The more you pay, the worse service is – WHAT THE TRUCK?!? [newsletter]

Welcome to the WHAT THE TRUCK?!? newsletter sponsored by Legend Transportation Inc. In this issue, rates slide but by how much; Maersk sets goal to eliminate spot freight in five years; are we over online grocery delivery; Girl Scouts get entrepreneurial; and more. — Dooner

A drop in the bucket


Down 7 — The national dry van spot rate average slipped 9 cents this week, continuing a 17 cent fall from a high of $3.32 on March 2. Will spot rates continue their decline into April? Andrew Cox reported in our DHL Supply Chain Pricing Power Index that a scenario playing out could be “the down trend is reversed and volumes pick up as shippers look to offload inventory prior to the end of Q1.” That may prove to be the case as both outbound tender volumes and outbound tender rejects are up this week. Will spot rates follow next week?

“On the retail front, difficulty in sourcing capacity at the beginning of March may have led retailers to accelerate their Q1 order schedule.” — FreightWaves’ Seth Holm

Allergy season — While port congestion continues to be a storyline as we enter the spring, what impact is the West Coast port crisis ’21 having on surface transportation? Zach Strickland looked toward the Inbound Ocean Shipments Index in SONAR. While Southern California ports handle over 40% of the shipments entering the U.S., other ports are seeing some redistribution. Strickland reports, “The Port of Oakland has been outpacing many of the nation’s largest ports in terms of shipment growth since the end of September. Port Houston recently saw a huge spike in bookings in the middle of March.” That could mean port infrastructure may get overwhelmed and shippers may find tight drayage capacity and higher rates. 



Maersk’s change of heart Raise your hand if you’ve had ocean freight under contract and it has been rolled? This usually happens because your contract rate is too low compared to the current spot rate. Ocean, not unlike inland freight, is not immune to carriers chasing the higher number. But that may change. Kim Link-Wills reports the world’s largest ocean carrier has grown more interested in long-term committed relationships with shippers.

“There was quite a significant financial investment because we decided not to enjoy the short-term market rates but stick to our longer-term partners. It was also a true buildout of our long-term vision — no longer being a regular carrier but the long-term container logistics integrator that we want to be for our bigger partners.” — Charles van der Steene, the head of sales in North America for A.P. Møller – Maersk

The dotted line Maersk’s musings may sound bittersweet to shippers who are used to dealing with the greatest truth in freight: The more you pay, the worse service is. While the company’s fourth-quarter ocean division’s earnings nearly doubled to $2.2 billion, many shippers have been at wits’ end on securing capacity. Maersk says it could have made even more money capitalizing on the short-term market had it not changed its ways. Will this change management work and will relationship-building mechanics between shipper and carrier win out? Maersk CEO Søren Skou says he expects two-way committed contracts to make up nearly all of the shipping line’s business within five years.

“We expect import levels for the entire year of 2021 to remain elevated simply to restock retail inventory to the same levels as prior to the pandemic.” — ZIM CEO Eli Glickman

Why so bullish? It’s easy to have a conversation about long-term contract rates from a carrier’s perspective when those contacts are way up. ZIM CEO Eli Glickman disclosed that recently negotiated contract rates are around 50% higher than rates negotiated last year. Greg Miller reports that the Israeli carrier has signed five times as many contracts compared to the same period last year. However, unlike Maersk, ZIM does not intend to decrease its spot market exposure — yet.

Are we over online grocery delivery?

imgflip / Race to Witch Mountain

Back to the stores — Remember wiping down your groceries with Clorox in the early days of the pandemic? What about setting up your Instacart account and placing that first order, only to be disappointed by the quality of avocados you were about to clean with bleach? Brian Straight reports, “Online grocery shopping showed a decline in February, although the delivery/pickup segment of the market continued to show strength according to new data.” That data shows that online grocery sales in February fell 14% from January. New users are even less likely to repeat online groceries orders as only 30% said they’d be extremely likely to use such a service again. The other 70% must have gotten some of those bad avocados. 

“For many regional grocery chains, the online shopping battleground has shifted from delivery to curbside.” — Sylvain Perrier, president and CEO of Mercatus

Not dead yet — One monthly dip doesn’t necessarily foreshadow the death of delivery, especially as big investments pour into this space. Grace Sharkey reports that Weee! raised $315 million to expand its ethnic grocery delivery network. Weee! carries more than 3,500 products that key in on the Asian and Hispanic markets, including 300 types of local, organic and seasonal produce. Meanwhile, Amazon-backed Deliveroo said in the January-February time frame, the gross total value (GTV) of transactions on its platform increased 121%. Deliveroo is now valued at nearly $12 billion. 

