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Ragan Green

The Future of the Highway Steering Towards Platooning

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Volvo is leading the way for advancements in connectivity in the United States. Goran Nyberg, President of Volvo, states connectivity is “changing the industry and the way we work and the way we communicate.”

“Platooning” is the term applied to a convoy of trucks electronically linked to a lead truck with an active driver. Testing in Europe since 2009, Volvo has found the trucks boost fuel economy by reducing wind drag and lessening the workload for drivers.

“How many people question who is running a big aircraft today? It’s fully computerized, and a pilot is governing the environment,” Nyberg said.

A predictive cruise system that can conduct a 360 scan of the surrounding area is also under development. In a video simulation, a cyclist was spared because the truck took over emergency control to avoid an accident.

If legislation is approved, platooning in the U.S. could be a reality in five years.

XPO Logistics to Acquire Con-way

On September 9th, in a $3 billion dollar transaction, XPO Logistics, Inc. and Con-way Inc. announced a definitive agreement for XPO Logistics to acquire Con-way. Enhancing XPO’s range of supply chain solutions and becoming the second largest less-than-truckload (LTL) provider in North America, the transaction will also expand the company’s global contract logistics platform. XPO will also capitalize on synergies from the combination with Con-way’s managed transportation, truckload and freight brokerage businesses.

Headquartered in Ann Arbor, Mich., Con-way is a Fortune 500 company with a transportation and logistics network of 582 locations and approximately 30,000 employees serving over 36,000 customers. All of the acquired operations – Con-way Freight, Menlo Logistics, Con-way Truckload and Con-way Multimodal – will be rebranded as XPO Logistics.

XPO will remain asset-light, with asset-based operations accounting for about a third of sales.

Bradley Jacobs, XPO Logistics Chairman and CEO, will retain these positions and lead the combined company. Douglas Stotlar, Con-way’s president and chief executive officer, will serve in a limited role as an independent advisor to the combined company through the first quarter of 2016.

Bradley Jacobs, XPO Logistics Chairman and CEO, said, “Our opportunistic acquisition of Con-way will make XPO the second largest provider of less-than-truckload transportation in North America, a $35 billion market. LTL is a non-commoditized, high-value-add business that’s used by nearly all of our customers. Con-way is a premier platform that we will run with a fresh set of eyes as part of our broader offering. Importantly, we’ll gain strategic ownership of assets that will benefit our company and our customers during periods of tight capacity.

Douglas Stotlar, president and chief executive officer of Con-way, said, “This landmark transaction provides immediate cash value for our shareholders and reflects the outstanding contributions of our employees over our 86-year history. The combination will mean more services for our customers, more miles for our drivers, and more career opportunities for our employees as part of XPO’s global organization. We look forward to working with the XPO team to complete the transaction and ensure a smooth transition.”
With XPO and Con-way boards of directors unanimously approving the transaction, it’s expected to finalize in October of this year.

Con-way Freight’s New President

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In June, Con-way Inc. announced Joe Dagnese as the new president of Con-way Freight, succeeding W. Gregory Lehmkuhl.

A 32 year veteran of the transportation and logistics industry, Dagnese served as the president of Con-way Truckload prior to this role, getting his start at Con-way in 1995 when he joined Menlo Logistics.

Panama Canal Expansion

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In June, The Panama Canal Authority announced testing of the first gates on the Atlantic Ocean side of the waterway. Extending over four months, this step brings the Panama Canal expansion project to 90% completion.

“This event highlights the magnitude of what we have been working on for the past seven years,” said canal administrator Jorge Quijano. “Filling the locks with water is the culmination of arduous years of labor and the realization that we are within arm’s reach of the completion of one of the most impressive infrastructure projects of our time.”

The canal has encouraged investments for deeper channels in East Coast ports, such as Miami, New York/New Jersey, and Baltimore. Port Authorities expect larger vessels with more cargo to be calling in these locations.

Natural Gas Heavy Duty Trucking Fleet Could Benefit US Economy

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Q1 2015, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) voted to favor market-share rather than defend prices; the subsequent fall in oil prices has prompted a drop in drilling activity in the United States and layoffs in the oil and gas sector.

Shale gas, a natural gas found trapped within shale formations, is an increasingly important source of natural gas in the United States since the start of this century. In 2000, shale gas provided only 1% of U.S. natural gas production. By 2010 it was over 20%.

The shift to natural could provide several advantages. Potentially lowering the cost of national supply chains and enhancing the United States’ global competitiveness, natural gas could lower domestic fuel costs for long-distance trucking in the United States.

Research shows that California, the Great Lakes and mid-Atlantic areas are well-positioned for this launch, due to their proximity to high-volume travel corridors.

New Transportation Bill and the Nation’s Infrastructure

On July 30, a day before the Highway Trust Fund was set to expire, Congress passed a three month extension of funding for highway programs and a six year highway policy for trucking regulation reformation.

“This multi-year, bi-partisan legislation will give states and local governments the ability to plan for and construct critical infrastructure projects,” said Sen. John Thune, chairman of the committee that oversees trucking policy.

“We all share the same goal of completing a long term bill as soon as possible, and ensuring that critical programs do not shut down before we achieve that goal is the right thing to do,” added Rep. Bill Schuster, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The legislation implements Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reform, applying to several programs. The Compliance, Safety and Accountability program public safety scores will be removed until further review. The bill paves the way for those between 18 and 21 to be commercial interstate drivers and also establishes a national freight program, boosting highway, public transportation, and passenger rail programs.

“Passage of a long-term bill is well overdue, and it is past time for Congress to provide states with the certainty they need to address the enormous backlog in critical highway and bridge improvements, “ said Bill Graves, president of American Trucking Associations.

Carrier Mergers and Acquisitions

M&A continues to drive consolidation in the asset-light and non-asset logistics space. Companies are finding it’s easier to buy than build in current economy.

  • SAIA announced purchase of LinkEx, an asset-light logistics company based in Dallas
  • ABF Logistics acquired Smart Lines Transportation Group, and OK based TL brokerage firm, specializing in food, energy, industrial sectors
  • Fed Ex purchased GENCO, a contract logistics provider specializing in reverse logistics, testing and refurbishing
  • Roadrunner Transportation acquired Active Aero Group, Unitrans Int’l Corporation, and Rich Logistics/Everett Transportation, strengthening time-critical and Int’l services
  • UPS Freight purchased Coyote Logistics, a technology-driven, non-asset based truckload brokerage company