Welcome to the WHAT THE TRUCK?!? newsletter. Here we’ll get you caught up on all things WHAT THE TRUCK?!? and bring you up to date on the world of freight as we see it. Like the newsletter? Forward it to a friend. Enjoy! — Dooner
2021 best fleets to drive for
Return to sender — 2021 and the word “best” may be strange bedfellows in light of the absolute mess this year has been so far, but that doesn’t mean you can’t improve your circumstances (or celebrate them if you work for one of these carriers).
You’ve made the list — The TCA and CarriersEdge have named 20 carriers to their 2021 Best Fleets To Drive For list. With capacity tight at just under 1 in 4 contracted loads being rejected, combined with a shortfall of half a million jobs in the sector, now may be a great time to jump in a new truck with one of these top fleets.
“Even in the midst of a pandemic these fleets are focused on creating a great workplace experience for all their drivers, and with an average satisfaction rate over 90% their drivers clearly appreciate those efforts.” — CarriersEdge CEO Jane Jazrawy
Who’s on it — Four new carriers have made the cut this year along with 16 incumbents from last year’s list.
Decade of dominance — Grand Island Express has made the list for 10 consecutive years!
More on FreightWaves Radio — This Saturday 3-5 p.m. ET on FreightWaves Radio on SiriusXM’s Roaddog Trucking Channel 146 I’ll catch up with CarriersEdge CEO Jane Jazrawy to break down the list.
Keep the return, you filthy animal
Record ecommerce = record returns — Remember that 75-day peak season we talked about? It blew away the 2.4% increase in sales that analysts were projecting as total retail sales grew 3%, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse. UPS Inc. said last Thursday that it expected returns traffic to rise 23% by the end of last week. That amounts to 1.75 million returns each weekday.
Just keep it — Returns are the freight that nobody wants including retailers themselves. At a cost of $10-$20 per item (not including freight), online stores are telling shoppers to keep their returns if they don’t make equitable sense to their cost algorithms.
The true cost — Each year Americans return about 3.5 billion products, and 5 billion pounds of returned goods end up in U.S. landfills, according to Optoro. However, this is a problem that will only get worse as returns in 2020 were 70% higher year-over-year, according to Narvar.
“Online order returns comprise 75% of the total returns” — Locus Robotics CEO Rick Faulk
Consumers demand it — 73% of shoppers surveyed said the overall returns experience impacts their likelihood to purchase from a retailer again, a UPS study found.
The circular economy — On our Jan. 22 episode of WTT?!? we’ll talk to Claudia Freed, CEO of EALgreen, about how donations and other methods can help mitigate the impact of returns.
Over the edge … almost
Close call — Traffic was blocked for hours in DeKalb County, Georgia, after a truck struck a chain-link fence, causing it to hang precariously over eastbound Highway 78. Traffic crews uprighted the truck. Fortunately, there were no injuries to report.
Straight for the feels
Lost at the rest stop — Over the course of my family road trip between Chattanooga and Boston, we had to take our cat out of its carrier in order to clean up a mess it had made. My No. 1 fear at the time is something one lone trucker recently experienced. A driver, known only as Matthew, lost his feline companion, Ashes, at a truck stop in Ohio after it ran into the woods.
The search — Matthew searched all over for Ashes but was forced to abandon the cat there after he didn’t turn up. Heartbroken, the trucker rearranged his routing to search the truck stop over the next few months.
‘A Christmas miracle’ — Half a year later a woman driving through the area on a cross-country road trip saw a shivering and malnourished cat at a rest stop trying to survive in 13 degree weather. The good Samaritan wrapped the cat in a blanket, and it rode all the way to Rochester, New York, before being dropped off at the Lollypop Farms animal shelter. The shelter scanned the cat’s microchip to learn its true identity. It was Ashes! One phone call later and Matthew and his cat were reunited.
“It’s that microchip. Without it, I wouldn’t have ever gotten him back,” the trucker said.
Away, away, away — As Laurie Berkner once crooned, the cat came back, we thought he was a goner. But the cat came back; it just couldn’t stay away.
Three days a week— WTT?!? is now LIVE Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 12 p.m. ET on FreightWaves.com, FreightWavesTV, FreightWaves LinkedIn and Facebook and on demand on podcast players everywhere.
Launch show — The Dude and I have booked a star-studded lineup for our launch show Wednesday.
Steve Case, chairman and CEO, Revolution LLC — Case has done it all, from being the godfather of social media as AOL CEO/chairman in the ’90s to his work investing in early and growth-stage startups as chairman and CEO of Revolution LLC. As social media entered a new inflection point over the weekend, we’ll ask Steve about what direction he thinks communication is heading. Plus, the rise of startups based outside Palo Alto.
Thomas Healy, CEO, Hyliion — Healy is creating electrified powertrains designed to reduce emissions and lower fuel costs. When the company first went public last year, he was America’s youngest billionaire. Hear what Hyliion has planned for 2021.
Mark Wiese, manager of Deep Space Logistics, NASA — What will deep space logistics look like in 2021 and beyond? Wiese shares with us NASA’s goals for space commercialization and how such lofty aspirations have incredibly down-to-Earth uses.
George Abernathy, president, FreightWaves — Our proud president joins us to talk about FreightWaves’ goals for 2021 and he’ll shed insight on how he thinks this year will play out inside and outside of Freight Alley.
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.
Tales from the dark side of trucking
New audio podcast — Last week FreightCasts launched its newest addition to our podcast lineup, Long-Haul Crime Log. The show covers crime in trucking and supply chain. Take a trip into the seedy underbelly of the world of freight with journalists Clarissa Hawes, Nate Tabak and Noi Mahoney.
Wednesday — On the next Long-Haul Crime Log is the chilling story of the Turnpike Phantom, a killer who preyed on sleeping truckers in the summer of 1953. Plus, why an unsolved driver killing continues to haunt co-host Clarissa Hawes.
Power of podcasting — Expect a whole host of new shows on FreightCasts in 2021. Here’s a few amazing podcasting facts from a new SimpleCast report that says podcasts flourished with:
- 51% increase in available inventory from active listeners.
- 53% increase in new podcasts.
- 81% increase in podcast ad impressions at different points throughout the year.
Now on demand
“If you want to be a really successful entrepreneur, you need to get into supply chain and logistics.” — Matt Walsh, founder of TrophySmack, on “Shark Tank” right before landing a deal with Mark Cuban. We caught up with him on WTT?!? on Monday. See how he reacted here.
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