Commentary

Commentary

This year’s TPM Conference will probably always be remembered as the event that took place within weeks of the conclusion of the most bruising West Coast labor negotiations in recent memory — surpassing, in its ill-effects on company supply chains, even the 10-day lockout in the fall of 2002.
Between plummeting fuel costs, a surge in consumer spending and a worsening driver shortage, the last few years in the trucking industry have been characterized by extreme highs and lows. This year is shaping up much the same way, although with some new twists in the road.
Whatever the course of action — or inaction — companies have learned a lot during the long, frustrating and costly ordeal at U.S. West Coast ports. Here are five key takeaways.
In the business of helping carriers collect charges from shippers when brokers and 3PLs don’t pay those fees, this writer challenges me to prove that shippers shouldn’t automatically be liable for payment in non-payment cases.
At its core, the cold chain industry is strong. Better yet, the challenges transportation providers have faced during the past few years are thawing out, and there’s an undeniable optimism in the air. Spending on refrigerated equipment, cold chain-related software and technology, and services are picking up, and this year is off to a stronger start.
I don’t know about you, but I want to read or hear about something other than the congestion at West Coast ports, the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. Although the nine-month contract “negotiations” that finally brought a tentative agreement on Feb. 20 — and labor relations overall — are critical issues, there are other important issues to address, including the upcoming negotiations for 2015-16 service contracts in the eastbound trans-Pacific.
The Feb. 20 tentative agreement between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association brought a measure of labor peace to the U.S. West Coast waterfront. But after nine months of negotiations marked by labor slowdowns, threats of a lockout and the worst congestion in more than a decade, the scars will be raw for some time.
The Feb. 20 announcement shows why the current system of longshore labor relations is rotten to the core.
Logistics and procurement teams often end up in conflict about how ocean and air freight transport should be procured. Battle lines within major companies are being drawn between these internal groups as the contracting season gets into full swing shortly.
Truck and rail capacity imbalance poised to be even worse than last year.
The end of the White House's hands-off approach to the International Longshore and Warehouse Union-Pacific Maritime Association talks holds risks for the union.
By blaming the ILWU for the congestion it's caused, the PMA employers are killing two birds with one stone: evading responsibility for the employers’ failures, and gaining support from retailers, shipping companies, the public and Congress in hopes of boosting their standing at the negotiating table.
So the International Longshore and Warehouse Union is solely responsible for the humongous mess our West Coast ports are in? It must be so because I read it on JOC.com. My first concern is that perhaps this blame is misplaced. To get at the truth, let's look at the background.
An enthusiast of antique guns finds a good deal on gunpowder when on a trip away from home. The trick is getting that black powder shipped home.