Welcome to the WHAT THE TRUCK?!? newsletter. In this issue, never-ending peak season, Amazon’s disposal culture, Lordstown stock sale scrutiny, more.
The Neverending Story
Can’t stop, won’t stop — The narrative entering the year was that with consumers getting vaccinated they’d shift spending from goods to services; however, there’s been a glitch in The Matrix. Lars Jensen, CEO of consultancy Vespucci Maritime, told American Shipper’s Greg Miller, “The sudden ‘jump’ from services to goods seen in 2020 lies outside any past jump seen. This means there is no historical precedent to help guide us on a timeline.”
We would if we could — Wanderlust abounds in the American psyche but booking those long-awaited vacations is turning out to be a trying task. According to Economic Policy Institute’s annual “State of Working America” series, “The leisure and hospitality sector still faces the largest shortfall, with nearly 3.5 million fewer jobs in February 2021 than a year prior.” But it’s not just the lack of labor at hotels and exorbitant Airbnb cleaning fees that are keeping consumers grounded, so are the airlines. CNN reported that American Airlines had 120 flight cancellations on Saturday, and the company is projecting “50 to 80 flight cancellations per day going forward.”
“Not only do retailers and wholesalers not have the inventory they want because they can’t take possession of the inventory they’ve ordered, but in some cases, they can’t even place the orders. Producers are saying, ‘We’re not going to accept your order. You have to get in line.’” — Paul Bingham, director of transportation consulting at IHS Markit
Ratioed — With the voracious appetite of consumers failing to abate, retailers have been caught in a perpetual peak season, with inventory-to-sales ratios reaching all-time lows. The result of that is what we’re seeing now: As importers brace for impact this Christmas season, they’re not just facing freight rates that are up but are fighting for capacity that doesn’t exist. According to Jason Miller, associate professor of supply chain management at Michigan State University’s Eli Broad College of Business, “If you want to get stuff in for the holidays, every container slot available is going to be used up and you have to plan for that.”
Dr. Drayage — It isn’t just the factories and ports that have BCOs over a barrel. Once the goods finally get to port, a whole slew of capacity and cost issues await every shipper’s import manager. In the Chicago market alone, a 59-mile drayage move can cost over $3,300. That’s a 400% increase from what one shipper reportedly paid pre-pandemic. I can’t help but get nostalgic for the mid-2010s when I was selling freight and shippers would haggle over $1,200 40s from Shanghai to the U.S. West Coast.
Amazon’s disposal culture
Prime waste — Above I talked about the need for the right inventory in warehouses but what happens to unwanted products? A new report by ITV News shines a light on the sheer amount of goods that are disposed of at Amazon’s Dunfermline, Scotland, warehouse. Unsold and returned items present a major quandary for shippers. While warehouse space is prioritized, the reverse logistics of unsold and returned items is not. This isn’t a problem exclusive to Amazon; however, the size and scope of Bezos’ baby highlights the incredible amounts of waste a company with that footprint can generate.
“We are working towards a goal of zero product disposal and our priority is to resell, donate to charitable organisations or recycle any unsold products.” — Amazon in response to ITV’s report
The sound of a whistle — According to a leaked internal document, during one week in April 124,000 items were marked to “destroy” while 28,000 items were marked “donate.” An anonymous ex-employee told ITV, “From a Friday to a Friday our target was to generally destroy 130,000 items a week.” Those items include everything from iPads to sealed COVID face masks. It should be noted that one of the reasons that shippers destroy goods is so that they can claim duty drawback. Duty drawback allows importers to receive repayment of duties when certain conditions are met such as exporting of goods or destroying them. Unfortunately, recycling and/or donating does not qualify goods for this in either the U.S. or the U.K.
That’s one way to get rid of unwanted inventory — Since June 5, Jillian Cannan of Buffalo, New York, began receiving over 100 unordered packages from Amazon. Cannan was baffled by these deliveries as they all contained support frames for face masks.
Possession is 9/10 of the law — “When I first started receiving the packages, I called Amazon to try and give them back, but they explained to me that they were officially mine to keep since they had been delivered to my home,” Cannan told NBC News. While Amazon did eventually locate the original order and removed her address from it, Canaan is now stuck with the goods. She did ask Amazon to donate the packages but she hasn’t had any luck so far. Despite that, she is looking to turn this into a positive. “My business partner and I reached out to the children’s hospitals and we decided we want to do a decorate-your-own-face mask and include the bracket in the little kit with a blank face mask and some crayons and stickers that kids can work on while they’re in the hospital,” Cannan told NBC News.
