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Supply Chain Industry Insights Special Report: A Look at 2023

 

Industry Insights Special Report: A Look at 2023

January 2024

By PGL

Welcome to the PGL look at 2023 and our forecast for the coming year.

We continue to live in interesting times, and last year was certainly no exception. The last gasp of the large scale ramifications of the pandemic came to a close with China easing its Covid Restrictions in January. Though the virus is still a threat, the global community was able to bring it to manageable levels and we continue to deal with the long tail effects relative to the logistics industry. We saw large inventories transition to something closer to the pre-pandemic normal just-in-time model this summer, allowing for more efficiency and lower warehousing costs heading into a better-than-expected holiday season.

Ocean Freight:

In Ocean Freight, 2023 has seen some major events, not the least of which being that the two most important canals are experiencing serious peril in the form of a years-long drought that is having a major impact on travel through the Panama Canal leading to reservation restrictions and delays, and unrest in the Middle East that has resulted in Houthi militant attacks on multiple vessels that were perceived to have connections to Isreal, causing many to avoid the Suez Canal. The situation with both Canals has led to rerouting plans for major shipping lines and the situation continues to develop into 2024. This has had an interesting ripple effect on shipping rates, as earlier in 2023, contract rates were plummeting as shippers jumped on low spot rates heading into contract nogotiotion season. Those rates are actively rebounding. This could lead to fewer blank sailings than we saw in 2023. Stay tuned to our Industry Insights reports for more as the situation develops.

Trucking:

In trucking, 2023 saw the closure of one of the US’s oldest and largest carriers, the Yellow Corporation. The knock-on effect lead to a boost for many carriers who have been able to take on business that used to go to the former trucking giant. The industry isn’t out of the woods yet, however, as trucking capacity remains high after fleets were expanded in 2021, and we can expect to see more carriers close up shop in the near future until trucking capacity is closer to demand.

Air Freight:

Air freight saw a tumultuous year as lower demand led to reduced rates through August due to high inventories, but had a bit of a rebound in the last quarter as the peak season proved to be better than projected. Additionally, the difficult situations surrounding the canals are driving more air freight for time-sensitive shipments that may have otherwise been bound for ocean freight in normal conditions. These factors have led to a surge in pricing that had rates ahead of the 2019 pre-pandemic benchmark. 2024 is showing indicators of improvement for air freight moving forward, but it’s important to note that the geopolitical landscape can and will influence that for the better or worse.

Intermodal:

Intermodal freight has proven to be a bright spot, as the congestion that led to much of the business leaving rail freight at the height of the pandemic has been dealt with, and lower rates compared to trucking are revealing opportunities for a resurgence for intermodal performance with shippers looking to save on long-haul trucking costs.

Energy:

In the energy sector, diesel benchmark pricing defied expectations in 2023 with unseasonably low rates in the last quarter of the year, even in the wake of conflict in the Middle East and production caps by OPEC. Crude oil per-barrel prices averaged almost $20 less than in the prior year. With interest rates high, the industry is reluctant to hang onto large inventories. At the moment, demand remains high and producers are meeting that demand. Many indicators are still pointing to rising diesel prices, but a short spike in the first week of 2024 has already been reversed, and traders are not viewing trouble in the Middle East as an imminent threat to the market.

Labor:

Labor disputes defined much of 2023 in the logistics industry. Though the over 400 work stoppages in the year is roughly equivalent to the number set in 2022, they involved significantly more workers and had far-reaching effects in 2023, such as UPS, Dock Worker Unions, the United Auto Workers and more. Major factors for the significant labor issues faced last year include the fact that many contracts were set to expire and inflationary pressures. Labor disputes always have a large impact on logistics, and we can expect that to continue for the foreseeable future.

We hope you have enjoyed this look at 2023 as well as some predictions for what the coming year may bring us. PGL will continue to keep you informed and will keep delivering peace of mind, 24/7/365.

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Industry Insights – December 2023

Supply Chain Industry Insights

December 2023

There is good news for the holiday season with stable inventories and strong consumer spending that has outpaced predictions, resulting in over 200 million shoppers participating in the Thanksgiving holiday shopping season, surpassing last year’s record by over 18 million shoppers.

