Archive For The “News” Category

Rabobank: After 4 Years of Inflation Fatigue, Consumers Pull Back on Spending

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During the past four years inflation has battered consumers, and a Rabobank analysis says U.S. consumers have finally hit the wall.

In a report on the cost of a Fourth of July barbecue, Rabobank analysts said consumers are trading down and eating out less often in response to long-running inflation.

“The consumer is waving the white flag on food inflation,” Tom Bailey, senior consumer foods analyst at Rabobank, said in a news release. “With an added 2% in price hikes in 2024 coupled with the cost disparity between dining out and cooking at home at its widest margin in history, we’re seeing heightened fatigue and frugality.”

The 2024 Rabobank BBQ Index, which measures the cost of staple ingredients for a 10-person barbecue, shows that it will cost $99 to host a cookout on the Fourth of July this year, up from $97 last year and $73 in 2018. Cookout ingredients are 32% higher food costs in 2024 compared with 2019, according to Rabobank.

The index showed that the average U.S. consumer has to work an hour to earn enough money for a six-pack of beer and a burger in 2024, up from 51 minutes in 2019, and they’ll have to work nine hours to pay for a barbecue this year, up 32% since 2019.

Produce prices for the BBQ Index are mostly tame compared with a year ago, Rabobank economists said. California’s drought in 2023 sent lettuce prices to more than $100 a carton, well above the average range of $15 to $20 per carton. Rabobank analysts said lettuce prices have come down significantly in 2024.

“We expect leafy greens to have steady supplies, good quality and decent prices,” Rabobank economists said in the release.

Potatoes, also hit hard by drought last year, have rebounded with greater supply based on expanded acreage harvested in the fall of 2023. Potato prices are about half of year-ago levels, the index showed.

On the other side of the ledger, Rabobank analysts said tomato prices have moved higher in 2024 as dry weather in Mexico has curtailed production and overall availability.

Rabobank analysts said a reported 68% of people polled by Vericast say they are switching from restaurants — where the tab is up 4.4% annually — to grocery stores, which have seen only a 1.1% price.

Consumers are pulling back all purchases because of tight budgets, Rabobank officials said. Retail sales were weaker than expected in May as higher borrowing rates and inflation discouraged purchase decisions, Rabobank economists said.

“Retail sales will likely remain soft throughout 2024,” Bailey said.

Wages have not kept up with inflation. Credit card debt, on average, sits at $10,479 per household in the U.S., up from $8,763 in 2021. Forty-one percent of Americans polled by WalletHub say they have more credit card debt now than they did 12 months ago, the release said.

Government aid, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program emergency payments, the child tax credit, increased unemployment benefits and a suspension of student loan payments have ended, the release said. People under the age of 35 have been hit the hardest; credit card delinquencies in this demographic are at their highest level since 2011, according to the Federal Reserve.

“Fiscal fitness is now more of a focus,” Bailey said. “Saddled with mounting credit card debt, waning savings, and lower real income, consumers are spending less.”


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Where Is My Load? The Rise and Requirement of End-to-End Tracking

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By Jake Diana ALC San Francisco

The vast majority of individuals, both here in the U.S. and worldwide, have come to expect the seemingly guaranteed step-by-step updates that large distributors provide with each and every order submitted. So much so that it often feels like the end of the world when we don’t have that fresh “out for delivery” update on the day of projected receipt. In a world where everyone prefers to be as up-to-date as possible, it makes perfect sense that logistics and trucking companies would be required to provide tracking, right?

One of the biggest hot button topics in freight today is the exponential growth of thefts and scams. Given the integration and volume of texting and email into all walks of life, the evolution of 3PL carrier relationships is in a natural progression. While a general understanding of so-called “instant” communication would lead one to believe this makes the jobs of 3PL employees easier, the reality is that we are often faced with the scary question of “Where is my truck, and who is actually operating it?”

These days, tracking is no longer the eye-catching benefit it once was. Instead, it is now the standard, a bare minimum expectation when it comes to the growth of a 3PL customer relationship. The ability to go above and beyond tracking mandates is just as important as competitive rates or long-standing relationships. Prior to the last two to three years, carriers viewed tracking as bothersome, a form of micromanagement that signaled distrust. In just a short time, carriers are now not only familiar with tracking, but expect it. In a field full of uncertainties, what was once a selling point has rapidly developed into a pillar of the industry.

