Supply Chain by the Numbers

- April 13, 2018 -

  Supply Chain by the Numbers for Week of April 13, 2018

US Truckload Rate Growth Accelerating; New Find May End China Rare Earth Metal Dominance; Most US Distribution Center Space Outdated, CBRE Research Finds; Oil Prices Way Up, but Maybe not for Long



That was the whopping increase in the March Cass Linehaul Index, which measures US truckload pricing before fuel surcharges and any other accessorials, as reported last week by freight bill payer Cass Information Systems. That was the largest year over year gain in the index since January 2015. After being negative for 13 months in a row (from March 2016 through March 2017), the Index has not only been positive now for twelve months in a row, but pricing for trucking continues to gain momentum. The recent month's gains come after increases of 6.2%, 6.5% and 6.5% in January, February and March, respectively. And all that before the enforcement of the mandate for electronic logging devices (ELDs) that began in earnest starting in April and which will contribute to keeping rates up by reducing effective capacity by eliminating the possibility of cheating on hours of service logs.


16 Million

That is how tons of rare-earth oxides are estimated to be located in a roughly 965-square-mile seabed near the remote Minamitori Island, about 1,150 miles southeast of Tokyo. That is according to a new study published this week in Scientific Reports. That find, for example, may hold some 780 years' worth of the global supply of yttrium, 620 years' worth of europium, 420 years' worth of terbium and 730 years' worth of dysprosium – all examples of the rare earth metals that are critical to producing a variety of technology, aerospace, and industrial products. Extracting them would likely be costly, but resource-poor Japan is pushing ahead with research in hopes of getting more control over next-generation technologies and weapon systems. Nearly all rare earth metals now come from China, a situation the US Department of Energy and the European Union have issued warnings about recently, as China's own consumption of the rare earths increases, bringing concerns China could refuse to sell the metals outside the country for its own advantage - or as a killer move in a trade war with the US.



That is the average age in years of US distribution centers, according to a new report from real estate firm CBRE. The average age of DCs went from 26 to 34 in the past decade despite the construction during that time of about 1 billion square feet of new DC space, CBRE research found. Those new facilities accounted for about 11% of the 9.1 billion square feet of DCs in the United States. The problem: facilities built before the mid-2000s tend to have low ceilings, small footprints, uneven floors and inadequate docking, CBRE concluded after analyzing data from 56 major US markets. DCs with those specs can't meet the needs of today's shippers, especially for ecommerce fulfillment, CBRE says. DCs are older in the Northeast and newer in the West and South, CBRE found. Northern New Jersey was the oldest with an average age of 57, while the Inland Empire area in California was the newest with an average age of 20 years. Put all that together, and it is likely to mean good times for DC construction for some time – and higher rates.



That's about how much a barrel of US West Texas crude was fetching on the futures market at week's end, as new tensions in the Middle East sent prices up 2% last week. That marked the highest price for US oil since late 2014. That of course is sending gasoline and diesel fuel prices higher, and combined with rising per mile truckload carriage rates is putting huge pressure on transportation budgets for many companies. But there is hope the trend in oil will reverse. In a monthly report Tuesday, the Energy Information Administration raised its forecast on 2019 U.S. crude output by 1.5% to 11.44 million barrels a day. "With the U.S. oil production set to rise further in the coming months, the global oil market will likely remain amply supplied in the long-term. We therefore think that oil prices will struggle to rise significantly further, although in the short-term price spikes are possible given the heightened possibility of military action in Syria," said analyst Fawad Razaqzada of Forex last week. But if missiles start flying, watch out.