Welcome to the WHAT THE TRUCK?!? newsletter. In this issue, is it trick or treat for supply chains; the vaccine mandate and drivers; this week in rates; and inside the Tesla Semi.
All Hallows Eve
Don’t give out pennies — Truckstop.com’s national spot rate index inclusive of fuel is at the lowest level it’s been in October, dipping to $3.43 per mile. In fact, we’re down another 2 cents this week. That shouldn’t be too concerning to carriers or too promising for shippers as we’re still looking at beefy numbers here. As we enter the traditional peak season, will this mad dash to replenish inventories propel rates even higher?
A survey conducted by Blackhawk Network, a global branded payments provider, found that 83% of consumers prefer gift cards over physical gifts this year. Nearly a quarter of respondents cited shipping delays and stockouts as concerns for opting for gift cards. — FreightWaves’ Tony Mulvey
Santa’s biggest export — All of this mainstream attention on the supply crisis and scares of empty shelves may shift consumer buying behavior this Christmas. FreightWaves’ Tony Mulvey reports, “An additional risk for freight volumes during the traditional peak season is the rise in gift cards.” While gift cards may stave off consumers from raiding the toy aisle, it will be interesting to see what that’ll do for freight demand in January as shoppers come to cash in those gift cards for inventory.
Ghost hunting — Costume shopping procrastinators may find this Halloween to be more trick than treat as demand is up roughly 50% year-over-year according to HalloweenCostumes.com. Last year, COVID-related concerns saw 37 states cancel Halloween events and many communities opted out of door-to-door trick-or-treating.
An egg upon retail’s house — Retailers planning for this year had to take a gamble on their own demand planning. According to WHSV 3, Spirit Halloween reports historically by this time, it would have 90% of the merchandise already in stores by now. “There are some year-round stores that specialize in costumes that not only they couldn’t get the stuff, but had boxes that they couldn’t find anybody to unload,” Greg James, who works at Morris Costumes and Tuxedos in Charlotte, North Carolina, told WCNC. Specters of the supply chain crisis like shipping delays and labor shortages have come knocking.
DIY — When Flexport CEO Ryan Petersen isn’t influencing city policy on Twitter, he’s also having his own Halloween costume built. In the popular choice between “Squid Game” guard and stuck steamship, he opted for the latter. WTT is still waiting on our costumes to be delivered — and the tracking sure is cutting it close, although celebrating Halloween late due to the shipping crisis may be the best costume of all for ’21.
The king-sized candy bar of freight —Everybody loves the house that hands out the big candy bars, and consumers love a shop with a good supply chain. Not everyone is a loser this season. Morris Costumes and Tuxedos has gotten past shortfalls by stockpiling a bounty of just-in-case goods at a distribution center in Charlotte. CNBC reports, “Last year, Home Depot had its most successful Halloween event ever, with stock of a 12-foot skeleton selling out before October.” This year it has seen decor fly off the shelves, selling out of early drop merch in August. Have you had any trouble getting the perfect costume this year? Email me.
The vaccine and drivers
Recruiting edge? — It’s no secret that vaccine mandates are not a popular subject with truckers. In fact, many insiders, including FreightWaves CEO and founder Craig Fuller, have noted that vaccine mandates could either send drivers out of the industry or to smaller carriers with less than 100 employees, where a federal mandate would not be enforced. According to a new CDLLife poll, “83.9% of trucking company employees report that they have not formally communicated with their drivers about the vaccine mandate.” In fact, 73.1% of respondents believe that not complying with the mandate gives them a recruiting edge.
“You’re saying something with less than 100 employees is less of a priority than those above 100. So don’t weaponize public health. If you’re going to do this, go all in.” — ATA President and CEO Chris Spear
ATA speaks out — At the annual Management Conference & Exhibition in Nashville, Tennessee, ATA President and CEO Chris Spear said that even if 1% of drivers leave the industry over the vaccine mandate, “the disruption will be massive and crippling to our supply chain and economy.” Spear would like to see a more knowledgeable regulatory body, like the FMCSA, oversee it versus OSHA. FreightWaves’ John Kingston is on the ground at the event. He reports, “The survey also showed that 25% of the drivers would leave trucking completely if forced to vaccinate, and 49% would move to a smaller carrier not subject to the vaccine mandate.” Good news for small carrier recruiting — not so much for the majors.
Tesla Semi in the driver’s seat
What do drivers think? — Dima Zeniuk reposted a photo of the inside of the elusive Tesla Semi on Twitter Tuesday, so I asked a few drivers and Twitter users how they felt about the interior.
Where is the Semi? — It’s been two years since Tesla was supposed to have brought its super truck to the market. At the time, the company promised a transformative electric rig that could see a fully loaded truck hit highway speeds from zero to 60 in an eye-watering 20 seconds. Where is it now? On hold until further testing of Tesla’s 4680 battery series. It plans to conduct those tests next year. Of course, with the Semi, it does seem like every year is “next year.”
How you know robocalls have gotten out of control
LOST — A hiker lost on the highest summit of the Rocky Mountains was so fed up with robocalls that he delayed his own rescue by refusing to answer a call from an unknown number. While the hiker did manage to trek his own way through by the next morning, officials had some advice for the missing: “If you’re overdue according to your itinerary, and you start getting repeated calls from an unknown number, please answer the phone.”
Friday: A very WHAT THE TRUCK?!? Halloween
Festive and frightening — Get your costumes ready (if you could find them) and join us for a special holiday episode of the show. On the show:
Kennedy Space Center may be the only place in the world with five different modes of transportation: car/truck, plane, train, ship and rocket. For NASA and its commercial partners to launch anything into space, teams at Kennedy Space Center use a variety of methods to transport spaceflight hardware and other equipment to and from KSC and the cosmos. We’ll hear all about the integrated supply chain and what we can learn from it down here on Earth.
Plus, get a jump on your holiday shopping as First Gear Inc. shows off its holiday lineup of die-cast trucks and DHL Supply Chain discusses the trends driving digitization.
Special guests are Joshua Santora, Kennedy Space Center public affairs officer; Jason Gillespie, senior director of continuous improvement and innovation at DHL Supply Chain; and Adam Knight, creative director at First Gear Inc.
Note that there will be no WTT this Wednesday. However, FreightWavesTV will be airing the FLYING virtual event. Here are details on that.
Now on demand
The curse of the shipping crisis
No country for old shipments
Support our service dogs
The reality of life after service for dogs — Jason Johnson of Project K9 Hero tells us the story of Roscoe, a dog who served two U.S. presidents and ran many Secret Service missions. Once his service was up, Roscoe was scheduled to be euthanized until Project K9 Hero stepped in. See the story here and support Project K9 Hero here.
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