2017 was another transformative year for freight transportation, logistics, and the food supply chain. In many ways, the end of the year is like the last mile. It’s the final push, the homestretch, but often it’s marred by hiccups (and traffic) along the way. An efficient, stress-free finale may seem like an elusive goal.
Here’s a look at this year’s biggest stories in logistics, and how they caused fundamental shifts in the way business is done.
The Top Logistics News Stories of 2017
Amazon vs. Walmart
The rivalry between Amazon and Walmart reached a fever pitch in 2017. As Walmart shifted its focus to blend the brick and mortar business with e-commerce, it took aim at eroding Amazon’s market share. This was evident with its acquisition strategy over the course of the past 15 months, which included Jet.com, Bonobos, Moosejaw, and Modcloth. Walmart also acquired Parcel to make same-day deliveries in New York. In turn, Amazon turned the grocery world on its head with its acquisition of Whole Foods. This move finally put Amazon into a favorable position within the grocery industry, although it is still a far cry from Walmart’s grocery business. The two retail giants are pushing ahead for drone deliveries as well as integrating e-commerce with brick and mortar. This is a rivalry that is just heating up.
The controversial electronic logging device (ELD) mandate has been one of the biggest compliance issues we’ve seen in the trucking industry. The rule requires carriers to install ELDs in their vehicles as a way to enforce accurate hours of service (HOS) recording. From selecting the right device to minimizing dwell time, much of 2017 was spent preparing for the changes ahead.
Innovations in the warehouse continued to reflect the changing role automation plays in today’s digital environment. One of the biggest stories in 2017 from a warehouse perspective is the continued use of robots within the warehouse. With a labor shortage looming, autonomous robots are coming to the rescue. Most of these robots are used in conjunction with a human labor component, bringing bins or racks of items to be picked to a central location, allowing the warehouse worker to be more efficient.
The supply chain industry experienced higher freight volumes, tighter capacity, and steeper carrier rates than in 2016. Increased port volumes back in July led to more truckload demand in September, the economy continued to show signs of improvement in Q3, and growers experienced a strong harvest season.
Trump pulled the US out of the Tran-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as one of his first acts as president. The remaining members of the proposed TPP have since gone back to the drawing board to establish a new trade agreement. President Trump has also threatened to pull the US out of NAFTA if the deal was not restructured. While the rhetoric has been toned down, negotiations are still underway to revise the trade deal. President Trump also had a strong stance on implementing a border adjustment tax to discourage US companies importing goods from Mexico as part of their manufacturing process.
FSMA Sanitary Transportation Rule
The Food Safety Modernization Act has been a hot topic among food shippers for several years now, but the Rule on Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food was especially relevant this year. Starting in April, nearly everyone with a role in transporting food was required to be compliant, including shippers, loaders, carriers, brokers, and receivers.