Viewpoint: Shippers in for a bumpy ride

I’m not sure who said it, but it’s one of my favorite lines when it comes to putting the current market environment into perspective: You don’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been.

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I’m not sure who said it, but it’s one of my favorite lines when it comes to putting the current market environment into perspective: You don’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been.

Enter the 22nd Annual State of Logistics Report (SoL), the most comprehensive examination available of the “year that was” in U.S. transportation and logistics spending. The release of the report sparks our annual investigation into the details of the findings and sends our beat reporters in search of where each transportation mode currently stands in terms of service, capacity, and rates.

In short, it pulls together just about all of our staff and contributing editors in the creation of the definitive market snapshot—and just so happens to be one of my favorite issues of the year.
The SoL report is authored by Roz Wilson, a 30-year industry veteran who’s now a senior business analyst with Delcan Consulting where she focuses intensely on the progress of the overall industry. Roz has been working on the report since 1994 and assumed full responsibility in 2004 following the passing of the report’s creator, Robert Delaney. Shippers can follow Wilson’s blog on the site of our sister publication, Supply Chain Management Review.

Executive Editor Patrick Burnson kicks things off in this special issue on page 26 by giving shippers a high-level look at the SoL findings, complete with total spending data on logistics and transportation services over the course of 2010 as well as a look at the economic drivers that got us there. According to Wilson’s findings, logistics cost rose to $1.2 trillion, an increase of $114 billion from 2009, falling short of the improvement forecasted.

“Last year was certainly better than 2009, but didn’t turn out the way many in the industry projected,” Wilson tells Burnson in their in-depth conversation. “The recovery is not being felt evenly throughout the economy, and 2010 did little to shore up precarious carriers who have been hanging on hoping to be rescued by a resurgence…This has been, by far, the most elusive and prolonged recovery than any in our history.”

And when you throw CSA, unresolved hours-of-service decisions, record fuel prices, and continued globally instability into the mix, Wilson concludes that logistics and transportation professionals will need to remain alert and ready to adjust at a moment’s notice due to the volatility permeating the environment. “The savvy logistics innovators have been able to stay a step ahead of the peaks and valleys, but it looks like they’re going to be under even more pressure to perform over the next year,” says Wilson.

Following the overview of the SoL report, John Schulz brings shippers up to date of the state of the LTL and TL markets; Jeff Berman updates on how business looks on the rails; Burnson gives us the forecast on the high seas; and air cargo correspondent Karen Thuermer explains conditions up in the air.

“No matter how you slice the data, all four major transportation modes are scrambling to make adjustments during this period of volatility, and shippers may be forced to do more with less as a consequence,” writes Burnson. “The bottom line is that shippers are going to be in for a bumpy ride.”

About the Author

Michael Levans, Group Editorial Director
Michael Levans is Group Editorial Director of Peerless Media’s Supply Chain Group of publications and websites including Logistics Management, Supply Chain Management Review, Modern Materials Handling, and Material Handling Product News. He’s a 23-year publishing veteran who started out at the Pittsburgh Press as a business reporter and has spent the last 17 years in the business-to-business press. He’s been covering the logistics and supply chain markets for the past seven years. You can reach him at [email protected]

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