In trucking, volumes remained high at the beginning of December, outpacing the same time last year as well as in the same period in the often-cited pre-pandemic 2019. While capacity remains high, and trucking continues to face challenges, we’ll take whatever good news we can get.

Spot rates for ocean freight have continued to fall. This is bad timing for shipping lines as contract rates are due for renegotiation in the new year, and low spot rates set the tone for unprofitable contract rates. This would likely lead to more blank sailings to reduce capacity in 2024.

The situation in the Panama Canal is getting even worse as wait times more than triple for ships that do not have a reservation. This is a result of the Panama Canal Authority cutting the number of daily reservations slots from 32 at the beginning of November to 22 with another planned drop to 18 by Feb. 1. We can expect further decline in traffic well into 2024 and perhaps beyond, as the years-long drought takes its toll on the embattled canal.

In addition to the Panama Canal, things have been heating up around the Suez Canal with multiple attacks from Houthi rebels as an extension of the unrest in the Middle East that has disrupted normal activity through the canal. This has led shipping giant Maersk to pause all container shipments through the Red Sea. We will continue to monitor the situation.

The benchmark diesel price continues to slide as it has the last few months. Factors leading to this decrease include on-going high volume production from US producers, high inventories and the late start of winter weather.

A strong holiday shopping season, trucking gets a little good news, ocean rates remain perilous, and diesel pricing continues to fall. It has been a tumultuous year, but PGL will be here to keep you informed and will keep delivering peace of mind, 24/7/365.

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Industry Insights – November 2023

Supply Chain Industry Insights

November 2023

If you’ve been following our reports this year, one concept that will be familiar is the comparison of 2023 to pre-panedmic 2019. As we’ve noted several times, 2019 is not a “normal” that any of us would like to return to, as it was not a great year for the industry, but it has served as a good basis for comparison for what a post-pandemic world looks like. With that in mind, we have our first positive metrics that show a marked improvement over 2019 with October US imports up over 11% higher than in 2019.

While many carriers are benefitting from business transitioning away from the now-defunct Yellow Corporation, the great carrier correction isn’t over yet. Trucking capacity remains high after the industry built up fleets in 2021, and we can expect to see more carriers close up shop in the near future until trucking capacity is closer to demand.

With more tough near-term news for trucking, there are indicators that intermodal is staged for a resurgance. Due to infrastructure congestion, rail took a hit during the pandemic, but with that congestion easing, shippers are looking to intermodal to save on long haul truckload costs.

DHL Express has announced the completion of a 409 million dollar expansion of its central Asia hub in Hong Kong. This expansion increases the footprint of the facility by 50% to over half a million square feet. The hub is now able to process 6 times more shipment volume than it could in 2004 when the facility was first opened.

In our continued coverage of the drought in the Panama Canal, more disruptions are expected, and this has had an impact on shipments going straight to US Pacific coast ports, leading to dropping volume on the East coast.

Lastly, diesel benchmark pricing continues to defy expectations, with unseasonably low prices despite unrest in the middle east, OPEC volume caps and futures pointing up. The leading factor here seems to be an economic one, with interest rates high, the industry is reluctant to hang onto large inventories. At the moment, demand remains high and producers are meeting that demand. Many indicators are still pointing to rising diesel prices, but we aren’t there yet.

Trucking continues to face challenges, rail sees some growth, and imports are showing positive signs. Amidst all of these changes, PGL will continue to keep you informed and will keep delivering peace of mind, 24/7/365.

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Industry Insights – October 2023

Supply Chain Industry Insights

October 2023

Welcome to the PGL Industry Insights report for October, 2023.

The UAW strike, now well over a month old not only continues, but is expanding as the Detroit big 3 automakers make adjustments in pursuit of a tentative agreement. According to economic analysts, Anderson Economic Group, projected losses from the strike have topped 7.5 billion dollars and the longer it goes on, the more suppliers may struggle to resume operation once the strike ends.

Container import volumes are showing some positive signs with steady increases since the February low and positive numbers relative to the pre-Covid conditions of 2019. As we’ve noted before, 2019 is not a great benchmark for defining “normal”, as it was not a great year for the supply chain industries, but as we search for some indication of what a post-panedmic reality looks like, current conditions do look like a good sign for international ocean freight. Further bolstering this cautious optimism, despite developments in near-shoring manufacturing to places like Mexico, Imports from China are showing more signs of recovery.

