The Week

The Week

Copyright 2003, Traffic World, Inc.

Quote of the week: "''Lettuce'' won''t suffice. We''ll need to know iceberg lettuce.''" -- Julio Salazar, an FDA official, on specificity that will be required in advance notification for crossborder food shipments.

Is it real or another false start? After a three-year freight recession, transportation executives hope recent signs of recovery are the start of an extended boom. Some trucks are full to the brim, with a few carriers even turning away business because of a lack of drivers. Rail and air shipments are up as well. The surge in transportation is an encouraging sign for the economy as a whole, as analysts say transport is usually a reliable leading indicator. However, carriers are warning shippers of a pending capacity crunch.

FedEx Corp. is taking a public stand against a powerful Department of Transportation nominee, with whom the Memphis-based company has clashed over the years. The express delivery giant is asking Congress to oppose Bush administration nominee Kirk K. Van Tine, who was nominated in September for the No. 2 position at DOT. FedEx''s most prominent disagreement with Van Tine concerns an ongoing dispute, now before a federal appeals court, about federal money to compensate the company for its losses that resulted from the September 11 terrorist attacks.

U.S. ports begrudgingly are prepared to bear the cost and regulatory burdens of new federal rules governing port security. The Department of Homeland Security released the final incarnation of port security regulations, with ports now facing compliance deadlines throughout the next year. Ports are looking to the federal government to help pay for some of the security improvement costs, but so far they have not been satisfied with the level of help they''ve seen.

Back to school means back to business at Follett Higher Education Group, the nation''s largest college bookstore contractor. To speed textbooks to students, Follett teamed with courier group Ensenda, which will arrange for delivery of books ordered through efollett.com on the next or even same day. The exercise in Fulfillment 101 could save Follett big bucks across its network of 680 campus bookstores.

Supply-chain software giant Manugistics is offering new technology to speed along logistics, but the message it really is sending to customers is simple and unadorned by the tech world''s razzle-dazzle: we are here to help you become a more profitable and secure company. Wrapping up its annual Envision conference in Washington, D.C., the technology mainstay signaled that the time of unlimited promises, and unlimited investment in technology, is over. Now, clients want to get the most out of what they have.

Trucking interests won some leeway in advance notification requirements by the Food and Drug Administration on crossborder food shipments. Truckers are going to be required to give only two hours'' notice, compared with the 24-hour notice that was in the original rulemaking. Still, truckers are warning food shippers that crossborder shipments could cost more and take more time. The new rules take effect Dec. 12.

CSX has put in place a three-phase action plan to get the railroad back on track after dismal service in 2003. The plan was announced at the company''s third-quarter financial meeting, where the company posted a loss from operations of $98 million on a consolidated basis, compared to an income of $276 million in third-quarter 2002. CSX Chairman and CEO Michael Ward pledged to make prompt changes if performance goals are not met. Analysts recommended CSX stock for the long term, a sign that performance has bottomed out.

U.S. airlines show in their third-quarter financial results that they have turned a corner. But there is a long way to go before returning to the profitable days of yore. Cargo results for the quarter were mixed, partly due to decreases in capacity as airlines turn to smaller, more efficient planes. A year ago, Southwest Airlines was the only major U.S. airline to report a third-quarter profit. This year, at least five of the country''s biggest airlines are in the black for the quarter, which is typically the strongest one for airlines.

Carriers opposed to ocean reform in Europe accused shippers of making "speculative and unsubstantiated assertions" about rate instability and inadequate service. The Brussels-based European Liner Affairs Association is fighting attempts to kill the antitrust exemption its members enjoy, an exemption fiercely opposed by some shippers. Substantial change or repeal of the exemption would be "radical surgery on a healthy patient," ELAA said.