spain, Poland, France, and Italy, and train the companies to haul goods exclusively for Amazon. Amazon already operates European ground delivery services with larger contractors, which it started in the UK. In 2019, Amazon launched ground delivery services in Germany with its own fleet of drivers. In the collaborative program, because Amazon will not employ drivers, the delivery partners would be responsible for meeting Amazon’s delivery timetables and vetting, scheduling, hiring, and firing drivers.

Sustainability continues to be top of mind for retailers and manufacturers alike. For Wegmans, that means it is rethinking its entire transportation operation. The company is looking at ways to eliminate diesel anywhere it can as part of its initiative. Wegmans says it has switched its focus from diesel efficiency to diesel elimination through the use of alternative fuels, electrification, and collaborative partnerships with technology suppliers. Today, Wegmans has 175 trucks, 16 compressed natural gas (CNG) tractors, and another 49 on order. The impact of those CNG trucks will change the company’s footprint in Rochester from 80 percent diesel to 80 percent natural gas. That’s nearly 800,000 gallons of diesel eliminated annually.

Save Mart is getting its delivery service in the holiday spirit. The company is once again partnering with robot delivery company Starship Technologies to use mobile robots for grocery delivery. This year, however, Save Mart is giving the robots a makeover to look like an army of reindeer roaming city streets. The retailer has also expanded its reindeer robot grocery delivery from its flagship Modesto store to serve 10,000 households. But this year, Save Mart’s reindeer robots are delivering more than food, beverages, and household supplies. Adding to the festive experience, Save Mart shoppers now have the option of musical deliveries, choosing from a selection of top seasonal hits for the reindeer robot to play upon arrival. The singing reindeer robots will be making deliveries until December 31.

All Ahold Delhaize USA supermarket chains (Stop & Shop, Giant Food, Giant/Martin’s, Food Lion, and Hannaford) now provide 30-minute delivery of convenience-oriented products via Instacart. For the service, the Ahold Delhaize USA chains joined Instacart’s Convenience Hub, a recently introduced product experience on the Instacart Marketplace designed to streamline convenience shopping. Instacart noted that Express Delivery is aimed at supplementing customers’ weekly grocery shop by offering as fast as 30-minute turnaround when they only need a few items quickly. Ahold Delhaize USA customers who enroll in Instacart Express also can get free Priority Delivery in as soon as 30 minutes on orders over $10.

The US trade deficit narrowed in October for the first time since July, reflecting a sharp increase in exports and suggesting that foreign demand for goods is on the rise. The gap in trade of goods and services shrank 17 percent to $67.1 billion, from a revised $81.4 billion in September, according to Commerce Department data released Tuesday. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists was for a shortfall of $66.8 billion. The value of goods and services exported rose 8.1 percent to $223.6 billion in October, the highest on record. The increase was led by stronger outbound shipments of industrial supplies such as crude oil. Imports, meanwhile, climbed 0.9 percent to $290.7 billion, also a record, led by shipments of automotive-vehicle parts and engines. The value of goods exports surged the most since July 2020 to a record $158.7 billion.

That’s all for this week and this year. Thank you for reading, and we’ll see you next year. Enjoy the weekend, the holiday season, and the song of the week, which is my all-time favorite holiday song, Christmas Eve / Sarajevo by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

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