Answer Man

We’re ending a year that began with many questions. Some were answered, of course, but many were simply left hanging, and others came up along the way. So as we close the pages on 2010, let’s look at the questions remaining, spread them around as much as possible to be entirely fair, add a note of good humor and resolve to answer as many as we can at some point in 2011.

First up, of course: Do you really believe ocean carriers will give up a long-held practice of fighting for market share and cutting rates to achieve bigger pieces of the pie? Please use the phrase “13,000-TEU vessel” in your answer.

While we’re looking at vessel capacity, many retailers have sophisticated forecasting departments looking at demand and aligning their outlooks with the sourcing of goods. What are they telling the logistics departments?

A driver shortage has been predicted to be just around the corner in the U.S. trucking industry in almost every year for the last 20 years. When will it arrive?

One commenter in our upcoming Annual Review and Outlook issue — look for it Jan. 10 — says the CSA 2010 could create a free agent market for truck drivers akin to the sports world. Does that mean all the good drivers will go to Philadelphia and Boston?

Virtually every presidential administration has seen free trade agreements as a boon to the economy and national prosperity. Can we get on with that, please?

When will the price for the iPad come down to a reasonable level?

The freight railroad industry has been almost alone in the corporate world in barely missing a beat in profitability through the downturn and in the recovery. The major carriers were so strong that Warren Buffett swooped in and bought one of them. Are they revenue-adequate yet?

When exactly did the Teamsters union get so interested in the environment?

Why does Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, the incoming speaker of the House, cry so much? Shouldn’t the Democrats be crying?

Some shipper groups have long wanted to eliminate ocean carrier antitrust immunity in the United States. Did the failed measure in the House this year help that effort, or set that goal back by unrealistically reaching so far?

While YRC Worldwide was struggling to survive in late 2009, a handful of carriers locked in low rates to lure away YRC customers. How is taking away a carrier’s lowest-priced customers supposed to drive the company out of business?

How in the world would an 18,000-TEU container ship stay afloat?

Who is the person who looked at the shipping supply and demand environment, turned aside 100 years of transportation history, unyielding engineering and technology progress and unbending business logic, and said, “I know, let’s make the ships go slower?”

What will a logistics manager tell the chief financial officer if the company loses money on container freight derivatives?

If 2011 is anything like 2010, many more questions will come up, of course. The answers may come along, too, but all we can do is ask the questions.

Paul Page is executive director of The Journal of Commerce. He can be contacted at 202-355-1170, or at Follow Paul Page on Twitter,

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