March 27, 2014
Maybe just maybe, Old Man Winter has made his grand exit. OK-that might be slightly premature, but having dodged a forecasted snowfall here in southern Maine yesterday, I feel the need to feel to good about something, when it comes to the winter we have had here and you, too, if you have ploughed (er, plowed) your way through this interminable cold season.
It goes without saying that this winter had major impacts, none of which were really good, in terms of supply chain efficiency for the most part. That is, unless, missed shipments, delays, and backlogs, are suddenly key objectives among shippers (they are not…). But with Opening Day in less than one week and forecasted snow not falling–at least not yesterday- it seems like a good time to look back at what everyone dealt with and how, hopefully, things get better from a volume and timing perspective for all supply chain stakeholders.
Looking at the motor carrier market, one thing stands out above basically everything else on the truckload side: capacity was, is, and will likely remain tight, with some shippers and carriers saying it is as tight as they have seen it in years.
As you have read in the print edition of LM and on this site, that thesis could hold firm, aside from the weather, due to things like the ongoing driver shortage, the regulatory drag from CSA and now HOS that continues to crimp capacity, and a relatively slow economic recovery, although things are certainly moving in the right direction, with key metrics like ISM’s manufacturing and non-manufacturing data, retail sales, truck tonnage and rail and intermodal volumes showing some promise.
On the other side, housing data in recent months has slowed down, which could potentially hinder freight growth in the coming months at a time when all supply chain and logistics sectors could certainly benefit from an uptick. With “spring selling” season coming up, coupled with (hopefully) a return to better weather, perhaps housing will regain the momentum we saw not all that long ago.
And the upstart commitment on behalf of consumers to all things e-commerce obviously needs a watchful eye. We have all seen how more and more e-commerce activity has a direct effect on supply chain operations, whether it be for order fulfillment, inventory optimization, and reverse logistics, among other things.
These are just a few examples of things we are seeing, hearing, and writing about in print and online. There are a whole host of others to keep an eye out for sure. But as the seasons change, market conditions can, too, not that they necessarily will. That is still to be determined. While what happens in the coming months remains an unknown for now, at least we will hopefully get a little warmer as things unfold.
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