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Jake Diana graduated from the University of Oregon in 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in General Social Sciences. He joined the ALC San Francisco office in August 2022 as a broker’s assistant before being promoted to carrier sales representative and, most recently, carrier sales manager. Jake is a high-energy individual with a passion for competition, teamwork, and tech.

jake.diana@allenlund.com

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43% of Truckloads Moved Less than Half Full in 2023, Study Reveals

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Flock Freight and Drive Research has released a study revealing 43% of truckloads in 2023 moved partially empty, with an average of 29 linear feet of unused deck space.

The inefficiency equates to 1 in 4 truckloads moving empty, representing a significant economic and environmental concern.

Called “Wasted Space, Wasted Dollars: The Economic Impact of Inefficient Freight,” the study examines the costs associated with underutilized truckload space and the inefficiencies of less-than-truckload shipping, according to a news release. It surveyed 1,000 transportation decision-makers in the U.S. from various industries, providing a view of the challenges and strategies employed to drive efficiency.

“Historically, the U.S. truckload market has been locked into a binary concept of ‘full’ or ‘empty’ when it comes to trailer capacity,” Chris Pickett, chief operating officer at Flock Freight, said in the release. “We are challenging both shippers and carriers alike to rethink this. With 43% of truckloads moving only partially full, there’s a massive opportunity for businesses to maximize trailer utilization and reduce overall transportation spend with our Shared Truckload solution.”

The research highlights the hidden costs of less-than-truckload shipping, with the average enterprise shipper incurring up to $6.3 million annually in damage and loss claims, the release said. Additionally, unexpected accessorial fees and the time spent by employees managing these issues add to the financial burden on businesses.

Exiting a deflationary phase of the truckload freight cycle in 2024, the industry braces for heightened economic impacts, the release said. As a result, 90.8% of shippers have raised their budgets by 1% to 10% to navigate the expected market shifts.

The study also found growing concerns around fraud and theft within the freight industry. In 2023, 89% of shippers were affected by these issues, with 1 in every 43 shipments impacted, the release said, which leads to direct financial losses and causes a ripple effect of reduced earnings, unexpected fines and a decline in customer satisfaction.

The whitepaper sheds light on the problems and presents innovative solutions, and it serves as a resource for shippers seeking to uncover new opportunities to reduce costs within their transportation programs, the release said.

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Celebrating America’s 248th Birthday!!

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Road Tripping Across the Great USA

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By Nora Trueblood ALC Marcon

“Road trip,” “Shotgun” are some popular sayings for the non-truckers on the road. Summer is here and the uptick in travelers on the road increases, as provided by Headlight News:

With more folks on the road for summer vacations traveling by car, motorhome, or other means, commercial vehicles must be aware of more drivers who can clog the various “truck” routes. As a transportation broker, we see the effects that traffic, construction, and events can have on a driver’s ability to deliver freight in a timely manner. Whether you are a long-haul driver or a family heading out on a summer vacation, everyone is affected by the conditions of our roadways. This goes especially for holidays, and with the 4th of July upon us, here are a few hints, favorite road trips, and, just for extra fun, the best fireworks displays.

According to Headlight News, this year’s projected number of travelers for the holiday period represents a 5.2% increase compared to 2023 and an 8.8% increase over 2019.

“With summer vacations in full swing and the flexibility of remote work, more Americans are taking extended trips around Independence Day,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel. “We anticipate this July 4th week will be the busiest ever with an additional 5.7 million people traveling compared to 2019.”  

To better plan your trip (if you are not the truck driver who knows the best routes), here are a couple of the most popular routes or cities being traveled to over the holiday and their fireworks plans for 2024:

Los Angeles to New York City

  • Top destination
  • From Los Angeles – route via I-80 vs. I-40 (from personal experience, I-80 from Glenwood Springs to Denver, CO, is absolutely gorgeous). This is the primary artery, so both commercial truck drivers and personal vehicles will experience the same conditions.
  • The number one viewed fireworks show, in person and televised, is sponsored by Macy’s. The city of New York is giving away 10,000 free tickets this year, so maybe you stay home in New York, or at least plan to arrive there by Wednesday, July 3rd.

Washington D.C. to Los Angeles

  • Los Angeles is a top destination year-round, but not the highest-rated city for fireworks. So, if you decide to stay home or do not have a load to keep you on the road this 4th of July, you can see far better public displays in Washington D.C.’s Fireworks on the Mall and other great rooftop locations.

Some less than large cities, that are not necessarily traveled by big rigs, but offer spectacular fireworks displays:

Bristol, Rhode Island

Cape Cod, MassachusettsFirst state to make the 4th of July a state holiday. Their celebrations and fireworks begin June 28th, and displays continue through the 4th.

