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回顾2014年的美国物流产业(武立波译)


2014年还未结束,但是整个美国国内形势已经明了,不会有太大的变化。在岁末到来之际,我们来回顾一下美国物流产业一年中所发生的主要事件。
1、严酷寒冬造成的公路交通堵塞、铁路铁轨损坏和铁路网的各种问题,致使公路货运延迟发货,并出现安全隐患;使铁路系统出现了持续至今的铁路网拥堵、不计其数的服务中断事故等。虽然下半年以来情况有所好转,但这些问题给各行各业带来了灾难性的影响。
2、正如人们意料中的那样,驾驶员短缺情况现在依然存在。虽然许多大企业出台了增加工资和优惠待遇的激励计划,但是在短时间内还无法解决这个问题。业内的有关人士说这个难题几十年来一直困扰着物流行业。工资收入低和行业的管制,使物流行业持续面对着这样一个行业的最基本问题。因为缺少足够数量的司机,而出现了资产闲置,进而造成了整个行业运力不足的局面。
3、公路运力不足的问题贯穿着整个2014年。造成这种状况的原因很多,其中包括物流企业亟需解决的司机不足的问题,并应对政府规定的服务小时数和CAS标准等方面的管制等。运力不足造成了托运人“争抢”车辆的现象。表现在2014年即期货运市场量和价格的明显上涨。另外,FTR (美国的feature 评估公司的缩写)注意到,目前美国的车辆利用水平依然还未达到历史最好水准,也就是说任何经济的进一步增长和相应的货运业务需求增加都会加剧运力的紧张,从而导致运价的进一步上扬。不管怎么说,这都不是人们所希望看到的情况。
4、虽然美国结束了中期选举,但美国新通过的联邦长期运输法案的前景并不乐观。尽管对MAP-21授权法案的拨款可以保留到2015年,不过可以肯定的是,这个未来长期法案的前景是比较暗淡的。这在很大程度可以归结于资金来源问题,即:在未来高速公路和运输基础设施投资中需要的资金和实际运作中内提供的资金金额存在着明显缺口。而这种缺口不仅仅是简单的数量不足。虽然可能性很小,但不排除我们的当选领导人可能会汇聚其前任留下的各项政策,从而一次性地提高联邦汽油税。
5、电子商务业务增长对供应链的冲击已经成为一个新常态,对作为发货人的零售企业来说尤其如此。随着众多的消费者开始在网上购物,导致电子商务的业务量急剧增加,这就要求供应链把握订单活动情况、顾客的购买习惯和供应链的速度。去年圣诞节假日期间,电子商务礼品订货交货方面就存在一定数量的问题。今年,物流企业从去年的业务工作中汲取教训,改进规划和预测工作,以确保礼品能在节假日期间内准确、快速到达目的地。
6、西海岸港口拥堵继续影响着货物的运输,特别是对进口货物物流有着显著影响。美国太平洋海事协会与码头和仓储工会之间就新劳动合同的争执、季节性需求增加、集装箱车辆底盘短缺、运输网络阻塞和前面提及的司机短缺等都是西海岸港口拥堵的原因。如果将供应链、物流劳动生产率和业务量三者联系起来看,应该肯定的说2014年的整个物流行业远远没有得到应有的发展。至于说物流行业应如何理顺这些方面的关系、继续前行,还有待观望。所以以后当人们讨论的主要话题涉及物流行业的时候,谈话内容就不再会乏味和沉闷了。

 

Looking back at 2014

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor

December 18, 2014 

While 2014 is not a done deal just yet, it is clearly in the home stretch and will most certainly be there by the time you are reading this column in print. 

That said, I thought it would be a good time to review the year was, or, is quickly coming to a close anyhow, by taking a look at some of the major stories or themes that occurred or are still ongoing as of press time. Given this finite space, not every single major story may be included so please accept my apologies in advance if you are looking for something that is not here. 

So, without further adieu, here are some of the biggest logistics-related stories of 2014: 

-The harsh winter weather wreaked havoc on various fronts in the form of closed-down roads, which resulted in late shipments and safety issues, as well as impaired train tracks and network issues, with rail service suffering to a degree through much of the rest of the year as carriers dealt with clogged networks and myriad service-related disruptions, although things appeared to get better over the second half of the year;

-Not surprisingly, the driver shortage situation continued to be a major problem with no immediate end in sight, even as many major carriers rolled out increased pay package and incentive-based programs. Many industry observers told Newsroom Notes that the current situation is as dire as it has been in decades. Along with low pay and the regulatory drag on the sector, the industry continues to face a fundamental problem in that without a sufficient amount of drivers, assets sit idly and, in turn, help to create a tight capacity environment;

-Over the road capacity has been a major topic through 2014 for many reasons, especially ones having to do with regulations like hours-of-service and CSA, as well as the driver shortage. This tight capacity has seen shippers scrambling for trucks, which has been evidenced by significant gains in 2014 spot market volumes and rates. What’s more with FTR recently noting that current truck utilization levels are within 100 basis points of record levels, it basically translates into any further economic growth and associated freight likely to strain capacity and subsequently increasing rates further, which is not a pretty picture to say the least; 

-The future of a new long-term federal transportation bill does not look necessarily rosy, even with the mid-term elections now complete. While funding for the current authorization, MAP-21, is intact through May 2015, it stands to reason that prospects for a future long-term bill are relatively dim, due largely to funding issues, with a significant chasm between what is really needed for future highway and transportation infrastructure investment compared to what is truly available, which is simply not enough. Who knows, maybe one day our elected “leaders” will cumulatively collect the political will needed to increase the federal gas tax once and for all. But the chances of that happening are about as good as mine are for playing center for the New York Rangers at this point;

-The impact of increasing e-commerce activity on supply chains has ostensibly in many ways become the new normal, especially for retail shippers. With many consumers comfortable shopping online, its has resulted in steep gains in e-commerce sales and subsequently supply chains that need to adhere to and recognize increases in ordering activity, customer habits, and supply chain speed. While there were some delivery issues for e-commerce-based gift orders last holiday season, it was not a major amount and it appears that industry players has learned from last year with a sharp eye on planning and forecasting and increased communications to ensure all gifts get to where they need to be this holiday season with time to spare, too; and 

-West Coast port congestion continues to impact cargo flows, especially on the import side, with an ongoing dispute (as of press time) over a new labor contract between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and other issues, too, including increased seasonal demand, a lack of available chassis, clogged transportation networks, and the aforementioned lack of drivers, among others. 

To say 2014 has not seen its fair share of interesting developments with direct tie-ins to supply chain and logistics productivity and throughput would be an understatement. As for how these things shake out going forward, remains to be seen. But one thing remains clear: when it comes to major themes and issues in our sector, there is truly never a dull moment

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