To provide shipper buyers of North American surface transportation and logistics services — including retailers, manufacturers, consumer product firms, energy and agribusiness companies — with a comprehensive understanding of the major challenges they and their trucking, intermodal rail, warehousing and distribution and third-party logistics vendors face when moving freight within North America, while identifying solutions to these challenges that will help meet supply chain goals.
THEME: FINDING THE RIGHT ROUTES IN A NEW ERA
A time of faster economic growth, tumultuous trade relations, online sales and complicated regulations promises to make managing inventory and moving freight tougher, not easier, placing more demands on shippers and logistics and transportation providers in the US. As GDP expands and freight rates rise, shippers will have to be proactive rather than reactive to control transportation costs and keep up with fast-changing demands. Their ability to fulfill customer needs is at stake. North American shippers began 2017 worrying about freight pricing, especially for cargo moving by truck.
A rising economic tide in late 2016 and early this year put pressure on built-in surface transportation capacity constraints that were left high and dry during the 2015-2016 downturn. We may not be facing “the mother-of-all capacity shortages,” but even slight tightening of the supply-demand balance accelerates the inflation of rates. If there ever was a time for shippers to break free of old habits in dealing with carrier pricing, this is it. Old methods increasingly will fail. So how will shippers respond?
The rapid development of logistics technology opens a door to global optimization of supply chains and more efficient management of domestic inventory and assets. Developments are so rapid, however, that it’s difficult to tell which technologies are likely to succeed and which are likely to fail or fade. Increasing infrastructure investment, meanwhile, won’t solve systemic problems caused by congestion at ports, rail intermodal yards and on US highways overnight. The US faces serious consequences, however, if it makes the wrong decisions when it comes to infrastructure spending.
Short-term thinking could lead to billions of wasted dollars, and shippers and freight interests need to have a greater voice in determining where and when the Trump administration, Congress and the states allocate money to projects. In Washington, US businesses welcomed the Trump administration’s promise to build infrastructure and slash regulations as a way to increase efficiency and stimulate the economy, but attacks on the North American Free Trade Agreement and US-Mexico trade in particular injected fresh uncertainty and risk for shippers. With hundreds of billions of dollars in trade and investment hanging in the balance, companies committed to NAFTA trade must find ways to prepare for change and protect their interests.
As 2017 nears the midterm, multiple issues are keeping shippers and their transportation and logistics providers awake at night. Among them are:
- Tightening warehousing and transportation capacity
- Pricing pressure from the inside (the C-suite) and outside (carrier partners)
- Amazon.com and the changing demands of e-commerce customers and vendors
- Chronic labor and talent shortages (not just drivers, but transportation experts)
- Equipment imbalances in the heartland and at US borders
- The future of NAFTA and cross-border trucking and intermodal rail
The situation requires a fresh appraisal of how and where shippers do business, and deploy rapidly evolving technology that enables more effective decisions. Shippers urgently need alternatives to traditional distribution and warehousing strategies, modal choices and business relationships. In short, shippers need ingenious solutions to intractable problems. Continuous innovation and cooperation — ideals that will be front-and-center at the North American Distribution Conference — can deliver them.
- Market Outlook and Analysis
What does the trucking and intermodal landscape look like in terms of supply-demand, carrier financials and freight rates?
- Leadership Panel: Sharing the Road
Shipper, Trucking, Intermodal and Logistics CEOs share frank views on the challenges we all face in 2017 and what lies ahead in 2018.
- ELDs: Where We Stand
With a December 2017 deadline looming for all trucks to have onboard electronic logging devices, what threats do shippers face and how should they overcome them?
- Pricing: Restraining Rates, Controlling Costs
As prices escalate, shippers need new strategies to manage costs. Can transportation bids, new approaches to carrier negotiations still deliver savings.
- NAFTA: Dancing through a Minefield
What are the challenges and dangers for shippers as the Trump administration pushes ahead with plans to renegotiate the seminal US trade pact with Mexico and Canada?
- Technology and Innovation
What opportunities do shippers have to reduce costs through advances in technology related to booking, documentation and cargo visibility?
- Automated Trucks: When Will They Hit Highways?
Automated, or even partially automated trucks could transform shipping and logistics. IHS Markit analysts and other experts look at how much and how soon.
- Case Studies and Think-Tank Sessions
What best practices and solutions are shippers and other transportation interests employing to resolve today’s supply chain challenges?