Welcome to the WHAT THE TRUCK?!? newsletter. In this issue, port congestion sends truckers west, highway heroes, project44 makes its biggest buy to date and more.
Tree fiddy minus one — After an upward run starting in late June, the truckload dry van rate per mile national average inclusive of fuel (that’s a mouthful) has been seesawing its way into the fall. Two weeks ago we hit a series-high $3.60 per mile before erasing all those sultry summertime gains last week. Now with Ida and Labor Day behind us, we’ve hit a balmy $3.49 this week just as the foliage begins to change.
Outlook — Don’t expect to find any deals on key lanes this peak season. Though the market typically sees a lull around this period before snapping back into peak-season form, this isn’t a typical year. FreightWaves’ Andrew Cox writes, “A record number of container ships awaiting a berth at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach is going to put strains on surface transportation networks in the coming months as shippers move freight into strategic locations ahead of what is expected to be the strongest holiday season in recent years.”
Los Angeles 53ers — Fifty-three foot trailers that is. San Francisco may have the 49ers but the real gold rush is happening 400 miles south at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach where a record-breaking 70-plus container ships sit adrift or at anchor. The Dude posted the above chart on LinkedIn and had this to say: “Already, September has been an exodus to the West Coast. See the ‘orange’ line? This is the capacity in the Southeast drying up due to Port of LA, LB volumes.” FreightWaves’ Zach Strickland reports, “The spot rate for loads moving from LA to Dallas have increased over $2 per mile since May of 2020, while rates for loads moving from Dallas to LA have only risen around 40 cents per mile.” With that in mind, a lot of drivers are headed to the land of sunshine to get that bag.
Speaking of capacity — A massive backlog at the ports of LA/LB means that every ship sitting at anchor or drifting is taking that much longer to return to Asia for its next round of freight. In addition, that means all those containers (roughly 600,000-plus) are also out of capacity. However, as Flexport CEO Ryan Petersen tweeted, carriers are also canceling sailings west to avoid having their ships sit. While that may help the ports here in the short term, it is simply passing the cargo backlog back to the docks and warehouses at origin.
“The terminal operators say they can’t do anything because the warehouses don’t work 24 hours. And the warehouses say they can’t work 24 hours because the truckers won’t do it. But if everybody continues to say they can’t do anything unless others do things, then nothing gets done.” — Peter Friedmann, executive director of the Agriculture Transportation Coalition
Store 24 — There may be a small ray of hope breaking through the freight storm as the ports of LA/LB will begin testing expanded night and weekend hours. Will it help? The Port of Los Angeles has stated that only 70% of gate appointments have been fulfilled and its focus is on improving those numbers. The challenge is going to be clearly delivering that message about how carriers can better use those appointments as well as their ability to adapt to the increased hours. But, of course, that’s just the ports. We are a hurricane, hack, positive Covid case and/or ship stuck in a canal away from even more disruption.
Thank a trucker
Let’s make it year-round — National Truck Driver Appreciation Week may be in the rearview but that’s no good reason to stop appreciating our highway heroes. Today my wife was out driving on I-75 in Chattanooga before getting some debris stuck under her car. Fortunately, a trucker was on the scene and gladly assisted her. Dear driver, if you read this, contact me. I got something for you.
Best of driver appreciation week — Monday on WTT, FreightWaves’ Grace Sharkey joined us to break down the best and worst promotions from driver appreciation week. We were big fans of C.H. Robinson’s partnership with St. Christopher’s, which donated thousands to the charity. Convoy created a deck of cards honoring its “Haul Stars,” and Transfix pimped out one lucky trucker’s cab.
project44 picks up Convey
Another big buy — Early this year when project44 achieved unicorn status and acquired vessel visibility company Ocean Insights and supply chain planning software company ClearMetal, founder and CEO Jett McCandless hinted that they weren’t done. According to McCandless, “This is our largest acquisition to date, and biggest announcement of 2021.” FreightWaves’ Grace Sharkey reports, “With Convey’s capabilities and network under its wing, project44 is now connected to more than 880 global shippers and logistics providers and a network of 113,000 carriers with 2.6 million assets, creating a data pool of more than 9 billion last-mile shipment events.” The deal for Convey is valued at $255 million. Not a bad exit.
Not the GOAT
Just grazed ’em — An abnormal scene unfolded in Normal, Illinois, as a herd of goats and sheep “were running up and down the interstate, medians, and ditches” according to CI Proud. The shocked flock of kids, billys, lambs and capricorns overturned on Interstate 55 last Sunday. Fortunately, both the driver and his fold were unharmed. The Normal Fire Department thanked a number of local farms for helping to wrangle the animals.
One for the fuel buyers
Event alert — Fuel, the hero and villain of the supply chain and logistics industry, takes the spotlight Wednesday during the Fuel Buyers Summit starting at 9 a.m. EDT.
An all-star lineup of speakers from various backgrounds in the industry will discuss the latest trends, forecasts and technology updates impacting the marketplace. Topics include:
- US Fuel Prices — Chaos or Calm?
- Global Price Volatility — One Expert’s Analysis
- LCFS — Unlocking the Mystery
- Remote Tank Monitoring and Streamlining Processes
- Technology that Can Help Buy Fuel Smarter
- Fuel Price Hedging and Why It’s Not as Complicated as You Think
- The Surging Investment into Renewable Diesel
- Seven Rules of How to Buy Fuel Smarter and Cheaper
Friday LIVE at noon ET
Inspiration More — NASA returns to the show to talk about Orion’s launch abort system that deploys in case of anomalies — escape logistics! According to NASA, “Orion spacecraft is built to take humans farther than they’ve ever gone before. Orion will serve as the exploration vehicle that will carry the crew to space, provide emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during the space travel, and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities.”
Plus, Bob Bortner, Mid-Atlantic territory manager at IMI, and Amanda Schuier, senior vice president at Quality Transport Co.
Now on demand
Loaded like a freight train
Bloodlines: The business of family
Soap opera — The best way I can make sense of the KCS-CN-CP love triangle is to think of it in terms of Dylan-Brenda-Kelly on 90210. Take a look.
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