With most of the COVID-19 pandemic difficulties in the rear-view mirror, the transportation industry has entered a new age of challenges. Shippers are on edge due to ongoing labor shortages, dynamic East Coast volume, and unpredictable global conflict. But freight shipment tracking provides shippers the technology-enabled flexibility to remain competitive despite a highly competitive — and often hostile — transportation environment.
Now that the American public and the transportation industry have recovered from the pandemic's lows, a new set of issues challenge shippers. Where is the transportation industry today? And what strategies will suit us best in the coming years?
The State of Freight: Where is the Transportation Industry in 2023?
The transportation industry has been all over the place recently…literally. There’s been a migration of preferred cargo destinations from the West Coast to the East Coast, port labor issues continue with persistence, the workforce is changing (and not for the better), and global conflicts are affecting shippers and their shipments. Transportation industry professionals need a new strategy and some out-of-the-box thinking to help them scramble out of and rise above these challenges.
The Eastward Push
importers have shifted their preferred destinations for cargo from the traditional powerhouses on western shores to ports on the U.S. East Coast. While inbound cargo volumes have declined at all U.S. ports since the fourth quarter of 2022, West Coast operations have seen a more significant drop-off as importers seek to avoid a repeat of pandemic-era delays and protracted labor-contract talks that led to labor disruptions earlier in April at the Los Angeles and Long Beach complex, the busiest in the U.S.
The labor issues are proving to be more minor inconveniences than severe disruptions. West Coast volumes will steadily rise to become balanced with the East Coast in the middle of the third quarter, when retailers and importers gear up for the holiday peak season. Still, the infrastructure investments and performance of the East Coast will create more competition for LA-Long Beach, which will help the industry achieve longer-term stability and reliability.
Labor Shortages Lurk
The trade group MHI and consultancy Deloitte found that 74% of 2,000 supply chain leaders plan to boost their technology investments in 2023. According to the report, about 90% of those companies will spend 24% more than in 2022, while 36% will spend 19% more. (The survey was conducted at the end of 2022.)
According to the report, the demand to adopt 11 different technological categories will rise significantly during the next five years. Those categories include Inventory & Network Optimization, Cloud Computing & Storage, Sensors & Automatic Identification, Advanced Analytics, and more. “In a world in which disruptions will be the norm, most companies are planning to either partner with vendors or build and pilot their own technologies,” according to the survey.
Global Conflict Presents a Dangerous Unknown
Concerns about the war in Ukraine and the ominous potential for conflict in the Taiwan Strait are also huge concerns for shippers.
For starters, the war is stifling trade and logistics for Ukraine and the rest of the Black Sea region. Since we’re all so interconnected in today’s global economy, this has had a trickle-down effect: for Ukraine’s trading partners, many commodities now have to be sourced from further away; and this has increased global vessel demand and the cost of shipping around the world.
Here's another ominous sign: China-Taiwan long-term rates are now equal to China-LA rates! A container ship sailing from Shanghai to Kaohsiung, Taiwan, travels just 600 nautical miles. A container ship sailing from Shanghai to Los Angeles travels 9.5 times farther (5,700 nautical miles) and incurs dramatically higher fuel costs. And yet, current long-term contract rates for these two completely different trades are now roughly the same, at around $2,000 per forty-foot equivalent unit. The culprit is what experts are calling “geopolitical risk.”
Solid container tracking technology is necessary to navigate these challenges. VIZION API has what shippers are looking for.
Shippers Need New Strategies for a New Age
As volumes shift eastward, shippers are partnering with new transportation providers at ports and beyond (drayage, rail). With new players in the mix, shippers must have intermodal visibility — that is, between two or more modes of transportation.
There is the opportunity for improved visibility with each supply chain segment in which another party controls the shipment. Freight movement from one carrier to the next happens outside the shipper’s view, which means the shipper must rely on visibility tools to know where the shipment is and its current status. This is true for drayage, as it is for shipments crossing the ocean. But drayage is more often neglected when it comes to visibility efforts.
Drayage is the short transport of a recently unloaded shipping container from the ocean vessel to the warehouse facility where the next leg of its journey awaits. Depending on the level of visibility shippers have, drayage can be the source of extra costs and delays. Or it can contribute to low costs, efficiency, and optimization that carry through to the “last mile.”
Drayage visibility means receiving real-time updates and information on this process, which the shipper can use for planning and action. Several milestone events in the ocean shipping process affect drayage, including:
- Vessel arrival at the destination port
- Discharged from the vessel at the destination port
- Gate out full from the destination port
- Gate in empty return
For drayage carriers, it’s a complex process to get chassis and containers where they need to go. Drayage visibility enables shippers to maintain an awareness of their freight during the entire process.
