Today's Top Supply Chain and Logistics News From WSJ

12/08/17 07:04 AM EST
By Brian Baskin 

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Some of the first electric trucks to hit the road may be hauling cases of beer. Anheuser-Busch has preordered 40 of Tesla Inc.'s electric Semi trucks, the WSJ Logistics Report's Jennifer Smith writes, which the company says are well-suited for making short shipments to wholesalers. Anheuser-Busch, the U.S. subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev, has a history of being first in line for new transportation technology, which it sees as a way to reduce the company's fuel costs and vehicle emissions. Investments include compressed natural-gas delivery trucks and hiring a driverless big rig to make a supply run in Colorado last year. But though Anheuser-Busch's order is one of the biggest to be made public since Tesla unveiled the trucks last month, the company says it's too soon to predict an all-electric future. While the Tesla's 500-mile range is less of an issue for beer trucks making regional deliveries, the heavy battery needed to power the vehicle could force electric big rigs to carry lighter loads.

Dockworkers and East Coast port employers entered negotiations this week hoping to agree on an extension to a contract set to expire next September. But instead the talks exposed deep rifts that could point to a rocky path to labor peace for ports from Maine to Texas. Union officials ended the meeting early, citing disagreements over port automation, a sore subject for the International Longshoremen's Association. ILA leaders fear driverless forklifts and artificial intelligence will replace many port jobs, as they have already in many European container terminals. Both sides have much to lose if they fail to reach an agreement. Cargo movement came to a virtual standstill at West Coast ports in late 2014 and early 2015 amid protracted contract negotiations, leading many shippers to reroute freight away from the region. East Coast ports and dockworkers risk the same fate if they can't at least project the appearance of harmony - especially since negotiators on the West Coast in August agreed to extend their contract through 2022.

The tax bill working its way through Congress is designed to lower corporate tax burdens, but some logistics and transportation companies worry they might be left out in the cold. The Senate version of the legislation does not include many family-owned businesses among the types of corporations subject to a lower tax rate, the WSJ's Siobhan Hughes writes. Companies structured as "electing small business trusts," or ESBTs, are particularly vulnerable, as they would pay 10% to 20% higher taxes than competitors that qualify for reduced rates on "pass-through" income. Small, family-run businesses are common in many corners of the logistics sector, and some of the industry's best-known names, including truck-stop chain Love's Travel Stop, are set up as trusts. Sen. Ron Johnson, (R., Wisc.) is pressing for the conference committee to give trusts a lower rate in the final version of the bill that will be voted on by the House and Senate. If he fails, the resulting legislation could be "potentially devastating," the chairman of one packaging manufacturer says.

SUB-SECTION HED

The demise of King Coal is working its way up the power supply chain. General Electric Co. is cutting 12,000 jobs in its power division, the WSJ's Thomas Gryta reports, after a big bet on turbines for coal and gas-fired plants ran into the reality of declining demand for conventional power fuels. GE's turbines generate a third of the world's electricity. But future demand lies with renewables, which the International Energy Agency predicts will generate 40% of power by 2040, compared with 24% today. Wind and solar arrays don't need turbines, which has left GE with extra inventory and sagging profits, and seemingly little choice but to shrink its power business to match the darkening outlook for fossil fuels. GE is investing in renewables, selling about $9 billion in wind turbines last year. But expansion into the booming solar market will be tough, as Chinese companies dominate the market for panels.

QUOTABLE

IN OTHER NEWS

The European Union will more closely monitor auto makers and levy bigger fines for failing to comply with emissions tests. (WSJ)

U.S. household net worth rose to a record $96.939 trillion in the third quarter. (WSJ)

U.S. jobless claims fell to a seasonally adjusted 236,000 in the week ended Dec. 2. (WSJ)

The U.S. International Trade Commission issued final tariffs of 20% or more on Canadian lumber. (WSJ)

Caterpillar Inc.'s railcar unit plead guilty to charging customers for unnecessary repairs and dumping parts in the ocean to hide evidence. (WSJ)

Dollar General says it will open 900 stores and remodel 1,000 existing locations next year. (Chain Store Age)

Honeywell is taking a 25% stake in Chinese supply chain software provider Flux Information Technology. (Reuters)

Fetch Robotics raised $25 million to further development of its warehouse robots. (DC Velocity)

More small trucking fleets are equipping vehicles with electronic logs ahead of new rules requiring the devices. (Commercial Carrier Journal)

Driver turnover at large truckload fleets rose in the third quarter, the American Trucking Associations said. (Transport Topics)

U.S. intermodal rail volumes rose 3.8% in November compared with a year earlier. (Progressive Railroading)

Air freight companies expect strong growth to continue well into next year. (The Loadstar)

Freightos will estimate the carbon footprint of various shipping modes and routes available on the freight pricing platform. (Air Cargo World)

A container ship broke free from its terminal in South Boston and damaged a pier. (WHDH)

ABOUT US

Brian Baskin is editor of WSJ Logistics Report. Follow him at and follow the entire WSJ Logistics Report team: @PaulPage , @jensmithWSJ and @EEPhillips_WSJ. Follow the WSJ Logistics Report on Twitter at @WSJLogistics.

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Write to Brian Baskin at brian.baskin@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 08, 2017 07:04 ET (12:04 GMT)

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