• Inland Distribution
  • September 25- 27, 2023 | The Westin Chicago River North

Ari Ashe

Journal of Commerce by S&P Global

Senior Editor-Intermodal Rail and Southeast Ports

Ari Ashe joined the JOC in 2018 and reports on the Southeast US ports, intermodal, and trucking, while co-chairing the programming committee for the JOC Inland Distribution Conference. He has nearly 15 years of journalism experience. He began his career with WTOP-FM in Washington, DC, a 24/7 all-news radio outlet, where he won an Edward R. Murrow Award for investigative journalism in his role as the commuter transportation beat reporter. In 2016, Ashe moved to Transport Topics, a publication of the American Trucking Associations, covering trucking, railroads, and ocean carriers, including quarterly earnings reports and economic news affecting the industry. He holds two bachelor’s degrees from George Washington University and a master’s in broadcast journalism from Syracuse University.

Sessions With Ari Ashe

Tuesday, 26 September

  • 08:45am - 09:30am (CST) / 26/sep/2023 01:45 pm - 26/sep/2023 02:30 pm

    North American Freight and Economic Outlook

    The US freight economy took a harder hit than the broader US economy in the past year, with manufacturing contraction, bloated inventories, and lower imports contributing to a freight recession —even though the US to date has avoided a broader economic recession. A recovery is coming, though it’s not clear how strong it will be or when it will arrive. Factors such as inflation, interest rates, housing demand and consumer confidence all cloud the picture as the US heads toward a presidential election year. This session, featuring a panel of experts who will draw on a wealth of data, will look deeply into what’s driving the US economy, freight demand, transportation capacity, and pricing as we plan for 2024. 
  • 11:15am - 11:45am (CST) / 26/sep/2023 04:15 pm - 26/sep/2023 04:45 pm

    Fireside Chat: A Conversation with Crete Carrier's Tim Aschoff

    Whether it’s ocean, rail, or trucking, 2023 is the year of falling transportation rates. For trucking companies, this is nothing new. Spot truckload rates have been down year over year since May 2022, but have plunged by double-digits in 2023. Contractual rates also have fallen by double-digits year over year in annual RFPs signed this year. Shippers don’t have as much freight to move as the post-lockdown surge of late 2020 and 2021. Concerns of inflation and a recession have kept nervous shippers keeping inventories as thin as possible until the US consumer is more confident. Motor carriers have been scrambling to keep revenue flowing, despite costs continuing to rise to run their businesses. Transportation and logistics managers have a difficult balancing act: maintaining strong relationships with their core strategic carriers, while also hitting budget targets that might force them to be aggressive in negotiating lower rates. If they don’t hit their transportation budgets, they could lose their jobs, which isn’t good for anyone. In this session, Tim Aschoff, chief operating officer of national truckload provider Crete Carrier, will sit down with Senior Editor Ari Ashe to discuss how to juggle those competing priorities. How can transportation and logistics managers engage in a frank, but important discussion with their motor carrier partners about their cost pressures while not burning bridges? How can shippers be true partners in this market? We’ll also look forward to 2024 and see whether the contract rates signed in mid-2023 will hold for a full 12 months, or whether mini-bids and shorter contracts are the new normal.
  • 01:45pm - 02:15pm (CST) / 26/sep/2023 06:45 pm - 26/sep/2023 07:15 pm

    Analyzing the Journal of Commerce Intermodal Savings Index and Service Scorecards

    Whether you’re a domestic intermodal shipper or an intermodal provider, did you know the Journal of Commerce has a wealth of data? Our Intermodal Savings Index and Intermodal Service Scorecards provide proprietary and valuable data to the industry. The Journal of Commerce Intermodal Savings Index measures how much an average intermodal shipper should save using 53-foot containers compared with truckload alternatives. Our goal is to fill in the gap with intermodal rates to compare with industry-leading information from trucking data providers such as DAT Freight & Analytics. Our Intermodal Service Scorecards are customer satisfaction surveys to determine who are the best railroads and who are the best asset-owning and non-asset IMCs in the US. The world is filled with ways customers can review services and products, from Amazon and Google ratings to services such as Angi’s and Home Advisor. Our approach is to apply this model to intermodal using crowd-sourced data to identify the top service providers, and why they're successful. In this session, we'll go over the latest findings in both datasets and how shippers can make informed decisions using the information.

  • 02:15pm - 02:45pm (CST) / 26/sep/2023 07:15 pm - 26/sep/2023 07:45 pm

    Catching the Rebound — How Domestic Intermodal Is Addressing Service for the Next Surge

    In the first quarter Journal of Commerce Intermodal Service Scorecard, most customers were satisfied with their transportation partners in 2023. More than eight out of every 10 shippers were somewhat or very satisfied with intermodal providers such as Hub Group, J.B. Hunt, Schneider National, STG Logistics, and Swift Intermodal. Seven out of every 10 intermodal providers said service from the North American Class I railroads was heading in the right direction. But many survey respondents also were concerned that better service is a symptom of weak volume and are skeptical that service will be better when demand rebounds. This session will analyze the latest data on train speeds and on-time performance, and how operations and sales representatives can work together to maintain strong relationships with customers, even during times of disruption. 

