Tech group calls for national road-user fee

national road user-fee

The federal government should be taking advantage of GPS technology to establish a national "road user charge" (RUC) system for cars and commercial trucks to replace fuel taxes, a tech-based policy group contends.

The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation's (ITIF) is taking its proposal to Capitol Hill on April 25 to try to influence lawmakers as Congress debates how to pay for highway infrastructure.

According to the plan, "A Policy User's Guide to Road User Charges," passing legislation to implement a national RUC system would require a transition period of at least three to five years as automakers develop a standard technology, and as the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) funds the development of a national payment system. "During this period, electric-vehicle adoption will grow, further weakening the gas tax as a sustainable funding method for the highway trust fund," the ITIF plan states.

The most recent calls for "user-pay" based infrastructure funding - such as a vehicle mileage tax - started in January after the new Congress settled in and fresh debate began over reauthorization of the FAST Act, the-multi-year surface transportation bill set to expire in September 2020.

While House of Representatives' Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter Defazio (D-OR) has agreed to consider user fees as a long-term option, he supports raising the gas tax as the most efficient way to address the depleting Highway Trust Fund, which is due to run out of money by 2021.

According to the ITIF, while the trucking industry may not be able to pass along all the costs associated with an RUC system to customers in the short run, "truckers should be able to do so in the moderate term and long term if the fees are stable or changed with sufficient advance notice."

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Driver Training Center in Mexicali Offers Greater U.S.-Mexican Highway Safety

Driver Center in Mexicali

On April 6, officials from the municipality of Mexicali, CANACAR (Camara Nacional del Autotransporte de Carga, Mexico's counterpart to the American Trucking Association), Cecati 84 (workforce/training agency for the State of Baja California), Kenworth Mexicana, and U.S.A. de C.V. a subsidiary of truck manufacturer Kenworth Trucks, gathered in Mexicali, Baja California for the inauguration of a new heavy truck driver training center.

John Kearney, CEO of Advanced Training Systems LLC (ATS), which supplied CECATI 84 with 2 Fleetmaster - KW 680 motion-based simulation technology and ATS's Quadrant Driver Training Methodology for the new center, and Enrique Mar, COO, ATS, issued a joint statement that "This center provides dynamic world class simulator-based effective training for new drivers. It will mean better prepared drivers resulting in safer deliveries and highways on both sides of the border."

The director for the new Mexicali center CECATI 84, Jesus Omar Bon Campos, notes that its training will be provided through the ATS Quadrant methodology of integrating "adaptive training" into a time-tested three-element approach: instructor-led training, computer-based training, and simulator-based training. He pointed out that aspiring drivers can learn the basics of driving, as well as develop the skills necessary to deal with adverse weather and road conditions— before boarding a real truck. They have five simulators, two trailers, and a maneuvering track of 20 hectares (about 50 acres).

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Nikola Rolls Out Trucks for Zero-Emissions Future

Nikola Trucks

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Nikola Motor Co. CEO Trevor Milton, 28 months after unveiling a prototype Class 8 sleeper, presented to about 2,000 attendees and a global audience watching online two heavy-duty trucks and three other specialty vehicles he said are ready to spark a zero-emissions future.

The heavy-duty trucks that drove out from behind the curtains one at a time, amid swirling lights and loud music as people put their cellphones on video, were the stars of the event.

As a bright red Nikola Two day cab took center stage, Milton said, "This is a real truck. This is a real [hydrogen] fuel cell," seeming to speak to those who doubted the emerging truck maker would ever get this far.

Nikola introduced a hydrogen fuel cell Class 8 prototype Dec. 1, 2016, in Salt Lake City, its former headquarters. It is now based in Phoenix.

The day after the presentations here, Nikola offered the public a first look at the trucks as well as two zero-emissions power sport vehicles and another one designed for special forces operations, which included the ability to be operated remotely like a drone.

"We want to transform everything about the transportation industry. With Nikola's vision, the world will be cleaner, safer and healthier," Milton said.

The flat-front Nikola Tre, bound for Europe, and the Nikola Two day cab will be available either with a hydrogen-electric fuel cell or battery-electric power. As battery-electric vehicles, customers can order either one with 500 kilowatt-hours, 750 kWh or 1 megawatt hour battery-pack options.

The U.S. truck is slated to go into initial production in 2022, after field trials. The Tre is expected to reach fleets by 2023, although Milton said during a later press conference he is looking to partner with a European truck maker to reach that market.

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DOT sends HOS rule change to White House for review

DOT Changes Rules

Under current HOS rules, drivers can be on the road no more than 11 hours in a 14-hour period. If they stop to avoid rush hour or are stuck in a port waiting for a container, the clock on this 14-hour period keeps going.

Drivers want more flexibility and the ability to stop the clock on the 14-hour period if they take a break. This has become even more of an issue for drivers since the use of electronic logging devices (ELD) became mandatory.

"No one is looking for more drive time," Brian Brase, a heavy hauler out of Pennsylvania who helped plan a protest of HOS rules, told Supply Chain Dive earlier this year. "They just want some flexibility in it."