Best tips for personal vehicles to practice when sharing the road and traveling alongside big rigs.

Just in case you need some ideas, here are the most popular summer vacation road trips.

Following best practices while sharing the roads across America will help you get to where you want to be, safely. The best tip: leave early, adhere to speed limits, and get to your final destination without an incident. Then, watch those wonderful fireworks that celebrate this great country.

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Nora Trueblood began her career with ALC in 2002 as Director of Marketing & Communications. Prior to joining the company, Trueblood worked as the event manager with the Montrose Arts Council and Alpine Dance in Montrose, CO., had her own production and event planning company, and spent 7 years with Lorimar Television.


nora.trueblood@allenlund.com

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Waabi Raises $200MM to Launch Driverless Trucks in 2025

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TORONTO — Waabi, a company pioneering generative AI for the physical world, today announced it has raised $200 million (USD) in an oversubscribed Series B round, led by Uber and Khosla Ventures.

The funding round includes participation from best-in-class strategic investors NVIDIA, Volvo Group Venture Capital, Porsche Automobil Holding SE, Scania Invest and Ingka Investments.

Additional financial investors include HarbourVest Partners, G2 Venture Partners, BDC Capital’s Thrive Venture Fund, Export Development Canada, Radical Ventures, Incharge Capital, and others. The new funding, which brings total investment in Waabi to more than $280 million (USD), will support the company’s deployment of fully driverless, generative AI-powered autonomous trucks in 2025.

Only three years on from the company’s inception Waabi is on the verge of reaching Level 4 autonomy. This industry-leading pace and capital efficiency is made possible through the company’s revolutionary approach to unleashing generative AI in the physical world.

Waabi has pioneered a single end-to-end AI system that is capable of human-like reasoning, enabling it to generalize to any situation that might happen on the road, including those it has never seen before. Because it is able to reason, the system requires significantly less training data and compute resources compared to other end-to-end approaches.

Further departing from these approaches, Waabi’s system is fully interpretable and its safety can be validated and verified. The innovation marks a first across autonomous vehicles and AI systems deployed in the physical world. This end-to-end AI system, paired with Waabi World, the world’s most advanced simulator, reduces the need for extensive on-road testing and enables a safer, more efficient solution that is highly performant and scalable from day one.

“I have spent most of my professional life dedicated to inventing new AI technologies that can deliver on the enormous potential of AI in the physical world in a provably safe and scalable way,” said Raquel Urtasun, Founder and CEO of Waabi. “Over the past three years, alongside the incredible team at Waabi, I have had the chance to turn these breakthroughs into a revolutionary product that has far surpassed my expectations. We have everything we need — breakthrough technology, an incredible team, and pioneering partners and investors — to launch fully driverless autonomous trucks in 2025. This is monumental for the industry and truly marks the beginning of the next frontier for AI.”

This round of investment brings together pioneers and trailblazers across deep tech, AI, automotive, as well as shipping and logistics ecosystems, all in support of Waabi’s innovative approach and ambitious vision. With the infusion of strategic capital, Waabi is well positioned to launch fully driverless trucks in Texas, expand driverless operations to new geographies, and transform the supply chain.

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When Trucking Became Deregulated

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By Bill Martin, haulproduce.com

I had just been hired by a fresh produce publication in the fall of 1974, and by far, the biggest controversy in the trucking industry was Congress looking to deregulate trucking (and other transportation modes). No one at the newspaper, including myself, knew anything about trucking, much less the profound effects deregulation would have. It was known that most agricultural commodities were exempt from the regulations, but most produce hauls also required a regulated haul on the return trip. I immediately began reading all I could about the subject and tapping into the knowledge of those in the industry. Fortunately, I attended the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association’s trucking division meeting at a hotel near the Kansas City International Airport. It was there that I met Allen Lund of the Allen Lund Company. A friendship quickly developed, and I had someone who was much respected in the industry, intelligent, always made himself available, and had a heart of gold. I can honestly say I’ve never met a better man in my life and I continue to benefit from having known him. Even though Mr. Lund is no longer with us, his values remain steadfast in the Allen Lund Company today. 

I became the primary writer on transportation issues and had covered it extensively when Congress passed the Motor Carrier Act of 1980. Some of the major accomplishments of deregulation was ending legalized rate fixing by the large trucking companies, and ending their protected regular routes. Rate wars slashed freight rates, and small trucking companies and owner-operators could negotiate directly with shippers instead of having to lease to a carrier. Deregulation allowed contract rate-making with the regulatory review and opened the door for truck brokers to more efficiently provide match-ups between the demand for transport services and the availability of carriers.

