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Today’s pick-up: A nickel for your thoughts; car-haulers cry the capacity-shortage blues

Hard to see an autonomous future here (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Good day,

Electric vehicle (EV) supply could be hampered by a shortage of nickel sulfate, a key ingredient in the manufacture of EV batteries, according to the Wall Street Journal. The ore that is most commonly used to produce the brilliantly colored crystalline substance is mined in only a handful of places – and they include some of the most politically or operationally challenging, such as Russia or in Canada’s frozen Northeast, according to the WSJ.

Did you know?:

More than 580,000 order fulfillment robots will be deployed over the next five years, according to a September 2019 report by research firm Interact Analysis.


“Robots will one day be a common site in logistics, doing the heavy lifting and traveling the long distances to let people do more meaningful tasks. What will success look like? When robots empower people and enable those who know nothing about computers or robots to operate them.”

– Melonee Wise, CEO of Fetch Robotics

In other news:

Four ways the U.S.-China trade war will reshape logistics in 2020

First, the single-sourcing of import traffic will become increasingly risky; second, foreign-trade zones will gain in popularity; third, industry vendors will continue to consolidate; and fourth, there will be more domestic shipping. (Forbes)

It’s a big warehouse out there

Congress has authorized about $7 billion to be spent over 15 years to “set up a deep space supply chain. To that end, NASA has put out an RFP looking for innovative ideas on how to transport, store and handle supplies. (Logistics Management)

Less diesel belch, better air and lives

U.S. cities could see a decline in mortality rates and an improved economy through mid-century if federal and local governments maintain stringent air pollution policies and diminish concentrations of diesel freight truck exhaust, according to research from Cornell University published in the journal Environment International. (Cornell Chronicle)

Inland ports ripe for major logistics investment

It’s happening all over, according to Walter Kemmsies, chief strategist of the ports, airports and infrastructure group at real estate and logistics services giant JLL. China is building a network of 15 inland ports mostly to improve import logistics where it has under-invested in the past. The U.S. is likely to see several new inland ports apply or acquire permits in the next 12 to 18 months. Europe has a well-established network of inland ports but another two or three are likely to emerge as more goods are moved by rail between Asia and Europe, Kemmsies said. (JLL)

Car hauler capacity blues

Auto-hauling companies, which hire highly paid and arguably the most highly skilled commercial drivers anywhere, face the same issues as everyone else – electronic logging device requirements, rising costs for casualty, liability, worker’s compensation insurance and the nature of the car-hauling vocation. Industry representatives said these issues have caused transport companies and drivers to leave the business. (Auto Remarketing)

Final thoughts:

Supporters of warehouse automation have said it will free up workers to handle more “value-added” tasks in the warehouse. But a reasonable person might ask – What exactly would those value-added tasks be? What would be left for the human to do? Robots will need to be programmed, repaired and maintained, but such capabilities are beyond the skill set of the typical warehouse worker. People will be needed to supervise the robots, but it’s doubtful it will take an army of workers to do it. Sadly, it is very easy to imagine the warehouse of the future a totally automated affair. The idea of freeing up a worker to do something in a warehouse that a robot couldn’t be programmed to seems to be the stuff of fantasy. Or to be more cynical, a PR ploy to make the automation of jobs go down easier with the general public. The reality check comes from XPO Logistics, Inc.’s Chief Strategy Officer Matt Fassler, who said earlier this year that the “transportation world over time is going to be fully automated, and we’re engaged in automating almost every touch point of the transaction from the time a customer seeks capacity to the selection of that capacity and the various steps that take the freight from origin to destination.”

Hammer down everyone!

One Comment

  1. Noble1

    “Auto-hauling companies, which hire highly paid and arguably the most highly skilled commercial drivers anywhere”

    “arguably the most highly skilled commercial drivers anywhere”

    Thanks for acknowledging that fact . However , it’s far from being “highly paid” in comparison to flatbed at certain companies , and I can guarantee you that car haulers are the one’s who are getting hit the hardest due to ELD’s . It’s not a bad thing since there is a tremendous amount of abuse in regards to forced log book cheating due to an enormous amount of lost time in that particular division . Log book cheating and lack of sleep is the norm in that particular division for the majority of drivers in the industry .

    That being said , they are among the safest drivers out there despite cheating their log books and lacking sleep . Very rarely will you see a car hauler in a collision among all other trucking divisions and much less being at fault if in one. They are a different breed compared to the typical trucker mentality and extremely meticulous . Car hauling is the most demanding job in the truck driving division of the industry . Certainly not the most dangerous ,but the most demanding without exception and twice as much in winter ,shoveling and boosting ,etc etc etc. .

    I’m certainly appreciative of the truck drivers that chose that division but I certainly don’t understand why they do it . The driving part is considered to be the part that’s relaxing . There’s a lot of physical labour involved and puzzle solving . Placing the vehicles is a constant puzzle . Even though dispatch is suppose to do their best at grouping vehicles to be transported according to their drop points , many times you’ll have to tie and untie and remove vehicles and reposition them at drop points due to their dimensions that don’t line up . That means you’ll often work twice as much and won’t get paid for that extra work which is also time consuming .

    And you better be slim fit and flexible . Example : If one of the vehicles you have to haul is a hummer you won’t be coming out from a side door once placed in the trailer . You’ll be removing your shoes/boots and coming out the back . And that’s how you’ll be re-entering the vehicle once it’s time to unload it .

    To make a long story short , car hauling is a 100 hour work week , log 70 and get paid for 50 . It isn’t worth the headache , in my humble opinion ………….

Comments are closed.

Mark Solomon

Formerly the Executive Editor at DC Velocity, Mark Solomon joined FreightWaves as Managing Editor of Freight Markets. Solomon began his journalistic career in 1982 at Traffic World magazine, ran his own public relations firm (Media Based Solutions) from 1994 to 2008, and has been at DC Velocity since then. Over the course of his career, Solomon has covered nearly the whole gamut of the transportation and logistics industry, including trucking, railroads, maritime, 3PLs, and regulatory issues. Solomon witnessed and narrated the rise of Amazon and XPO Logistics and the shift of the U.S. Postal Service from a mail-focused service to parcel, as well as the exponential, e-commerce-driven growth of warehouse square footage and omnichannel fulfillment.