DHL Express has announced a rate increase of 5.9% on U.S. originating shipments to take effect on January 1, 2024. This rate increase is on pace with FedEx and UPS rate increases, though it’s worth noting that this year’s price bump is less significant than last year. If you’ve been considering engaging with a DHL Express Authorized Reseller like PGL, now is the time to start that conversation as purchasing power is extended to customers offering attractive discounts for international express service.

Diesel prices have continued to fall in October, but futures and uncertainty surrounding conflict in the middle east are driving futures higher, so we can expect this recent break in diesel pricing to reverse itself sooner rather than later.

In more news affecting North American Trucking, Q3 earnings are projected to be higher for carriers in the wake of the recent closure of Yellow Freight and other carriers. It appears that the the loss of some big players in the space is allowing the surviving LTL carriers to benefit.

It’s best to approach these positive indicators with cautious optimism, but good news is always more fun to report. As always, PGL will continue doing what we do best, delivering peace of mind, 24/7/365.

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PGL Video Newsletter – September 2023

Welcome to the latest edition of the PGL monthly newsletter! In September, we attended Aero Engines Europe in Madrid, Spain and the GSE Expo in Las Vegas and celebrated Labor Day and the United States Air Force 76th birthday. We also Sponsored the Tee It Up for the Troops North Texas golf tournament in Farmers Branch, TX benefiting those who have been wounded in defense of our freedom.

We also announced that our DHL Express customers can now benefit from the new dedicated flight to Argentina.

Our latest Featured Product video and helpful tip focuses on our domestic tradeshow department. Lastly, we have a fresh Industry Insights video to get you caught up with the latest in industry news and started a new LinkedIn page to serve as a handy resource for Industry Insights reports.

Industry Insights on LinkedIn

Enjoy this recap of the month and in the meantime, PGL will continue to deliver peace of mind, 24/7/365.

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Industry Insights – September 2023

Supply Chain Industry Insights

September 2023

Welcome to the PGL Industry Insights report for September, 2023.

Leading our report this month, we touch on the ongoing drought affecting the Panama Canal. Though the canal connects two oceans, it requires 50 million gallons of fresh water to fill the locks for the passage of a single vessel. This shortage of fresh water has led to significant wait times as often over 100 vessels sit at both entrances and wait as long as 4 days, twice as long as usual.

Spots to skip the wait are being auctioned off, leading to costs as high as 2.4 million dollars for a single vessel in late August. Solutions to this drought are being investigated, and include re-routing nearby waterways, which of course, comes with tremendous financial penalties and environmental uncertainty. Despite this, Asia-to-US-East-Coast rates have so far not been adversely affected. PGL will continue to monitor the situation and keep you informed.

In trans-Pacific news, spot shipping rates simmered in August after a summer surge and have fallen by double digits in September. This could mirror the scenario we saw this time last year when some carriers were offering mid-contract discounts to keep business from switching to unusually low spot shipping rates. Carriers are instituting blanked sailings to combat this capacity availability, but only time will tell how much impact that will have on pricing.

According to a FreightWaves SONAR report, North American trucking is in for some big changes as carriers large and small are choosing to exit the industry. This ultimately leads to fewer available trucks, and survivors of this exodus can expect higher rates in the future, assuming volume remains relatively high. There’s no guarantee of that, but with rising LTL rates and steadily-declining inventory, there are reasons for carriers to be bullish if they can weather the storm.

Last month, we told you that diesel prices were on the rise, and that trend has continued through September, with prices surpassing the February high. Of the many factors at play, tight refinery capacity, a reduction of 1 million barrels per day by Saudi Arabia and ongoing sanctions on Russia are the largest contributors to the price hike we’re seeing. The most recent news points to declining prices on the futures market, but that decline has not yet made it to the pump.

In Labor news, President Biden praised the ratification of the West Coast Dock Worker contract Involving the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association, Saying: “It’s a good deal for workers, it’s a good deal for companies, and it’s a good deal for the United States of America.”

