Today's Top Supply Chain and Logistics News From WSJ

02/05/18 06:53 AM EST
By Paul Page 

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The latest in a string of fatal Amtrak accidents will bring new attention to the railroad industry's rollout of automated braking technology. Authorities say that the passenger train that slammed into a CSX Corp. train outside Columbia, S.C., was on the wrong track and the freight railroad stationary when the crash happened before dawn on Sunday. The WSJ's Scott Calvert and Cameron McWhirter report the Amtrak engineer and conductor were killed and that more than 100 people were injured. The National Transportation Safety Board began its investigation almost immediately amid growing concerns over Amtrak's safety performance following the passenger railroad's third fatal crash in less than two months. Amtrak has installed the safety braking system known as positive train control across parts of its network. CSX is responsible for maintenance of track and signals in the area where the crash happened, as well as for the dispatching of all trains. Railroads are required to have the new technology installed by the end of this year.

Digital commerce is fueling more jobs growth than ever in logistics fields. Companies most closely tied to online sales distribution added more than 10,000 jobs last month, WSJ's Logistics Report's Jennifer Smith writes. The expanding payrolls at package-delivery operators and at warehouse and storage companies highlights the growing weight e-commerce has in distribution and across the American economy. The U.S. Department of Labor has been resetting numbers over the past year to take into account the shifting role of some jobs, and logistics operations look to carry an increasingly significant role. The broader jobs report also suggests trucking and other freight operations are benefitting from bigger moves in the U.S. economy. Good-producing businesses boosted payrolls by 196,000 jobs from December to January, and hiring in the manufacturing and retail sectors is growing at a rapid clip. Shipping operators may take that as a signal to step up their own hiring heading into the spring.

China's is taking aim at American agriculture as it responds to a tougher White House trade stance. Beijing has launched an anti-dumping action against U.S. sorghum exports, the WSJ reports, after a preliminary finding that government subsidies helped American farmers undercut Chinese growers by shipping out heavy volumes at low prices. That comes after the Trump administration's move to impose tariffs on imports of Chinese solar panels. Sorghum doesn't have the high profile of solar energy products, but it's a critical piece of agriculture supply chains, providing feed for China's big livestock sector of low-priced product. China is the top market by far for American sorghum exporters, and the case may carry weight well beyond the nearly 5 million metric tons of sorghum the country imports from the U.S. The tariffs would hit the farm regions that support President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans, and will raise concerns among producers of soybeans and other export crops.

SUPPLY CHAIN STRATEGIES

Changing drinking patterns in the U.S. are bringing headaches to the beverage world's longstanding distribution channels. Some wholesalers are pushing back against Anheuser-Busch InBev SA and its insistent marketing for Bud Light despite the brew's stale sales, the WSJ's Nick Kostov reports. Bud Light is still America's best-selling beer, but the brew is losing market share to craft brews, Mexican lagers, wine and hard liquor, leading some wholesalers to argue that AB InBev should be investing more in new market directions. It's a sign of how big changes in markets can trigger tensions between suppliers, middlemen distributors and the retailers on the front lines of consumer sales. The Bud Light brand suffered its biggest volume drop ever last year, tumbling 5.7% in the steepest drop among mass-market brews that have been losing their American audience. AB InBev is trying to halt those losses, but the smaller market makes it harder for the distributor and its suppliers to cover over their differences.

QUOTABLE

IN OTHER NEWS

Average hourly earnings in the U.S. rose 2.9% from a year ago. (WSJ)

U.S. factory orders rose 6% last year, the best year for sales growth since 2011. (WSJ)

A measure of U.S. household confidence fell in January for the third straight month. (WSJ)

A trial starting today could set a new course for self-driving vehicles, as Uber Technologies Inc. argues it didn't steal the secrets of Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo. (WSJ)

Retailer Bon-Ton Stores Inc. filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. (WSJ)

Australia is toughening its rules on foreign investment in critical energy infrastructure and prime farmland. (WSJ)

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. led a $300 million funding round for Indian grocery distributor BigBasket. (LiveMint)

Sweden's customs agency is cracking down on international e-commerce deliveries that avoid tax payments. (The Local)

Some Whole Foods employees say rigid enforcement of a new order-to-shelf inventory system is harming worker morale. (Business Insider)

The European Court of Justice upheld fines imposed six years ago on freight forwarders over price-fixing. (Air Cargo News)

Schneider National Inc.'s fourth-quarter profit increased 11.9%, before income tax gains, on growing intermodal and brokerage earnings. (Heavy Duty Trucking)

YRC Worldwide Inc. lost $7.5 million in the fourth quarter as rising costs offset a 7% gain in revenue. (Logistics Management)

Shares in USA Truck Inc. soared nearly 25% after the carrier swung to a fourth-quarter profit on a 19.8% increase in trucking revenue. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

Target Corp. will close a Memphis, Tenn.-area fulfillment center run by logistics provider Radial. (Memphis Daily News)

United Parcel Service Inc. is applying for a patent for a locker service that would include various payment methods. (CoinDesk)

Developers will convert a shuttered Corning Inc. plant in central Ohio into a distribution center. (Dayton Daily News)

FedEx Corp.'s trucking division will build a freight handling facility just north of Wilmington, N.C. (Wilmington Biz)

A report shows ocean vessels have been dumping noxious palm oil off the U.K. coast with no legal consequences. (The Telegraph)

Logistics software provider Descartes Systems Group Inc. bought transportation management technology company Aljex Software. (American Shipper)

Gramercy Property Trust Inc. bought an Amazon.com Inc. fulfimment center in Jacksonville, Fla., for almost $95.5 million. (Jacksonville Daily Record)

ABOUT US

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

Write to Paul Page at paul.page@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 05, 2018 06:53 ET (11:53 GMT)

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