The past two years have been unlike any in decades for US shippers and their transportation and logistics suppliers. Shippers have been hit with not one but two years of historic transportation rate increases, crippling capacity shortages across modes, and constant disruptions to supply chains that undercut their ability to recover their balance, reset operations, and manage logistics costs.
Labor shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic went well beyond well-known difficulties hiring truck drivers. At times, shippers couldn’t find workers for warehouse docks to unload trucks, even when they could get a truck. Even companies that prided themselves as “shippers of choice” were often left without a choice but to pay more for transportation and receive less in terms of service.
This year has been another rough ride for all involved in US supply chains – from port operators to trucking companies and intermodal rail providers to third-party logistics firms and brokers. The risks of war, inflation, and a pandemic that continues to affect trade and transportation on a global scale have pushed US importers, exporters, and those shipping goods domestically to their limits.
If anything, 2021 and 2022 have taught us the value of working together, of finding common ground to manage businesses as best we can through events such as fuel price spikes, sanctions that affect trade, and capacity crunches up and down supply chains that threaten not just pickups and deliveries but the survival of enterprises and partnerships. Collaboration and cooperation aren’t just buzzwords.
The COVID-19 pandemic, recession, and a recovery that has often seemed out of control have exposed gaping holes in supply chains that are far from being bridged. Relationships between shippers and their partners and suppliers may have improved or imploded but they without question have changed. How will that affect our ability to find common ground and seek solutions to shared problems?
Distrust between shippers and their suppliers has risen alongside freight rates, but so have attempts to find common ground. This September, we will bring shippers, freight carriers, and logistics and technology providers together at our first live JOC Inland Distribution Conference since 2019. Much may have changed by then, but not the urgent need for more efficient, cost-effective supply chains.
Will consumer demand deflate enough in 2022 to bring landside freight capacity closer to equilibrium, or is the “rough equilibrium” sometimes achieved in the 2010s unrealistic in the 2020s, a decade in which transportation is being radically reshaped by e-commerce? Will the worst capacity crunch trucking has seen in decades finally end in 2023? Will the modal balance between rail and trucking shift?
As more freight shifts to East Coast ports, how are inland ports and hubs responding? And how will advances in technology accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic and shifting supply chain priorities benefit shippers and their suppliers in 2023 and years to come? These are just a few of the questions we will ask and hope to answer in Chicago this September. We look forward to seeing you there.