Port & Terminal Connections
With a labor shortage plaguing the transportation industry, shippers are under increasing pressure to build resilience into slow-moving port processes. Shippers can stay in the know with automatically pushed port and terminal connections. Again, visibility is vital.
Shippers using VIZION can automatically push container-related Port & Terminal events like Last Free Data and Available for Pickup to their transportation management system (TMS), enterprise resource performance (ERP) system, or other core business software.
Last Free Date Alerts
All ports and terminals give shippers a certain number of days to pick up containers before demurrage charges start. VIZION’s Last Free Date event automatically alerts you when those charges will begin so you can coordinate pickups with your drayage providers.
Available for Pickup Notifications
Shippers must clear all fees and know their containers’ locations before arranging pickups. VIZION’s Available for Pickup event enables you to eliminate time and money wasted when drayage providers arrive at ports and terminals before containers are ready.
Leverage Events for Visibility
Maximize visibility by using Port & Terminal Events in tandem with other events that share when containers discharge from vessels, gate-out of ports, return empty, and more. These events collectively give you enhanced visibility into your supply chain.
Ocean Container Tracking
Shippers faced with unpredictable global conflict need to adapt and communicate quickly throughout their supply chain. Do you know where your ocean freight is at all times? When will it arrive? Why was it delayed? You need reliable answers to these and more questions.
VIZION API provides real-time ocean container tracking visibility to shippers, logistic service providers, and other stakeholders. We automatically push the most complete, standardized, and detailed container tracking events to any software system or spreadsheet, giving you end-to-end visibility into the freight that drives your business.
Track shipments by container number, Master Bill of Lading, or Auto Carrier Identification:
- Track 98% of global shipments via Carrier List
- Instant On, flexible data access with documentation
- Immediately begin tracking by Container Number or Master Bill of Lading
- Industry-leading data quality + transparency
- 99+% Standardization of Raw Carrier events + AIS data
- 7,000+ unique events turned into 60 standardized milestones and ETAs
- Enrichment of multiple data sources (EDI, API, web scrape, AIS, rail, Terminal websites) offers the most complete picture of container updates
- Data feeds are refreshed multiple times daily to minimize latency
Actionable insights from real-time visibility into drayage and real-time container tracking keep shippers in the know.
The Future of Freight: Facing the Unknown, the Transportation Industry Turns to Freight Shipment Tracking in the Digital Supply Chain
The transportation industry faces a host of new and emerging challenges:
- The continuing growth of rural areas worldwide, with wealth shifting into regions that have not been served before.
- Pressure to reduce carbon emissions, as well as traffic regulations for socioeconomic reasons.
- Reduced labor availability, including the aging workforce.
At the same time, customer expectations are growing. The trend toward online commerce in recent years has led to increasing service expectations. The online-enabled transparency and easy access to a multitude of shopping options and what to buy are driving supply chain competition. And who knows what the next set of difficulties will be?
The digitization of the supply chain is the backbone of “Supply Chain 4.0,” which will be faster, more flexible, more granular, more accurate, and more efficient.
- Faster – New product distribution approaches reduce some products' delivery time. In the future, we will see "predictive shipping," in which products are shipped before the customer places an order!
- More flexible – Planning cycles and “frozen” periods are minimized, and planning becomes a continuous process that can dynamically react to changing requirements and constraints.
- More granular – “Microsegmentation” and mass customization ideas will be implemented, wherein managing customers will involve much more “granular clusters,” and a broad spectrum of suited products will be offered.
- More accurate – The next generation of performance management systems provides real-time, end-to-end transparency throughout the supply chain. The integration of data of suppliers, service providers, and other stakeholders ensures that we all steer the ship and make decisions based on the same facts.
- More efficient – The supply chain is boosted by the automation of both physical tasks and planning, robots, autonomous trucks, a continuously optimized network, and more.
VIZION API Offers Freight Shipment Tracking That Carries Through to the Last Mile
So, here we sit, with the pandemic in our rear-view mirror. Most of the difficulties shippers encountered are now behind them, but the industry now must face new challenges. Ongoing labor shortages, shifting coastal volumes, and unpredictable global conflict have put shippers on notice. They need a new strategy.
The power of freight shipment tracking provides shippers with the technology-enabled flexibility they need to remain competitive despite the volatility of the transportation industry.
Shippers must rely on visibility tools to know a shipment's current location and status. This is true for drayage, the same as it is for shipments crossing the ocean. VIZION API offers drayage visibility that carries through to the last mile, real-time container tracking visibility that automatically pushes the most complete, standardized, and detailed container tracking events to any software system or spreadsheet, and a push for Supply Chain 4.0 that will make every organization’s supply chain faster, more flexible, more granular, more accurate, and more efficient.
Talk to a VIZION expert or book a demo today to overcome your organization's challenges and come out to the other side better and stronger