  • 03:15pm - 03:45pm (CST) / 26/sep/2023 08:15 pm - 26/sep/2023 08:45 pm

    Domestic Intermodal Pricing — What You're Getting for Your Dollar

    The Journal of Commerce Intermodal Savings Index is showing that 2023 is the year of the shipper. Pricing power was in their corner during contract negotiations in the first and second quarters. Cheap truckload rates provided stiff competition to intermodal providers on lanes less than 1,200 miles. Trucks were cheaper than trains on several key lanes, making it difficult for intermodal providers to keep volume. On long hauls, particularly out of Los Angeles, asset-owning intermodal providers who brought in more than 37,000 new boxes in 2022 jockeyed for market share by slashing rates to manage their container glut. Non-asset intermodal providers struggled to fend off trucking and asset-owning competitors without significant sacrifice to margins. This session will explore whether any peak season has materialized, its impact on rates, and a look ahead to whether the scales will tip back toward carriers in 2024.

Wednesday, 27 September

  • 08:30am - 08:35am (CST) / 27/sep/2023 01:30 pm - 27/sep/2023 01:35 pm
  • 09:10am - 09:45am (CST) / 27/sep/2023 02:10 pm - 27/sep/2023 02:45 pm

    The New Landscape for Cross-Border Intermodal

    In April, Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern officially combined to form CPKC. The newly merged railroad wasted no time in providing new intermodal options to shippers: launching a daily train from central Mexico to Chicago in partnership with Schneider National and Swift Intermodal. In response, Canadian National, Ferromex, and Union Pacific announced a joint service called Falcon Premium connecting Mexico with Detroit and Canada, interchanging in Eagle Pass, Texas, and Chicago. The BNSF-J.B. Hunt option also remains firmly in the mix given that J.B. Hunt owns more containers than any other domestic intermodal provider. This session will explore the options available to shippers who might be considering near-shoring to Mexico, and what investments are being made to provide a reliable and cost-competitive alternative to trucking on cross-border freight.  
  • 11:30am - 12:00pm (CST) / 27/sep/2023 04:30 pm - 27/sep/2023 05:00 pm

    Trucking and Intermodal Emissions: Charting a More Sustainable Path

    Many shippers now actively assess the environmental impact of their supply chain. Shippers increasingly prioritize "ESG" scores, with a specific focus on the "E" for the environment. Within the transportation industry, the pivotal question centers on quantifying greenhouse emissions from ocean, rail, and trucking. This session will address the following questions: What benefits does intermodal rail offer, and how are railroads actively developing zero-emission or lower-emission alternatives to diesel locomotives? Is the option of hydrogen-powered locomotives feasible? It also will examine the challenges of implementing zero-emission vehicles in trucking. Are these vehicles too expensive? What stumbling blocks are trucking companies encountering in obtaining electricity from power companies to charge these trucks? Where would these vehicles best be used? How much freight can a zero-emissions truck handle compared to a conventional truck? And importantly, how can we get the multimodal view of carbon emissions across ocean, rail, and truck that many shippers say they want? 
  • 01:35pm - 02:15pm (CST) / 27/sep/2023 06:35 pm - 27/sep/2023 07:15 pm

    Catching the Rebound — Preparing for Tomorrow's Surge Today

    Now that the surge of 2020 to 2022 has passed, the international supply chain has time to pause and examine what went well, what didn’t, and how to adjust for the next upswing. When examining ocean containers moving to inland rail ramps, there could be many changes forthcoming. In what markets will trucker-owned chassis become more prevalent? What will happen in a landmark chassis case between the trucking lobby and ocean carriers? And how will railroads adjust to these changes? Norfolk Southern Railway has begun a multi-year effort to convert wheeled terminals into a port-like grounded model and to introduce appointment systems to reduce truck turn times. Union Pacific Railroad is grounding all imports from California into the Global 4 terminal in Joliet and eliminated the no cherry-picking policy. This session will examine how railroads, truckers, and chassis lessors will learn from history. 
  • 02:20pm - 03:00pm (CST) / 27/sep/2023 07:20 pm - 27/sep/2023 08:00 pm

    Waiting on the Rebound: Where Have We Been and Where Are We Going?

    The three days of Inland23 have dissected data, analyzed market conditions, and featured forecasts. Pulling everything together, what are the ideas, warnings, lessons, and perhaps even solutions we can take home that will help us catch the rebound when it comes? In this closing session of Inland23, our conference co-chairs will sit down with select experts to cut through the noise and deliver the consensus takeaways you need as you plan for 2024.