UPS, FedEx want more of holiday shipping pie

Tis the season for two of the heaviest hitting delivery companies to experience a massive surge in shipping volume.  In the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, both UPS and FedEx will hire thousands of seasonal workers; 55,000 and 20,000 respectively.  These workers will be helping to sort packages, load, and drive the delivery vehicles.  Coming this next Monday, the second Monday in December, a day that is known as “Green Monday” in the e-commerce industry.  It marks the start of one of the busiest shopping weeks of the year; last year $1.1 billion was spent on this day alone.

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As compared to last year, both companies will see a significant increase in shipping volume. UPS will see an increase of about 10% taking the total packages shipped to about 570 million.  As for FedEx, they will see an increase near 13% for a total of 280 million shipments.  Although these numbers may seem like an overwhelming amount to deliver in the roughly 5 weeks it is not enough for the big two.  Both companies are employing differing strategies in order to attract more business.  UPS has its My Choice service which allows users to reieve alerts before their package arrives to ensure they are home to collect the package.  In addition, if the user knows they will not be home they are able to easily reschedule the delivery with this service.  FedEx will be working with targets in the e-commerce industry to help online retailers make shipments high in volume and low in weight to the residential customer.  They will pick, sort, and deliver packages to the post office for delivery.

Both companies operate very complex supply chains so let’s hope that they work flawlessly and everything gets to where it needs to be.

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Chicago Orders Electric-Powered Heavy Trash Trucks

The “Go Green” initiative has made great strides in the recent years by instituting solar panels, using wind power, developing hybrid cars, and now, implementing electric powered trash trucks.  In the past few days, the City of Chicago has ordered 20 heavy-duty electric powered garbage trucks, making them the first in the nation.  The electric trucks run almost silently, release practically no emissions, and are expected to cut operating costs by at least 50%.

The electric trash trucks will be the largest all-electric street vehicle in the U.S. according to Dave Lopina, dealer of Cumberland Service Center of Chicago.  Each truck will consist of 10 battery packs for a total of 200 kilowatt hours and a range of 60 miles.  The batteries will be charged at night and are also boosted by regenerative braking that will reduce wear on brakes as well as, if not better than hybrids.  According to the contract, the cost of the first vehicle breaks down to about $1.3 million.  The cost per truck then gradually reduces with the first 10 vehicles bought.  After which, each one is priced at about $500,000, which is about twice the cost of a current diesel powered truck.  However, low operating costs will pay back the investment in a reasonable amount of time.  The trucks which were once only meant to keep the streets clean, will now create greater cleanliness in the air as well.

Garbage trucks are just one example of vehicles that are compatible with the electric system.  Any off-the-shelf motors and batteries could use the same system as well.  The Crane Carrier Corp has a 20-passenger shuttle bus operating in the San Francisco Bay area that is using the electric system.  The operating cost of the electric run shuttle is 10 cents per mile compared to 80 cents per mile for a diesel chassis. By implementing more electric carriers, we could save a great deal of money as well as greatly benefit our environment.


Norfolk Southern Opens a New Intermodal Transportation Facility

On October 17th, 2012 the Norfolk Southern opened the Birmingham Regional Intermodal Facility in McCalla, Alabama. The facility falls in the Crescent Corridor, which is a highly utilized rail path, stretching across many states from the Northeast all the way to Mexico. The facility cost Norfolk Southern about $97.5 Million and is about 316 acres.

The environmental impacts of the efficient Crescent Corridor in addition to the jobs that are created from the project are unparallelled to any other major intermodal infrastructure project. The facility is the second of four facilities that will complete the crescent. The first was built in Memphis, and two more to come in Charlotte as well as Greencastle, Pa. Norfolk Southern is able to provide rates that are very competitive to trucking rates and opens up their service area to ship freight to Mexico as well as the Northeast.

Alabama natives are very optimistic about this facility as it will greatly aid the existing businesses as well as attract new businesses to the area by being such an easily accessible transportation hub. In a time where many states struggle to fight unemployment and strive to bring jobs to their state, any large addition such as this is welcomed with open hands. The station is priceless to the area of Alabama, the businesses there, as well as the rest of the areas that have improved transportation accessibility due to the construction of the intermodal facility.


The FAA’s Ambitious NextGen Program Gets Big Data Boost

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is currently working on a new program known as NextGen.  NextGen is a satellite-based traffic management system that is expected to replace the country’s aging ground-based radar traffic control system.  The satellite-based traffic system uses GPS technology to shorten routes, save time and fuel, reduce traffic delays, increase capacity and permit controllers to monitor and manage aircraft with greater safety.  The impact of this is that planes will be able to fly closer together, take more direct routes and avoid runway delays.  This will benefit everyone involved in air transportation such as the aircraft companies, the flying public, the global economy and the environment.

We have already seen the positive effects of implementing NextGen.  The majority of the cost savings will stem from lower fuel costs, more efficient routes and direct landings.  NextGen is planning on being implemented by the year 2025.  At Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, Arizona, two carriers are using NextGen technology.  Between only two carriers they are predicting to save a combined $6.4 million just this year.  The FAA states that at any given time there are over 7,000 planes in the air.  The total predicted savings through the year 2035 is predicted at an unbelievable $897 billion!



Air transport of dangerous lithium ion batteries investigated

This news article is in regards to air carrier safety regulations and the safety of the pilots and crew.  Recently, batteries used in electric bicycles were imported into Canada by plane and proceeded to explode while on the FedEx truck.  A separate instance was in Kentucky where 52 batteries were incorrectly packaged before being shipped to Canada.  This topic is very relevant because Dr. Battery, the shipper, is allegedly in violation of the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act.  Charges against Dr. Battery are pending further investigation.  Additionally, think about how many products you own that use lithium ion batteries; now consider how these batteries get to where they need to go.  If things aren’t done safely the potential problems can be catastrophic.  An example of this is when a plane carrying 81,000 thousand lithium ion batteries left Dubai and caught fire mid-air resulting in a crash which killed both pilots.

In the case of Dr. Battery, an investigator asked to see their certificate for carrying dangerous good and supposedly it was only valid for road transport.  Come January 2013 the International Civil Aviation Organization will be setting tighter regulations for the shipping and packaging of lithium ion batteries.  On that note, the pilots who fly these cargo planes are also looking for tighter regulations.  These would include limiting the number of batteries per plane and notifying the crew of what’s on board.  In many instances, the crews are not told what they are shipping, just to get it there.  What the pilots would like to see is identification of all the batteries and the exact number so the pilots can rest assured that their cargo plane’s fire suppression system can handle the load.

They say the safest way to carry lithium ion batteries is in a passengers pocket as of now. I doubt this is the last we will see of this topic in the coming future.