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The receipt for 2020 – WHAT THE TRUCK?!? [newsletter]

Welcome to the WHAT THE TRUCK?!? newsletter sponsored by Legend Transportation Inc. In this issue 3,140 fleet failures, woeful state of yard management, spot rates back on the move, crash-causing koalas, robot chefs and more.

Run, spot, run


Plus four — After slumping for most of ’21, the spot market has finally turned things around this week with a modest 4-cent gain elevating it to $2.75 a mile, inclusive of fuel. While we’re still a ways away from Jan. 3’s peak of $3.22 a mile, the outlook remains solid. 

Contract costs up — As Zach Strickland reported in his chart of the week, shippers spent 12% more per mile for dry van truckloads on average through most of the fourth quarter of 2020 than they did in 2019. This is even more significant when you take into account that most freight moves via contract and less than 15% of the overall for-hire van truckload market in an average year is via spot. 

Over 3,000 fleet failures in 2020


Small fleets hit hard The battle for dollars in the bottoming spot market we saw last April led to “a record number [of fleets going out] of business in the second quarter and a record number in the month of May,” Donald Broughton, Broughton Capital’s managing partner, told The Wall Street Journal.

“When the pandemic hit … it created almost overnight a tremendous overcapacity. The trucks were all there, but what they had to move was cut by about half.” — Todd Spencer, president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, to The Wall Street Journal

Broughton Capital

A very bad year The brief but immediate initial impact the coronavirus had on business led to surging unemployment that peaked at 14.8%, a stock market crash and plummeting freight volumes. In total, 3,140 fleets closed shop last year, a 185% jolt from 2019, according to data from Broughton Capital. An astonishing 1,580 of those shutdowns happened in the second quarter alone.



What’s cookin’? DoorDash bought Chowbotics for an undisclosed sum. The salad-tossing robotics company’s refrigerator-sized robot Sally can make up to 65 different meals in under 90 seconds each. What’s curious about Sally is that customers can use a mobile app to order salads from any restaurant or grocery store that has one. DoorDash likely hopes that you’ll also select delivery from them, which would give the company deeper ownership of its customers’ take-out buying journey.

“Making fresh food more accessible and convenient has always been core to our mission. As a part of DoorDash, this mission is now turbocharged.” — Rick Wilmer, Chowbotics CEO

Safe bet or bad robot? — Service robots have had a tumultuous past few years elevated by huge investments but pockmarked with a number of recent failures:

  • Zume, a company once worth $4 billion, shut down it’s robot-powered pizza business last January.
  • Walmart fired its shelf-scanning robots last November after realizing that the company’s people did the job better.
  • Spyce, the Boston-based autonomous kitchen brainchild of several MIT grads, raised $21 million but had to shut down operations at its Downtown Crossing location for nearly a year as the company refined its business. However, Spyce has recently expanded with a newly opened location in Harvard Square.

Nobody could have predicted another truck would arrive

Universal / imgflip

The essence of chaos — According to a FourKites survey, 92% of respondents believe a yard management system (YMS) could add value to their organizations but only 25% currently use a YMS. Despite that, more than half of respondents cite manual processes as their biggest challenge when it comes to both yard and appointment management.

Koala causes crash

Nadia Tugwell

Koalified driverA koala crossing a six-lane freeway in Canberra, Australia, caused a five-vehicle pileup. That’s when Nadia Tugwell got out of her SUV and captured the marsupial with the help of her coat. Tugwell, who lives near wild koalas, claimed that she understood their behavior so she was able to coax the crash-causing k-bear into her car. The koala was later released in the woods.  

WTT?!? LIVE from Health & Pharma Summit this Wednesday

Coming up live, free, virtually: It’s the FreightWaves Health & Pharma Supply Chain Summit. The Dude and I will host the show from the live desk before we welcome to WHAT THE TRUCK?!?:

Danny Loe, president, asset-light logistics and chief yield officer, ArcBest — We’ll be talking about the advantage of using integrated solutions for health and pharma supply chains.

Chad Brueck, president of Expedited Solutions, CRST — Brueck fills us in on CRST’s utilization of mapped and validated temperature-controlled trailers. Plus, why a multilayered approach to security and trained professional team drivers brings a level of comfort to the key players inside a pharmaceutical distribution network.

But wait, there’s more — Not only will we welcome a few special surprise guests, but you’ll see sessions on tracking vaccine distribution, vaccine integrity, real-time transparency, U.S.-China trade relations and demand forecasting.

Win that Roomba — That’s right, you too can be just like “Breaking Bad’s” Jesse Pinkman and have your own robovacuum. One lucky attendee at this event will head into the weekend having just won a brand new Roomba! Everyone who registers will be automatically entered into this drawing; sign up now to make sure you don’t miss the action! Just keep Walter White away from it.

Check out the full agenda and register for free here

Now on demand

The latest in drone delivery, carrier vetting, Tesla’s big bitcoin buy, more

Blazing trails in cannabis logistics, trucker shot during his own rescue, more


Black founders in freight, yoga for truckers, #PlayItForward, more


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.

From Brooklyn to Fleeting


“In brokerage school is when I realized that brokers make money on truckers’ ignorance.” — Pierre Laguerre talks about his journey from immigrant in Brooklyn to trucker to founder and CEO of Fleeting on WTT?!? Catch the clip here.

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Future of Supply Chain


The greatest minds in the transportation, logistics and supply chain industries will share insights, predict future trends and showcase emerging technology the FreightWaves way–with engaging discussions, rapid-fire demos, interactive sponsor kiosks and more.

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Timothy Dooner

Dooner is an award-winning podcaster who hosts and produces FreightWaves' WHAT THE TRUCK?!? In under a year he helped build FreightCasts, the world’s largest logistics and supply chain podcast network in media. WTT is ranked in Apple Podcasts top-20 Business News podcasts. He also writes a newsletter of the same title with over 15k 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.