The passage of the Motor Carrier Act of 1980 revolutionized the trucking industry, leading to the emergence and growth of third-party logistics (3PL) providers. This shift benefited the American public by reducing transportation costs, lowering consumer prices, and improving service quality. Over the years, the 3PL industry has evolved into a sophisticated sector integral to global supply chains, leveraging advanced technologies to optimize operations. The legacy of early industry leaders, such as Allen Lund, continues to inspire innovation and excellence, demonstrating the enduring benefits of deregulation for the economy and consumers alike.

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Bill Martin earned a journalism degree from Oklahoma State University and served as a journalist in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War. He worked as a reporter for a daily newspaper before writing about transportation and fresh produce for a weekly publication. Combining his expertise, he launched the Produce Trucker’s Network, which aired for 20 years on 60 radio stations across the U.S. and Canada. He retired in 2014, but created haulproduce.com in 2012, which continues today. September 3, 2024, marks his 50th anniversary in long haul trucking and fresh produce.

martinmedia45@peoplepc.com

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Fresh Farms Continues Expansion with Acquisition of California Grape Farm

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Fresh Farms, doing business as MJ International Marketing, Rio Rico, AZ announces a significant milestone in its journey of growth and expansion. With the recent acquisition of a new farm in California, Fresh Farms reaffirms its commitment to excellence and innovation in the agricultural industry.

For over 40 years, the Molina family has been cultivating table grapes and a wide variety of fresh vegetables. With the founding of “Las Mercedes,” their flagship farm in Mexico, the Molina Group embarked on a path of continuous growth and achievement.

“Decades of exploration and hard work allow us to supply grapes starting in mid-March from our farms in Jalisco, followed by production from our Sonoran ranches in May and June and subsequently from California starting in July and suppling customers through November,” said Juan Pablo Molina, General Manager of Fresh Farms.

In 2006, their vision for direct market connection led to the establishment of Fresh Farms, marking the beginning of a remarkable journey which further solidified their presence, laying the groundwork for planned international expansion.

In 2011, Fresh Farms made a significant leap with the acquisition of Visalia Produce Sales, a California-based company renowned for its expertise in table grapes, citrus, and specialty fruits. This strategic move enhanced Fresh Farms’ market position and its growth trajectory.

Today, Fresh Farms is acknowledged as a hallmark of excellence in the industry, with sales offices in Mexico, Arizona, and California, supported by a top-notch sales team.

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Analytics Matter for the Future of Logistics Companies

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By Michael Patrick ALC Corp.

When thinking about the future of logistics, especially 3rd Party Logistics, I always stop and consider how analytics plays a role. Well, truth be told, they play a very large and important role in the success of the organization. Analytics help to mitigate risk, direct the need for forecasting accuracy, and drive cost efficiencies. At the end of the day all these things are important, but the biggest reason logistics companies use analytics is to meet ever-evolving customer expectations, underscoring the customer-centric approach of these companies. 

Forecasting is a really hot topic in the logistics industry. Different types of organizations use all kinds of forecasting. Manufacturers use demand forecasts to set production schedules and manage inbound raw materials. This helps with routing guides and warehousing. “Through data analytics, logistics companies can identify and mitigate potential risks in the supply chain, such as disruption, delays and quality issues.” There is also a need for volume forecasts for RFPs (Request for Pricing) and pricing decisions. It seems like everyone in logistics wants some type of pricing forecast. Suppliers want forecast pricing to gauge budget levels, truckers want forecast pricing to help with asset placement, and third-party companies want forecast pricing to respond to RFPs and help indicate potential earning numbers.

With the increase in fraud in the logistics industry it is more important than ever to be on your toes when it comes to mitigating risk. Criminals are growing daily and are getting increasingly bold in their thirst to create havoc in the industry. They are using email addresses that closely resemble real company emails, cell phones that cannot be tracked, and teammates on the inside of suppliers to steal goods from warehouses and even steal entire trailers. When these trailers are found, they are empty, and the items are gone. They are targeting not just valuables like electronics but also loads of vacuum cleaners and clothing. These items are easily sold on the second-hand market. Analytics can be used to identify and utilize carriers with the appropriate level of insurance and vendors with good ratings.