Speaking of the President and labor actions, Biden joined the striking UAW workers in the picket line on Tuesday as thousands more auto industry workers began striking on Monday and Trump Addressed the union on Wednesday.

The weather may be cooling down, but supply chain industry news certainly is not. As always, PGL will continue doing what we do best, delivering peace of mind, 24/7/365.

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PGL Video Newsletter – August 2023

Welcome to the latest edition of the PGL monthly newsletter! In August, we attended the ACPC in New York, celebrated the birthdays of the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, and National Aviation Day. We also moved an entire BD7000 fuselage halfway across the country and documented the move for your viewing pleasure. Our latest Featured Product video and helpful tip focuses on insurance. Lastly, as usual, we have a fresh Industry Insights video to get you caught up with the latest in industry news.

Enjoy this recap of the month and in the meantime, PGL will continue to deliver peace of mind, 24/7/365.

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Industry Insights – August 2023

Supply Chain Industry Insights

August 2023

Welcome to the PGL Industry Insights report for August, 2023.

UPS suffered larger-than-expected shipment losses due to labor concerns. After a tense July that threatened labor disputes that were ultimately avoided, UPS has posted lower Q2 volumes, due to lost business that had been shifted over to other providers.

As expected, Yellow has filed for bankruptcy, leading to the largest filing in trucking history. At the time of this writing, a bidding war is taking place for the defunct trucking company’s assets.

Transportation prices fell again in July but at a slower rate than in the prior two months. According to data provided by the Logistics Managers’ Index, the projected falloff was not as steep as expected. At the tail end of the inventory bubble, the report indicated that some companies are transitioning back to just-in-time inventory strategies in order to avoid the increased warehousing cost that has come with the swell in inventory.

DHL Continues to make moves with plans to build a $192M maintenance hangar at CVG superhub. The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority approved $1 million worth of incentives for the 305,000-square-foot facility. CVG is the main point for connecting DHL’s express network to the rest of the world, with 130 daily flights conducted by a fleet of 60 aircraft.

Trans-Atlantic rates point to a shift in strategy. It appears that trans-Atlantic rates are on track to mirror the conditions of the trans-pacific shift that happened in the second half of 2022. In that scenario, some carriers offered discounts mid-contract to keep the market from moving to more affordable spot rates that are currently less than half of the current contract rates.

The Diesel Benchmark price is on the rise. The benchmark price that is used to calculate most fuel surcharges is on the way up to its highest level since February.

July import volumes continue to mirror pre-COVID ‘normal’. July ocean imports are up 5% vs. June and flat compared to July 2019. That sounds like it could be good news, but if you’ll recall, 2019 was a historic downturn before the pandemic turned the world upside down. The return to “normal” could be an indicator of excess inventory finally coming down, which could be good news for a more stable future, but 2019 is certainly not the baseline we want to return to.

During a summer full of labor disputes, the industry seems to be cooling off, even if the weather isn’t. As always, PGL will continue doing what we do best, delivering peace of mind, 24/7/365.

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PGL Video Newsletter – July 2023

Welcome to the latest edition of the PGL monthly newsletter! PGL had an action packed month, and we start with our attendance of the Air Wisconsin Golf Tournament and sponsorship of the Air Alaska Golf Tournament. From there, we touch on our latest case study that answers the question: “How does a seasonal pop-up store like Spirit Halloween seemingly appear out of nowhere?” We have a new Featured Product Video that explores our Air Freight services as well as a helpful tip, and we wrap up this month’s newsletter with the latest in labor news with our monthly Industry Insights report.

Enjoy this recap of the month and in the meantime, PGL will continue to deliver peace of mind, 24/7/365.

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Industry Insights – July 2023

Supply Chain Industry Insights

July 2023

Welcome to the PGL Industry Insights report for July 2023.

Labor disputes continue to lead the news this month, with wide-ranging effects across the industry.

The on-again/off-again LWU Canada strike at Western Canadian ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert seems to have calmed, as the two parties – ILWU and BCMEA – now have a new tentative agreement in place. 

Prince Rupert had cleared its vessel backlog during the tentative agreement and work continuation. Vancouver vessel line-up was showing multiple vessels at berth, but with the news of this agreement, work is underway to clear the congestion.

