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Issue 6 2021 - FBJNA

Belter ticks off the

ripple effect: among other issues, shippers, challenged with forecasting consumer demand, drove increased volumes to railroads; volume surges contributed to backlogs, which added to rail network imbalances; and


facilities had to digest increased volumes in large batches. At the American Trucking


A BNSF train rolls along a clear, uncongested track on America’s supply chain. (BNSF photo.)

Associations, Jon Eisen cites the American Transportation Research Institute’s “2021 Top Truck Bottleneck List” from February: The more than 300 congested locations on the nation’s highway system include

highways, bridges

and interchanges—all key to moving cargo in and out of ports and terminals. “Congestion is an issue

across our transportation system—not just at traditional freight hubs, but across the country,” says Eisen, the ATA’s Director, Intermodal Motor Carriers Conference. Sclerotic infrastructure

MOVING CARGO IS OUR BUSINESS The leading terminal operator and stevedore in the Port of

Baltimore—proudly managing Seagirt Marine Terminal and servicing the largest container vessels calling the U.S. East Coast

represents more than $75 billion in “invisible tax” on the trucking industry, he says, joining with other execs calling on Congress to get with the program.

the industry manage to grow 3% to 5% reliably over the last 30 to 50 years? As he puts it: “In terms of

profitability, it will be a good a year, but seeing customers being annoyed; seeing customers whose cargo is three or four weeks delayed; seeing customers who rely on certain rate levels and now have to pay four times, five times the rates—this is not nice. “We really wish we could

return to normalcy sooner than later.” But nobody knows when

that might occur. Well, things could get hairier.

U.S. households are sitting on $1.6 trillion in savings from 2020,

the Change in Plans

report says, “which may cause excess demand and higher prices if and when unleashed by customers.” Matt Hill, Head of Import

Markets for North America at Maersk, agrees that for the near

“It’s important to develop a nimble and adaptable supply chain.” -- Matt Hill, Import Markets for North America

According to a New

York Times analysis published in April, the Biden Administration’s proposed $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan calls for $237 billion in spending on roads and bridges; waterways and ports; airports; passenger and freight railways; and road safety. Meantime, C-suiters say,

higher demand exacerbates infrastructure weaknesses, which increases the urgency for all logistics modes to integrate more fully. “Where ocean shipping

Ports America Chesapeake is investing over $166 million in terminal upgrades—including four Ship-to-Shore cranes in route to the Port of Baltimore

companies could work with other modes—motor carriers and rails, for example—to share data before and after the transfers of containers, right now there’s much of that going on yet,” Eisen says. Hapag-Lloyd’s Haupt the

acknowledges PACHESAPEAKE.COM • 410.649. 7769 •


MARYLANDPORTS.COM • 1.800.638.7519 Governor Larry Hogan • MDOT Secretary Gregory Slater MDOT MPA Executive Director William P. Doyle

industry’s well-documented fragmentation, but says, “We should make the best of it, and we should work closer together and have more transparency.” At the same time, though, he

urges folks to consider the fact that, despite the pandemic’s once-in-a-lifetime challenges, the system works pretty well. Otherwise, he asks, how would

term, demand will outpace supply, while disruptions will pop up. He names a few: the Suez Canal blockage in March; the weeklong coronavirus lockdown in Yantian, China, in May; challenging weather; labor shortages; and, yes, infrastructure issues. If anything, the pandemic,

while bringing all of these issues—and

more—to the

forefront, has also reminded logisticians that the best solutions are the global freight industry’s oldest one. As Hill puts it: “It’s important

to develop a nimble and adaptable supply chain that allows the business needs to continue to be met as unforeseen challenges and disruptions arise.” Says Danks: “The one

positive for shippers? Freight is cyclical.”

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