The truest meme of all
Dogs of Lordstown 2: The Walk Backing
Rough week — Lordstown Motors Corp. (LMC) began last week by telling a virtual meeting of the Automotive Press Association in Detroit on Tuesday that Lordstown had sufficient confirmed orders to produce Class 2A vehicles from this September through next May. FreightWaves’ Alan Adler reports that by Thursday they had to set the record straight with the SEC. “Although these vehicle purchase agreements provide us with a significant indicator of demand for the Endurance, [they] do not represent binding purchase orders or other firm purchase commitments. We have no binding purchase orders or commitments from customers,” LMC wrote in its filing.
Robinhooding — This week, the gas has been turned up on the EV startup as regulatory filings show several top executives sold stock in the company prior to reporting financials. “In all, five top executives, including the company’s president and its former chief financial officer, sold more than $8 million in stock over three days in early February, according to the filings,” WSJ reports. One executive, Chuan “John” Vo, who oversees Lordstown Motors’ propulsion division, sold 99.3% of his vested equity for more than $2.5 million. LMC conducted its own investigation and concluded that the stock sales “were made for reasons unrelated to the performance of the company.” That may not satisfy the SEC, which is conducting its own inquiry.
5ast 5urious $560k
Thought you could leave without saying goodbye? — Brian O’Conner, played by the late Paul Walker, cast a James Dean-like specter over the worlds of street racing and car enthusiasts. Over the weekend in Las Vegas, O’Conner’s iconic 1994 Toyota Supra sold at a Barrett-Jackson auction for $560k. The super star super car that was used in both “The Fast and The Furious” and its sequel “2 Fast 2 Furious” features “Lamborghini Diablo Candy Orange pearl paint, ‘Nuclear Gladiator’ graphics, a Bomex front spoiler and side skirts, a TRD-style hood, an APR aluminum biplane rear wing, and 19-inch Dazz Motorsport Racing Hart M5 Tuner wheels,” according to Motor Authority.
A quarter mile at a time — Don’t have over half a million dollars to commemorate the muscle car franchise? Not a problem. You too can own the beast that even Dom feared, a 1970 Dodge Charger R/T … at 1:8 scale. Fanhome offers a subscription-based model kit starting at $1 that’ll let you explore your inner gearhead without even getting grease on your shirt.
Now playing on Insiders
Electrified — On this episode of FreightWaves Insiders, I caught up with Hyliion founder and CEO Thomas Healy to get the inside story on Hyliion and Healy’s career journey. Get the real story on the company going public, the future of RNG, how Healy regards retail traders and more. Watch or listen to the show here.
This Thursday — Coming up this Thursday at 3:30 p.m. et on FreightWavesTV, I’m joined on the show by Haul CEO and co-founder Tim Henry to discuss how his company is using tech to give fleets flexibility with drivers on demand.
Subscribe to FreightWaves Insiders wherever you get your podcasts and never miss an episode. New shows drop every Thursday at 3:30 p.m. ET on FreightWavesTV.
WTT this week
Wednesday — We’re joined by special guests Bill Driegert, co-founder of Uber Freight; Robert Moffitt, EVP and director of operations, New Legend Inc.; Austin Brizgys, VP, sales and marketing, Booster Fuels; and Connor Miller, COO of ArdentX.
Friday — NASA returns! On the show we’re joined by special guests Tony Sabatino, lead crane technician/operator, and Ray Zink, manager of Spaceflight Technical Operations, Jacobs; Lauren Meyer, head of client success, CarrierHQ; Jenny Sauer-Schmidgall, owner, The Witty Farmer; and Preston Holland, BDM, 101 Mobility.
Catch new shows live at noon ET Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on FreightWavesTV, FreightWaves LinkedIn and Facebook or on demand by looking up WHAT THE TRUCK?!? on your favorite podcast player.
Now on demand
Getting warehouse robots to speak the same language
Inside scoop on ice cream logistics
Why supply chain is where it’s at
Transformational — If you want to be at the forefront of tech, robotics, sustainability and innovation, supply chain is where it’s at, according to Velociti President Deryk Powell. Take a look.
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