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Supply Chain by the Numbers

- May 11, 2017 -

  Supply Chain by the Numbers for Week of May 11, 2017

US Manufacturing Jobs Keep Rising; Forget Global Warming, Global Cooling May be Here Soon; US Truckload Rates Continue to Head Lower; Will New Fuel Cell Truck Turn Current OEMs into Kodaks?



Believe it or not, that was the number of US manufacturing job openings in March, the Department of Labor reported Tuesday, matching the highest level since April of 2006. Actual hiring in the manufacturing sector also jumped to 322,000, a level not seen since the early months of the recession, right before manufacturing hiring fell off a cliff. Monthly hires were also up nearly 25% since last March. What's more, 922,000 manufacturing hires were made during the first three months of this year – up notably from the 828,000 jobs filled made over the same period in 2016 and the best figures since 2008. Slowly but surely, US manufacturing may be coming back. Strong demand for workers from domestic manufacturers is believed to be partially driving the strong jobs openings number. But a skills mismatch - meaning a lack of qualified employees to operate what can be advanced or complex manufacturing equipment – is also believed to be a factor. This is something the US has to find some way to address to stoke the economy, the manufacturing sector, and job growth.



That is the number of years in long term weather cycles driven by the level of solar activity – and the Earth just entered a new such cycle in 2014, according to climatologists Global Weather Oscillations, a UK-based organization that makes a wide variety of serious predictions about weather. The expected result: we are about to enter, starting as early as 2019, a prolonged period of global cooling, not warming, and it is likely to be severe and last for a number of decades, Global Weather Oscillations says. In fact, says the organization's David Dilley, entire major cities - such as London, Paris and New York - could experience to sub-zero (we assume Celcius) temperatures, ice and snow for months, dramatically changing living conditions all likely resulting in millions of death. In 2015, professor Valentina Zharkova of the UK's Northumbria University said research has cracked the code for predicting solar cycles - and that between 2020 and 2030 a pair of solar cycles will in effect cancel each other out, just as opposite radio waves can do, greatly reducing heat from the sun. But not to fear, says the Met Office, the UK's governmental weather service, which argues a new mini-ice age is a "worst case scenario," and that while temperatures are likely to dip a bit in coming years, it will do little to offset man-made global warming.



That is the expected range in kilometers for a coming truck from a company called Nikola Motor Company based on a single filling of the hydrogen fuel cell system that powers an electric vehicle. That stat came to mind because at a recent conference, Nikola founder and CEO Trevor Milton provocatively compared today's truck manufacturers to Eastman Kodak, which had more than a century of tremendous success before meeting a rapid decline in the face of new digital technologies. One of Kodak's main mistakes was that it focused solely on an existing product without considering a changing environment, Milton told the crowd. "In the event of a war, for example, a liter of diesel could reach five or seven dollars ... You'll never have to pay that kind of money to run the Nikola One" tractor, Milton said. He added that "Other manufacturers are trying to meet the new emissions standards by sacrificing torque and power, but drivers do not want to drive a truck that does not have power." Nikola says its truck will deliver 1,000 horsepower. The first commercial tractor from Nikola is planned to be on the road in 2021, the Utah-based company says. Might it be a game changer?



That's the percentage decline in new contract rates in Q1 at the truckload segment of JBHunt, according to the company's recent quarterly earnings release. That was basically the same story for all the other truckload carriers we follow, as reported in our Q1 2017 review of TL results and trends earlier this week. For example, Knight Transportation reported it saw a 2.3% decline in its loaded rate per mile. The Cass Linehaul Index, which measures US per mile truckload rates before fuel surcharges and other accessorials, was down 0.3%, 0.8% and 0.9% in January, February and March, respectively, making it an incredible 13 straight months of year-over-year declines here before the April results are released in a week or so – and we're guessing the index will see its 14th consecutive month of declining rates. Interestingly, Swift Transportation said that "the truckload industry continues to be plagued with excess carrier capacity for the current demand environment, prolonging the competitive pricing situation that existed throughout 2016." Good news for shippers and bad news for carriers, though bad news for all in a sense that the low volumes are reflective of a weak underlying US economy.

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