Girl Scout cookies get modern

imgflip /  Girl Scout Cookies With A Cause

These new entrepreneurs wear sashes — The pandemic dealt the Girl Scouts a double blow as the selling season for its biggest fundraiser was hit both this year and last. Gone were the days when you would run into a troop selling cookies outside of a grocery store, and with remote work, in-office buying opportunities have declined. That hasn’t stopped the Girl Scouts from adapting though. 

Buy online — The organization not only partnered with delivery apps like GrubHub but took its business online. What’s cool about that is we were able to support local troops, as well as our friends at Girl Scouts of Northern California and Girl Scouts of Greater New York. While it may have happened sooner than intended, this new way of doing business will give Girl Scouts their first experience with running an e-commerce business while also selling and marketing online — not to mention learning to overcome real-world challenges businesses have to contend with. BTW, there are still a few days left to buy cookies.

“The cookie program is teaching them, obviously, life and leadership skills and entrepreneurial skills. It’s a business and they’re running it as their own entrepreneurial business, their own thing.” — Jaime Alvarez, senior director of marketing and communications for Girl Scouts of NYPENN Pathways, told 12 News

Cookie monster — It doesn’t matter if you call them Caramel DeLites or Samoas, a thief is a thief. That’s what Joel Whittaker learned when he reportedly stole 23 cases of Girl Scout cookies worth $1,250 from a loading dock in Rochester, Minnesota. Whittaker told officers that he was dumpster diving when he noticed the annual treats out in the open on the dock. He filled the trunk and back seat of his small sedan before making a getaway. The cookie caper crumbled when he was apprehended and charged with felony counts of burglary and theft. If convicted, those cookies could cost the perp a decade in the joint and $20,000 in fines. As for those stolen cookies? According to CBS Minnesota, they were delivered to the Salvation Army Day Center.

If freight matching were a dating app


Drivers make the first move — On this episode of FreightWaves Insiders, I caught up with FleetOps CEO Chris Atkinson to talk about trucking technophobia, digital freight brokerages vs. digital freight matching, building an AI FreightTech company, and what FleetOps is more like — Tinder, Bumble or FarmersOnly? Listen to the podcast.

This Thursday — I go one-on-one with Robert Meehan, Direct Traffic Solutions CEO/captain, Air Force veteran and legit badass. Meehan started his company after experiencing something many of us have: A freight broker dropped the ball on a shipment and he had to deal with it during his daughter’s softball game. We also learn about his “shopping cart” theory, one that in essence tries to capture the idea of “who are you when faced with a decision.”

WTT?!? Wednesdays

3PL Summit — The Dude and I are coming to you LIVE from FreightWaves’ latest virtual event, the 3PL Summit. Not only are we hosting the show, but we’ve got an absolutely stacked WTT with eight interviews featuring guests from Front, Salesforce, Bringg, Trucker Tools, Ambition, Emtec, Weather Optics and OneRail. Plus, there will be a keynote from TIA President and CEO Anne Reinke and the chance to win free prizes like an i7 Roomba vacuum. The 3PL Summit kicks off at 9 a.m. ET on Wednesday. Register for free here.

Friday — We’re back to our regularly scheduled programming and we’re going to learn the story behind Convoy directly from its founder. We’ll also find out how to get a CDL in ’21 and hear another comeback story. On the show:

Dan Lewis, CEO/founder, Convoy

Chris Lee, senior transportation specialist, Aritzia 

Vitaly Bekker, senior transportation specialist, Aritzia

Catch new shows live at noon ET Mondays, Fridays and Wednesdays on FreightWavesTV, FreightWaves LinkedIn and Facebook or on demand by looking up WHAT THE TRUCK?!? on your favorite podcast player. 

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One love,


Timothy Dooner

Dooner is an award-winning podcaster, content producer and host who is currently the director of audio at FreightWaves and the creative director of Back The Truck Up. In under a year he helped build FreightCasts, the world’s largest logistics and supply chain podcast network in media. He produces and co-hosts the hit podcast and FreightWavesTV show, WHAT THE TRUCK?!? WTT is ranked in Apple Podcasts top-20 Business News podcasts. He also writes a newsletter of the same title with over 10k subscribers in the supply chain and trucking niche. Dooner has been in freight since 2005 and has held directors positions in operations, sales, consulting, and marketing. He has worked with FedEx, Reebok, Adidas, L.L. Bean, Hasbro, Louis Vuitton, and many more high level clients across the full spectrum of the supply chain. He was a featured speaker at TEDx Chattanooga.