"A real challenge for trucking": C.H. Robinson webinar provides transportation market insights

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Transport company C.H. Robinson recently hosted a webinar to discuss supply and demand trends and the impact of global import volumes on North American shipping.

Coming at a key time when major U.S. ports continue to see high demand, the webinar shared critical insights to help companies plan ahead in an unpredictable market.

Director, Research and Market Intelligence of C.H. Robinson, Steve Raetz began the online event by talking about the market in general and what challenges the trucking sector is facing.

According to ACT Research, the U.S. labor force is going through a retirement curve and the age from 45 to 65, which is about 40 percent of trucking jobs, is shrinking.

"It started in 2008 and is going to bottom out in about four or five years and stay pretty flat until 2030, which is a real challenge for trucking," he said.

Long haul trucking continues to be the big gap with about 31,000 jobs that need to be filled to get back to last year's levels, while short-haul trucking has already recovered, Raetz said.

"The challenge facing trucking is how do we bring labor in, especially to the long haul space."

Raetz said that freight and capacity shift to where they are treated best so when thinking about transportation strategy, be mindful that freight is migrating and it is driven that demand is outstripping supply.

Global import discussion

"There is a unique situation seen at the ocean ports right now and this year's ocean freight risk calendar indicates a need for flexibility," Vice President, Global Ocean, Sri Laxmana said.

One of the things C.H. Robinson is anticipating this year that is different from last year is the lack of a slack season, making forecasting and flexibility hypercritical.

When asked if the congestion at the ports and rails will subside anytime soon, he said the solutions are complex and that the supply chain is no stronger than its weakest link.

"The lack of chassis is putting stress on the ports and therefore the supply chain," Laxmana said.

"As long as it has taken for the congestion to build up, it isn't going to improve overnight and it will take some time. I think we are looking at maybe the second quarter of next year for things to be relatively fluid."

Vice President, North American Surface Transportation, Mike Burkhart described similar congestion and volatility in Mexico and on the border to the U.S.

For loaded truckload volume through these ports, the Laredo region has over 41 percent of the volume flowing through Mexico to the U.S. at this point.

"Empty Mexico trailers are stuck in Laredo with no southbound return. There is more northbound demand than there is southbound, which is causing this. There also isn't enough U.S. equipment to pick up the cargo in Laredo."

Director of Monterrey, Mexico Veronica Gonzalez answered the question of what shippers can do to keep their freight moving and said to try to avoid dwell time as much as possible. Being flexible and using technology when possible is very important.

Also using best practices such as keeping updated on any new regulations and offering driver-friendly facilities will help to become a shipper of choice in this market.

Raetz also said that there has been a resurgence of three- and six-month bids as shippers are trying to keep a pulse on how the market is moving.

Overall, remaining flexible, continuing to evolve with the market and using best practices will see the supply chain through not only these more challenging times but through any type of market, the company's experts said.

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