Customers, suppliers, and logistics organizations will continue to rely on analytics to improve efficiencies, grow profits, and create forecasting to meet customers’ ever-changing expectations. With the transportation industry being a moving target, investing in in-house analytics is a great solution to streamline data and adapt to market trends.

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Michael Patrick started with the Allen Lund Company in January 2018 as a senior business analyst. He has over 25 years of third-party logistics and supply chain management experience. Patrick has a B.S. in Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing from Winthrop University and a Masters in Business Administration from The Citadel.

michael.patrick@allenlund.com

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Two Pecan Companies Partner to Expand Production

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Fort Valley, GA — As nut products continue to show strong growth in the snack category, flavored pecans have emerged as a consumer favorite, driving intentional and impulse sales at grocers, convenience stores and retailers.

Pecan Nation and South Georgia Pecan Company, both multi-generational Georgia pecan companies, have recently joined forces in a move that will expand production, ensure quality, and increase efficiencies to better serve their retail partners and foster continued growth.

Georgia is the largest supplier of pecans in the nation – producing one-third of the pecans enjoyed in the U.S. each year. Pecan Nation has been a leader in growing and marketing pecans for over five generations. South Georgia Pecan, which operates facilities in Georgia and Texas, is the largest pecan sheller in the world, and has developed proprietary processes for developing and processing flavored pecans.

“Combining forces with South Georgia Pecan is a massive boost for our brand because it enables us to continue evolving and expanding, while remaining true to the rich history of our delicious pecans,” said Will McGehee, Partner, Pecan Nation. “We think this is a model other farming companies will be interested in as it allows each company to bring its strengths to the partnership, creating an operational juggernaut that will allow us to effectively compete with large CPG companies.”

The partnership between these two industry powerhouses creates a best-in-class collaboration where growers are more closely tied to processors to deliver unrivaled quality products to grocery, convenience and hardware stores as well as other untapped channels.

This total category approach expands Pecan Nation’s capabilities, positioning them to proactively introduce a variety of innovative snacks to the category, and more nimbly react to the needs dictated by the market. The added capacity ensures a consistently available supply of healthy, flavorful snacks.

“Since its inception, Pecan Nation has been emphatic about having the most flavorful pecans around,” said Duke Lane III, Partner, Pecan Nation. “Our partnership with South Georgia Pecan allows our brand to remain at the forefront of flavor and innovation while keeping our pecans affordable and always available for consumers.”

“I’ve known the people at Pecan Nation for years and long admired their work and impact on this industry,” said Jeff Worn, President and CEO, South Georgia Pecan Company. “They have an ambitious vision for our industry and Pecan Nation has changed the game by moving pecans from being primarily a baking ingredient to becoming a significant part of the snack category. Our businesses are well aligned with similar business values, and by coming together, we will elevate Pecan Nation into the undisputed leader of pecans for the snack nut category.”

“This alliance underscores Pecan Nation’s approach and exemplifies the collaborative spirit that we bring to our retail and distributing partners every day,” said Nick Quast, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Pecan Nation. “Today we are available across 15,000 outlets, and our partnership with South Georgia Pecan allows us to strategically build out a larger footprint in the snacking category while staying true to the quality of our pecans.”

As the No. 1 snacking pecan brand with a more than 25% three-year CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate), Pecan Nation can be found online and in snacking aisles at thousands of grocery, convenience and hardware stores around the country. The alignment of Pecan Nation and South Georgia Pecan bridges a divide between the grower, processor, and marketer enabling both companies to bring an unsurpassed level of expertise and industry history together under the Pecan Nation name.

For more information on Pecan Nation visit ThePecanNation.com.
For more information on South Georgia Pecan Company visit GeorgiaPecan.com.

About Pecan Nation:
Pecan Nation has been growing, harvesting and cooking America’s native nut for five generations, perfecting our process along the way to bring consumers the tastiest pecans around. We offer our delicious pecans in a variety of sweet and savory flavors as well as multiple convenient pack sizes that everyone can enjoy for any occasion. All products are available at ThePecanNation.com, on Amazon, and in snacking aisles at grocery, convenience and hardware stores around the country.

About South Georgia Pecan:
Celebrating over a century in business, South Georgia Pecan attributes its longevity to continuous adaptation and innovation within our ever-evolving industry. We are more than just pecans; our commitment to excellence, profound industry knowledge, and extensive experience are evident from the initial customer interaction. Tradition resonates deeply in our values, reflected in how we cherish relationships with growers and customers alike. Experience the exceptional flavors and quality of SGP at our website, georgiapecan.com.

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