The honeymoon in the wake of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service assuming control of the West Coast talks between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and its employers lasted less than a week. If anything, the negotiations have reached a nadir since mediators joined the fray, with both sides engaging in a war of words that has busted wide open a mutual pledge the two sides made when this process began last May not to discuss details of the negotiations.
Mark Szakonyi, Associate Managing Editor
President Obama once again called for dramatically improving U.S. infrastructure and receiving expanded powers to finalize two major trade pacts during last night’s State of the Union address.
Susan Kohn Ross
Being compliant with trade regulations among various federal departments goes a long way to getting your company where it needs to end up in order for costs to be consistent and predictable.
What will 2015 look like for an industry that has had four consecutive underperforming years? There are many issues to deal with, but let’s focus on the few that mean the most. At the top of the list is the lack of profitability among ocean carriers and West Coast labor and congestion issues that I don’t see clearing up any time soon.
As we approach the TPM Conference in March, it’s hard to recall any year in the 15 years of this event when the industry was more unsettled, more dissatisfied and more uncertain of what the future holds. Such is the result of a monumentally troublesome 2014, when shippers and their providers absorbed more broadsides from more directions and with less notice than any year in memory.
In this column last year, FTR predicted a bumpy ride for 2014 in trucking, using phrases such as “modest growth meets static capacity,” “it’s all about drivers” and “it’s not a wave of regulations, it’s a storm surge.” Now, with 2014 in the rearview mirror, we can say our outlook was fairly on the mark. So where do we see things going for 2015, and will the coming months see a repeat of 2014’s stormy conditions?
Companies that prefer to keep their operations in-house can leverage some of the best practices used by logistics providers to reduce costs and increase their bottom line.
Although the facts appear to present a dismal picture for the U.S. highway system, some silver linings have emerged as a result of it.
Chris Brooks, Executive Editor
2014 was far from the first year to see waterfront labor issues disrupt cargo flows at U.S. ports. Nor was it the first year to see the formation of large vessel-sharing alliances, big ships, equipment dislocations, truck driver shortages, suspect rail service or unexpectedly strong growth in cargo volumes. Each has been prevalent throughout North American supply chains in given years going back a decade or, in some cases, more. But what made 2014 unique is that they converged simultaneously to form a potent mix that sets the stage for one of the more challenging years in memory for supply chains.
Third-party logistics is a key element of a U.S. economy that is the primary bright spot in the long tunnel of the global economic recovery. In particular, the truck-related components of domestic third-party logistics have prospered during the current economic expansion.
Jason Kuehn and Jarod Hage
Intermodal transportation in North America is poised to break more records. In 2013, intermodal rail operators handled 15.5 million container and trailer units combined. For 2014, intermodal units easily could top 16 million, if the run rate through 2014’s third quarter — up 5.3 percent year-over-year — holds. 2015 should continue this trend, but not without some anxiety for shippers.
Peter Tirschwell, Chief Content Officer
If there is one observation that stands out from the experience of 2014, it’s the complete absence of concern for the shipper in U.S. longshore negotiations. It is fundamentally anachronistic that those who ultimately pay the bills and whose business creates not only all the longshore jobs but also millions more in the larger economy, should suffer the neglect and business disruption shippers do in the U.S. when confronted with labor-management issues on the waterfront.
Although U.S. income growth in the first three quarters of 2014 was only marginally better than the same period a year earlier, it was sufficient to provide the U.S. unemployed with much-needed relief. With hiring picking up momentum, consumer confidence in the U.S. has been moderately positive with the expectations component showing clear signs of improvement.
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