An early study on the effect of the ELD mandate showed it increased HOS compliance. The share of inspections that resulted in HOS violations fell from 6% before the mandate to 3.8% during a light enforcement period and finally to 2.5% during a strict enforcement period.

The DOT published an Advanced NPRM last August to get input on HOS and "received more than 5,200 comments, which have been carefully noted and considered," Chao said. This Advanced NPRM continues to receive comments.

"HOS needs more flexibility to allow for bad weather, delays at shippers and receivers, and traffic situations (wrecks, delays, construction, etc.)," a commenter named Sean Wright posted yesterday.

Many of the comments focus on a rule that requires drivers to take a 30-minute break after eight hours of driving. Peter Dombrowski, in a comment posted yesterday, suggested ending the 30-minute break requirement, saying drivers already take these breaks throughout the day.

Still, others are happy with the way things are: "Please keep the hos as is! Elogs are keeping companies from working drivers 18 hours a day," Robert Parker posted in February.

The details of the NPRM won't be known until its posted on the Federal Register. There is no set timeline for when this might happen or how long OMB will spend reviewing it.

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‘Confidence in Mexico’: U.S. and Mexican top brass to talk business, border

USA Mexico Trade

MERIDA, Mexico (Reuters) - A meeting of U.S. and Mexican government and business leaders on Thursday aims to shore up investor confidence in Mexico and defuse U.S. President Donald Trump's threats to close their shared border if illegal immigration is not halted

Part of regular business forum the U.S.-Mexico CEO Dialogue, the talks in Mexico coincide with renewed tensions over trade and the border after two years of uncertainty sparked by Trump's push to rework the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

They also give Mexico an opportunity to address investor concerns about how President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has run Latin America's No. 2 economy since taking office in December.

"We want the American investors that visit our country to go back home feeling confident about their investments here," said Moises Kalach, a top executive in the CCE business lobby, which represented Mexico's private sector at the NAFTA talks.

Lopez Obrador and officials including his foreign minister and energy minister, plus U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue, are scheduled to attend the two-day meeting in the city of Merida.

Among investors due to attend is Larry Fink, chief executive of the world's largest asset manager BlackRock Inc.

The leftist Lopez Obrador took power vowing to fight entrenched corruption, crime, inequality and poverty, scourges that cost Mexico billions of dollars every year.

He has said he wants to boost both private and public investment, but some of his early decisions, such as canceling a partially-built $13 billion Mexico City airport and steps to rein in the autonomy of regulatory bodies, have spooked investors.

Questions remain over the future of trade in the region because the deal agreed to replace NAFTA, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), has yet to be ratified.

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Delays at U.S.-Mexico border crossing hits autos, trucks still lining up

border slowdown

CIUDAD JUAREZ/MEXICO CITY -- Long delays at the U.S.-Mexico border crossing for goods destined for American plants and consumers are hitting the U.S. auto industry, and the gridlock reduced by half the number of northbound trucks that crossed the entry point last week

Washington's decision to move some 750 agents from commercial to immigration duties to handle a surge in families seeking asylum in the United States has triggered the delays at crucial ports on a border that handles $1.7 billion in daily trade.

"The situation in Ciudad Juarez is very serious because these auto parts go to plants in the United States and obviously they put at risk the operation in the United States," Eduardo Solis, the president of the Mexican Auto Industry Association (AMIA), said on Monday.

The North American auto industry is highly integrated and many car parts cross the border several times before they are finally installed on a vehicle.

Seventeen 17 hours before the crossing to El Paso even opened on Monday morning, trucks were already lining up in Ciudad Juarez to avoid the fate of some 7,500 trailers that failed to cross last week, said Manuel Sotelo, vice president at the Mexican National Chamber of Freight Transport's north division.

That is roughly half the number of trucks per week that usually cross there, carrying everything from car and plane parts to refrigerators, washing machines, TVs, cellphones and computers.

"This is not normal. We had never seen this before in Ciudad Juarez," said Sotelo.

Despite elevated costs, some Mexican exporters are turning to air freight to avoid the mile-long lines at the border.

"We're using charter (planes) which cost between $35,000 and $100,000 depending on the volume and merchandise," said Pedro Chavira, who heads the manufacturing industry chamber INDEX in Ciudad Juarez.

Air freight is typically a last resort used by automakers and suppliers to get parts to an assembly plant for just-in-time delivery.

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Ventus Global Logistics operates out of every port in Mexico and we can reroute your goods through other ports even with a border slowdown or shutdown. In addition to land freight, our air and ocean freight services cover both consolidated shipments (LCL) and containers (FCL). Call us today for a FREE quote or fill out our online form.

Border wait times swell amid customs officer shuffle to handle migrant crisis

border slowdown

NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico - U.S. President Donald Trump hasn't followed through on his threat to shut the border with Mexico, but one crossing here that connects this Mexican city with Laredo, Texas provided a glimpse of the chaos and economic disruptions that it would likely ensue.

