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Today’s Pickup: German unions look to slow Amazon’s Christmas deliveries

Photo of U.K. protest over AMAZON warehouse conditions (Photo: GMBunion)

Labor continues to rumble in warehousing sector; Autonomous truck demos one thing, but roadworthy vehicle is another.

Good day,

In the last week before Christmas, Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) is facing a test in the largest market in Europe. German trade union Ver.di is calling for strikes at two of the company’s logistics centers, demanding better pay and working conditions. The action comes as the warehousing sector’s strong growth puts it in the bullseye for labor and regulatory action. Last week, labor groups in New Jersey sought to highlight what they allege as unsafe working conditions at warehouses owned by Amazon and others. Earlier this month, ninety-seven members of the U.S. Congress signed a letter pushing for a House of Representatives committee to investigate working conditions at warehouses operated by XPO Logistics (NYSE: XPO) in the wake of reports that female warehouse employees were forced to do heavy manual labor despite being pregnant.

Did you know?

Despite some concerns about a slower housing market and slower manufacturing growth, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta revised upward its estimate for gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the fourth quarter to 3 percent compared to a 2.4 percent earlier estimate. The revision comes amid strong consumer spending growth.

Quotable:

“You can have a group of 20 engineers put together an autonomous truck demo that looks impressive, but it’s really just the tip of the iceberg. We see a lot of demos, but it can be hard from one ride to tell how far this is from going to market.”

–Paul Konasewich, director of business development at PACCAR (Nasdaq: PCAR) on the current status of autonomous trucking.

In other news:

Starbucks is planning a coffee delivery service

Starbucks is looking to use UberEats for its new coffee delivery service (WSJ)

Lyft may be gaining ground on Uber

Uber holds two-thirds of ride share market, but Lyft’s revenue may be growing faster. (Recode)

Canadian oil producer pushes back on mandatory cuts

Alberta’s push for cuts could affect machinery involved in extraction, Suncor says. (CBC)

Toyota invests in autonomous boats

Sea Machine Robotics will receive a $10 million investment from the automaker’s ventures arm. (Wired)

Tesla may benefit from China auto tariff rollback

China’s freeze on 25% tariffs on car imports may help Tesla in largest electric car market. (SCMP)

Final Thoughts

Congestion at U.S. ports has led to increasing delays and fees for shippers and drayage carriers, according to the Federal Maritime Commission. One of the culprits for the congestion is the ever-growing size of containerships because “as vessels grow larger, a container might not be discharged (and reach a point of rest) until days after vessel arrival,” the FMC said. Drewry Shipping Consultants pointed out the externality as a result of larger containerships. “While they generate operating cost savings for lines, they increase costs in ports and terminals, and result in a higher overall system cost,” Drewry said. But the race to ever larger ships may be slowing. Drewry says the next round of container ships being made do not exceed current vessel sizes and “there are no signs that any carriers are looking to go beyond this.”

Hammer down everyone!

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Michael Angell, Bulk and Intermodal Editor

Michael Angell covers maritime, intermodal and related topics for FreightWaves. His interest in transportation stretches back several generations. One great-grandfather was a dray horseman along the New York waterfront and another was a railway engineer in Texas. More recently, Michael has written about the shipping industry for TradeWinds, energy markets for Oil Price Information Service, and general business topics for FactSet Mergerstat and Investor's Business Daily. When he is not stuck in the office, he enjoys tours of ports, terminals, and railyards.
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