Welcome to the WHAT THE TRUCK?!? Newsletter. In this issue, the rise of ghost kitchen logistics, spot rates slide again, truck parking opposed, no gnomes, Mortal Kombat and more.
April spot slides bring May flowers?
Slow roll — The Truckstop.com seven-day dry van rate per mile is down another 5 cents this week as it has fallen to $3.08/mile inclusive of fuel. FreightWaves’ Andrew Cox reports the Bank of America Securities team titled this week’s consumer spending report “Consumer takes a breather.” After a year of a goods-driven economy, many Americans may be eyeballing the calendar as summer vacation plans ramp up and spending shifts to services and travel.
It’s all about capacity — FreightWaves’ Grace Sharkey reports that according to a recent Randall-Reilly study, truck driver job postings in 2020 rose by more than 300,000, but job seekers rose by only 70,000. With CDL schools opening up, that could add more drivers to the labor force but new drivers are entering a different market. The e-commerce boom has many would-be truckers looking toward the final-mile segment. Ironically enough, that same e-commerce-driven boom that has kept capacity tight is now luring drivers away from over-the-road trucking and into that very segment.
Ghost in the taco shell
Spirits in the sky — With the rapid acceleration of food delivery app adoption over the past five years, where and how your food is prepared has never mattered less. On the app, it’s all about the brand you’re buying from and if it is in delivery range or not. This has led to the rise of ghost kitchens, which are typically rented and shared spaces where would-be food peddlers can have menu items made on brand, to spec and sent out for delivery by a third party via apps like UberEats.
“I literally just opened 300 restaurants all across America. But we only serve people through delivery apps.” — Mr. Beast on the launch of Mr. Beast Burger
The new “food truck” — Mr. Beast may be YouTube’s top talent and entrepreneur but what he’s doing with Mr. Beast Burger is part of a much larger trend being driven by big business. Virtual Dining Concepts, the company that launched the beast burger, is keying in on celebrity-endorsed ghost kitchens. FreightWaves’ Brian Straight reports American hot dog institution Nathan’s Famous is the latest restaurateur to jump into the ghost kitchen craze, inking a partnership deal with Ghost Kitchen Brands to launch more than 100 locations across North America by the end of 2021.
Out of thin air — Venture capital is placing big bets on this burgeoning market, as Virtual Dining Concepts parent company NextBite raised $120 million last October. Apps like GrubHub, Postmates and DoorDash have ushered in the golden age of delivery in America — growing 300% faster than dine-in over the last five years, according to RoamingHunger. Statista estimates that by 2030 ghost kitchens will represent 50% of the drive-thru and takeout market. Considering the fact that it can cost over $1 million to launch a brick-and-mortar restaurant, it’s pretty obvious why investors want to take a bite out of this chunk of cheddar.
Truck parking’s NIMBY problem
Good news — Travel Centers of America has plans to build a Petro Stopping Center in Monteagle, Tennessee, that’s double the size of your average truck stop. FreightWaves’ John Gallagher reports the travel center will include Papa John’s, Bojangles and Betty’s Kitchen. Planned amenities include a barbershop, fitness center, drivers’ lounge, laundry facilities and potentially a pharmacy. Add to that serene mountain views at a natural stopping point and it sounds like you have one an excellent destination for drivers who contend with parking issues every day on the job.
Bad news — Although the site promises 130 new jobs, and takes advantage of the community’s well-placed highway exits, a small group of activists are saying: “Not in my backyard.” While the effort to add much-needed parking was thought to be a “slam dunk,” the travel center has yet to open despite planning on doing so in Q1. Over 200 signers have put their names on a petition to “Stop the Truck Stop” and a GoFundMe page raised $8,300 to aid in the legal fight against the location. One signer complained that the truck stop will create a sex trafficking problem in their already “drug-plagued” county. In the end, it looks like Travel Centers of America will win out as it now plans to open on New Year’s Day ’22.
Are any of these your password?
You’re not that unique — New research by NordPass has revealed astoundingly weak password security across industries at Fortune 500 companies. Twenty percent of passwords were simply a company’s name or some variation. Here are the top 10 passwords for logistics and automotive. Who is Aaron?
Ever Given: The gift that keeps on taking
No más gnomes — Spring is in the air but the conundrum in the Suez Canal combined with a pandemic-fueled spree of home gardening has left many backyards barren of … gnomes. Ian Byrne, assistant manager of Highfield Garden World in Whitminster, Great Britain, told the BBC that sales at garden centers were up 97% from 2019. Garden Centre Association Chief Executive Iain Wylie added, “With goods arriving from abroad, garden centers were affected by the ship getting stuck in the canal as much as any other industry — garden furniture, ornaments, of which gnomes would be some, being stuck in containers trying to come over here.” Meanwhile, Egypt has seized the Ever Given over its owners’ “failure to pay an amount of $900 million.”
Hey, hey it’s your Earth Day
Net-zero Carbon Summit — New regulations and public pressure have fleets and shippers looking for ways to better manage their role in addressing global climate concerns. This Earth Day, April 22, our next virtual event brings these voices together for a summit on the state of their progress.
On WTT — On top of a full slate of speakers, The Dude and I will also be doing a live episode of WHAT THE TRUCK?!? from the event floor with special guests Glenn Jones, GVP of product strategy, Blume Global; Daniela Perlmutter, SVP of marketing, Bringg; Rick Zullo, co-founder and general partner, Equal Ventures; Stephan Sieber, CEO, Transporeon; and Jennifer Wong, head of sustainability, Convoy.
Register and win — The event kicks off at 9 a.m. ET Thursday. Register for free here and get entered to win a sweet Cannondale bike!
Wednesday’s guest list — Zach Blank, CEO, Straightaway; Andrew Wallas, CEO and founder, The School of Business Alchemy; Brian Kempisty, founder, Port X Logistics; and Darrell Pickens, president and founder, Relay on Demand
Friday’s guest list — Melissa Gaglione, president, Safety4Her Inc.; Javon Bryant, director of carrier development, Edge Logistics; and Ryan Rusnak, CTO, Airspace Technologies
What is FreightWaves Insiders? — This podcast is your look at the inner workings of the world of business and careers. Step inside the tribe with some of the hardest-hitting guests in the industry and me on the “Inside The Actors Studio” of freight.
Hell-bent on success — On this episode of FreightWaves Insiders, I caught up with trucker and Hell Bent Xpress owner Jamie Hagen.
We talk about the career journey of a driver from teenage hauler to fleet owner, as well as Mackonomics, brand partnerships and maximizing fuel efficiency. Also on tap: top driver issues and why drivers feel the way they do, plus much more. Listen here or look up FreightWaves Insiders wherever you get your podcasts.
Next week FreightWaves Insiders is back on FreightWavesTV with a very special guest:
Now on demand
How hard is it to find drivers?
Autonomous trucks hit the road
Always meet your heroes? — Last Friday I was sitting around listening to Spotify when “Techno Syndrome (Mortal Kombat)” by The Immortals came on. I immediately thought, wow, it would be awesome if we could get the guy who yells, “Mortal Kombat!” from that song to one day scream “WHAT THE TRUCK?!?” By Sunday he had. Check it out here.
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