Lines of 18-wheeled semi-trucks carrying auto parts, produce and other goods for U.S. consumers and businesses stretched more than six miles into Mexico Wednesday after the Trump administration shifted Customs and Border Protection agents from Laredo and other Texas border crossings to El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley to deal with the flood of asylum seekers from Central America. Waits to cross the World Trade Bridge, which normally run 30 minutes, reached more than three hours.

The impact of the delays was being felt on both sides of the Rio Grande, with those who depend on U.S.-Mexico trade barely able to consider what would happen if the Trump closed the border. Ernesto Gaytan, president of the Laredo company Super Transport International, which has 200 trucks on the American side of the border and 300 more on the Mexican side, said he couldn't put a number on it, but knew the delays were costing him money. A complete border shutdown, he estimated, would cost his company $200,000 a day.

On the other side of the border, Roberto Hernandez was idling at the back of the line with hundreds of 18-wheelers ahead of him. Hernandez doesn't get paid by the hour, but rather by the number of loads he delivers.

Usually, he makes four cross-border runs a day, earning the equivalent of about $15 per load. But he was only able to make two trips on Tuesday and his is daily pay fell to $30 from $60.

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Ventus Global Logistics operates out of every port in Mexico and we can reroute your goods through other ports even with a border slowdown or shutdown. In addition to land freight, our air and ocean freight services cover both consolidated shipments (LCL) and containers (FCL). Call us today for a FREE quote or fill out our online form.

Blockchain can help reduce large-scale food recalls due to contamination fears

blockchain

Henry Avocado Corporation, a California-based avocado company, recalled shipments early this week that it had sent out to six states in the U.S., after fears of its avocados being contaminated with bacteria that could cause major health risks. The bacterium under the scanner is Listeria monocytogenes, a microorganism that can cause severe infections in children, those who are immunity-deficient and older people, which could sometimes end up being a fatal affliction.

The company in its statement mentioned that it voluntarily recalled the avocado shipments sold in bulk in retail stores, as a routine government inspection in its California packing facility tested positive for the bacteria. The company has exerted caution in removing the crates off shelves, even though there have been no reported cases of illness caused by consuming avocados from this specific batch.

Henry Avocado has recalled its California-grown conventional and organic avocados that were packed in California, from the states of Arizona, California, Florida, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Wisconsin. However, avocados that were imported from Mexico and distributed by the company are not affected and continue to be sold at retail outlets.

In a similar incident last week, Arkansas-based Tyson Foods had recalled 69,000 pounds of chicken strips after a couple of consumers reported that they found metal pieces in the product. Though this was an isolated incident, the company had to recall all the items that were produced in a single plant in Rogers, Arkansas, that included 65,313 pounds of Tyson's fully cooked chicken strips and crispy chicken strips that were sold in 25-ounce bags. The company also recalled 3,780 pounds of fully cooked chicken breast strips that were sold in 20-pound boxes.

Though Henry Avocado and Tyson Foods deal with two distinct food products and had completely different reasons for recalling their produce, the extent of the recall cannot be ignored. Discarding hundreds of pounds worth of consumables for a few pounds of contaminated items is highly inefficient and if done frequently, could end up affecting a company's bottom line.

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The retail apocalypse, omnichannel and supply chain analytics

supply chain analytics

Three of the most important themes in retail right now are the retail apocalypse, omnichannel and supply chain data analytics. In our view, this is not a coincidence: the industry is abuzz with talk about the tools that will bring retail into the future and improve customer experiences; meanwhile, we're bearing witness to the destruction of numerous brands that have failed to adapt. In this piece, we explore how these three themes are interwoven in an attempt to articulate exactly what the challenges and opportunities are in contemporary retail.

What is the retail apocalypse? CB Insights, the leading intelligence platform and media company on high-growth private companies, has studied the phenomenon better than any other company. The 'retail apocalypse' is a catch-all term for the nearly 80 major retail bankruptcies since 2015. This year has already seen bankruptcies of nine major brands – Beauty Brands, Charlotte Russe, Diesel, FullBeauty Brands, Gymboree, IMS (Innovative Mattress Solutions), Payless Shoesource, Shopko and Things Remembered.

More illuminating than the number and names of the restructuring companies, though, is the insight into the reasons why the companies failed. David's Bridal cited its struggle to keep up with online competitors when it filed Chapter 11 in November 2018; the month prior Sears pointed to the challenge of personalizing the customer experience and improving operational efficiency; in August 2018 Brookstone hired liquidators to close 100 stores due to declining mall foot traffic.

"Retailers who survive the e-commerce disruption by executing on omnichannel will do so by executing a fulfillment strategy that is as nimble as possible," said Chris Kirchner, CEO of Slync. "Survivors will have to find solutions that provide real-time supply chain data in order to balance competitive threats and ever-shifting consumer demands."

In general, companies that recently expanded their brick-and-mortar footprints were the worst off. Doubling-down on physical retail stores indicated a lack of commitment to e-commerce and blindness to the fact that physical locations were less and less productive. Plus, the debt used to finance growth in real estate holdings quickly became burdensome.

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