A Light at the End of the Tunnel? Some Labor Negotiations Show Promise

Between a tentative agreement on SurePost package sizes and continued progress on contentious supplemental contracts, things are showing promise between UPS and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Over at FedEx, a tentative deal with the Airline Pilots Association is putting shareholder fears to rest. Though these deals may seem like small potatoes compared to blockbuster national charter negotiations, they serve as signs of hope for worried parcel shippers.

Despite the rosy news out of the parcel world, things aren’t going quite so smoothly elsewhere in the transportation industry. Labor tensions are rising on the West Coast following headline-grabbing disruptions, and experts are predicting restructuring in the face of a stagnant manufacturing sector. Whether staring into the abyss or searching for the light at the end of the tunnel, we’ve collected ten headlines making waves in the global transportation industry. 

UPS, Teamsters Reach Tentative Deal on Package Size for Key Service

As negotiations between the Teamsters and UPS continue on a national level, the two sides have reached a tentative agreement regarding the size of UPS SurePost packages, which use the U.S. Postal Service for final-mile deliveries. The deal calls for the upper limit of SurePost packages to come down from its current 10 pounds or three cubic feet, though the final size guidance has yet to be released. 

According to an email sent to Supply Chain Dive by Teamsters spokesperson Kara Deniz, “These tentative commitments from UPS would increasingly redirect more SurePost packages to bargaining unit regular package car drivers over the life of the contract.”

Following the tentative agreement, UPS and the Teamsters continue negotiating the remaining supplemental contracts with workers in Louisville, Ky., and Northern California. 

FedEx Reaches Tentative Deal with Airline Pilots Association

FedEx Corp and the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) recently announced that the groups had reached a tentative agreement on a new contract. If union members approve, the contract will ensure that FedEx customers see no service interruptions due to negotiations. The tentative agreement follows a recent strike authorization by the ALPA.

“We are pleased to have reached a tentative agreement with our pilots as we continue delivering outstanding service to our customers around the world,” FedEx said in a May 30 statement

Amid Calls for Sustainability, FedEx Launches New Emissions Counter

In a May 24 press release, FedEx announced the launch of a new tool for sustainably-minded shippers: FedEx Sustainability Insights. Rolled out amid ever-growing calls for sustainability in the supply chain, the program will help shippers calculate emissions for individual tracking numbers and FedEx accounts. 

“Through innovations like FedEx Sustainability Insights, FedEx is empowering customers to access the information they need as part of our mutual pursuit of a more sustainable future,” said Brie Carere, FedEx Executive Vice President and Chief Customer Officer.

Amid Debt Ceiling Uncertainty, Benchmark Diesel Continues to Fall

The benchmark diesel price, used to calculate most fuel surcharges, declined for the sixth consecutive week at the end of May. At $3.855/gallon on May 30, the decline was a 2.8% decrease from the previous week. 

Despite the trend, experts pointed out the drop may have resulted from the broader economic uncertainty gripping the country due to the debt ceiling fight in the nation's capital. According to  FreightWaves: “The drop in the DOE/EIA price came on a day when oil prices across the board experienced a significant downturn, for reasons that appeared to be tied completely to economic uncertainty over whether the debt ceiling deal negotiated over the weekend would hold.” 

As Labor Tensions Rise, West Coast Disruptions Grab Headlines

Several West Coast ports saw their operations adversely affected by labor disruptions on Friday, June 3. While reporting from Supply Chain Dive ties the disruptions to unfilled positions at terminals, the Pacific Maritime Association insisted that the International Longshore and Warehouse Union was responsible for the issues. Despite the accusation, representatives of the ILWU have stated that the disruptions did not constitute a work stoppage. 

The stoppage comes as tensions over labor negotiations continue to escalate between the PMA, which represents the interests of powerful carriers and port operators, and the ILWU. 

Walmart Takes Strides to Reduce Waste in E-Commerce Packaging

In hopes of cutting down on packaging waste associated with e-commerce operations, Walmart announced in a June 1 press release that it would replace plastic mailers with paper mailers. Additionally, the company announced that it would “rightsize” packaging, ensuring maximum efficiency in e-commerce. 

The decision to reinvest in sustainable e-commerce operations comes amid growing consumer pressure for eco-friendly delivery options. “Customers have told us how excited they are about these enhancements to make it easier for them to make more sustainable choices that support the planet and the next generation,” said Karisa Sprague, senior vice president of Fulfillment Network Operations for Walmart U.S.

UberEats Partners With Serve Robotics to Bolster Autonomous Sidewalk Fleet

In a May 30 press release, Serve Robotics announced a commercial agreement with transportation technology company Uber. According to the press release, Serve Robotics will provide approximately 2,000 sidewalk delivery robots for U.S. UberEats markets. 

“This partnership is a major step towards mass commercialization of robotics for autonomous delivery, and it is a testament to the success of our partnership,” said Dr. Ali Kashani, co-founder and CEO of Serve Robotics. "We are excited to continue our work with Uber to bring this innovative technology to more cities across the country."

As Manufacturing Sinks, Experts Predict Grim Q2 Earnings Season

Faced with stagnant consumer demand, experts warn that layoffs and closures are likely inevitable for the U.S. manufacturing sector. “You can only paint so many factory floors and clean so many machines when it’s time to make the decision,” the Institute for Supply Management’s Manufacturing Business Survey Committee Chair Tim Fiore said in an interview with Supply Chain Dive. “We’re probably setting ourselves up here where we have to see new orders coming back, or Q2 earnings season is going to be one that is an announcement of restructures.”

Geodis Expands South Eastern Footprint With Southern Companies Purchase

In a May 23 announcement, French logistics provider Geodis revealed its recent acquisition of Florida-based Southern Companies. The purchase will ensure Geodis expanded terminal access at crowded Florida ports such as Everglades and Miami while helping the company expand service throughout the U.S. Southeast. 

“Southern Companies has been a leader in drayage services, from warehousing to trucking, for nearly six decades and operates in ports that are critical to our clients,” said Mike Honious, GEODIS in Americas President & CEO. “From their people and culture to their expertise and capabilities, Southern Companies is an ideal fit for GEODIS and aligns perfectly with our Americas growth strategy.

California State Assembly Votes Against Driverless Trucks

In a blow to autonomous truck manufacturers, the California State Assembly voted on May 31 to ban driverless trucks from California roadways. The law, which has yet to be passed by the state’s Senate, would insist that all vehicles – even those equipped with fully autonomous capabilities – have a safety driver present, according to FreightWaves.  

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