It appears that UPS has narrowly avoided an August 1st work stoppage with what has been described as a “historic” agreement in place with details that include $30 million added to wages among other terms, and was called by UPS CEO Carol Tomé, a “win-win-win agreement”. Not only is this good news for UPS and their employees, but for the economy as well, as a strike of this size could have had far-reaching consequences across multiple industries.

Many shippers are scrambling to find alternate partnerships in the midst of the turmoil surrounding Yellow and their pending labor dispute. The latest news as of Wednesday is an announcement from their Seniour Vice President of Sales to her staff, indicating that Yellow intends to file for bankruptcy on Monday. Yellow is the third-largest LTL company and employs about 30,000 people.

In other news, DHL Express has been making waves with not only the opening of it’s new $84.5 million dollar hub in Atlanta, it has also made an important step in opening a West Coast air hub in California after the Ontario International Airport Authority approved plans to develop the South Airport Cargo Center. The Ontario airport is located in Inland Empire, just east of Los Angeles, and will allow for over 850,000 square feet of expansion that there just isn’t room for at LAX. DHL Express has long been the international leader in freight and their plans to increase their presence in the US are shaping up.

With the latest in supply chain news, labor contracts continue to make headlines. In the meantime, PGL will continue to keep you moving, 24/7/365.

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PGL Video Newsletter – June 2023

Welcome to the June edition of the PGL monthly newsletter! We hope you had a safe and happy Independence Day, celebrated with friends and family. Today we start with our attendance of NBAA conference in New York, as well as our sponsorship and participation in the annual ABQ Southwest Golf Fore Charity tournament.

We have informative video to share with our monthly Industry Insights report as well as a new Featured Product Video that explores our Ocean Freight services. We also have a helpful tip for you to get the most out of your ocean freight efforts.

Enjoy this recap of the month and in the meantime, PGL will continue to deliver peace of mind, 24/7/365.

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Industry Insights – June 2023

Supply Chain Industry Insights

June 2023

Welcome to the PGL Industry Insights report for June 2023. 

This month’s report highlights significant developments in labor talks across various modes of transportation and offers predictions for the second half of the year.

A tentative contract agreement has been reached between maritime employers and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) for all 29 ports along the US West Coast. This resolution ends 13 months of contentious negotiations and disruptive job actions that affected port operations. However, the shortage of lashers and other essential labor positions has left many vessels stranded at berth, impeding their departure and preventing new vessels from entering and unloading.

Although the tentative agreement is positive news, the repercussions of the labor issues will continue to be felt in the near future. The timing of this agreement is particularly crucial as some ocean freight traffic has been diverted to the East and Gulf coasts while Panama is experiencing its worst drought since 1950. This drought restricts ships’ drafts in the Panama Canal, and the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) warns of further water level declines and inevitable economic impacts.

On the heels of a report earlier in June revealing that UPS Inc. has agreed to install air conditioning in package cars purchased after January 1, 2024, UPS Teamsters voted overwhelmingly on June 16th to authorize its leadership to call a strike in the event a contract cannot be reached by the deadline of July 31. 

In other labor news, less-than-truckload carrier, the Yellow Corporation, has informed the Teamsters union that it will run out of funds by August if a proposed change of operations isn’t approved. The union argues that the company has been mismanaged for years and asserts that it will not bail Yellow out again, having already given substantial financial support in the past.

A recent FreightWaves SONAR report indicates a further decline in US containerized import volumes for the second half of 2023. The inventory disruptions caused by the “bullwhip effect” and the risks associated with consumer spending contribute to importers exercising caution during the peak season. Additionally, the weakening global macroeconomic conditions further heighten the risks of declining import volumes.

While ocean container bookings have been on par with 2019 levels in the first half of 2023, a departure from those levels is expected in early Q3, leading to a significant drop of 10% to 20% below the volumes experienced during the second half of 2019. This decline is projected across the Top 10 US ports.

With the latest in supply chain news, labor contracts continue to have a big impact on the industry as high inventories and economic uncertainty continue to fuel speculation that, whatever normal is, we’re not there yet. In the meantime, PGL will continue to keep you moving, 24/7/365.

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