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Flush with increased earnings as the coronavirus pandemic has caused Americans to get delivery of everything from groceries to facemasks, Amazon is looking to acquire autonomous vehicle (AV) technology company Zoox in an effort to boost their footprint in the self-driving and electric powered vehicle market. 

Zoox is developing SAE Level 5 automated self-driving taxis which can maneuver through busy city streets. The Zoox website claims, “Zoox is driving autonomously in ways that no one else has shown. We are applying the latest in automotive, robotics, and renewable energy to design an a…zero-emissions vehicle from the ground up to solve the unique challenges of autonomous mobility.”

Amazon has reportedly offered less than $3.2 billion for the company, below the company’s stated value in 2018. The acquisition would add resources to Amazon’s attempt to strengthen its expanding logistics and delivery network. 

Amazon has recently invested $530 million in AV startup Aurora Innovation as well as another significant investment in electric car manufacturer Rivian which will produce 100,000 delivery vans for Amazon within the next ten years. 

Wall Street analysts indicate that Amazon could save $20 billion a year in delivery and shipping costs if it can develop a reliable self-driving technology. Experts also predict that with such technology, Amazon may look to compete with Uber and Lyft by rolling out a cab-hailing platform utilizing a fleet of AV cabs.

Amazon is also hoping to capitalize on existing Level 4 AV technology which can already be used to haul freight cross country with self-driving long-haul trucks. Zoox has been working toward SAE Level 5 which delivers true autonomy with emergency safety features and protocols to ultimately deliver someone or something from one place to another in a completely driverless environment.

Recent earnings reports from Amazon show the retail goliath saw sales climb 29% in North America and 18% internationally at the beginning of 2020. The company’s stock has also risen, although investors were leery of the fact that Amazon would need to absorb approximately $4 billion in costs related to the pandemic.   

Truckers protesting low spot rates and a lack of freight as the coronavirus pandemic grips the nation have found a way to be recognized by President Donald Trump. Parked not far from the White House on Constitution Avenue, truckers have been blowing their airhorns during Trump’s outdoor events, including a press conference on May 15. And Trump has heard them. 

As truckers made their presence felt, Trump said, “Those are truckers that are with us all the way. They’re protesting in favor of President Trump, as opposed to against, and that’s a sign of love, not the sign of your typical protest, so I want to thank our great truckers. They like me, and I like them. We’re working on something together.” The claim which is denied by protesters. 

To “something,” Trump may be referring to attempts by the Department of Justice to uncover evidence that brokers and third-party logistics companies have not been totally transparent in dealings with truckers and may even be price gouging.

Truckers have been parked outside the White House in protest for the last two weeks. Their ultimate goal is to meet face to face with Trump to air their grievances. More than 80,000 truckers lost their jobs in April as the freight and retail markets have crashed. Goldman-Sachs predicted the U.S. economy will contract by 39% in the second quarter. 

Although Trump claims the horns are in support of his administration, truckers are hurting, and the recent health crisis only exacerbated existing problems in the industry. The strategy, however, has gotten the mainstream press to focus on the truckers’ plight.

Nevertheless, Trump insists that he has the support of truckers, telling Fox News, “They’re supporters of me. Because we’re getting things for the truckers, and all those great truckers that are all over our country.”

Trump has indicated that he does believe truckers are being gouged, yet his administration has yet to launch a full-fledged investigation into the matter. 

 

Truck drivers will not be part of Utah’s recent travel advisory which requires adults who enter the state to complete an online form asking whether they have been exposed to the novel coronavirus. 

In efforts to slow the spread of the infectious disease COVID-19, Governor Gary Herbert released an executive order that establishes a protocol for those crossing the border. All adults must fill out a form within three hours of entry about their current health situation and the potential risks of infection. 

Originally, truck drivers were included in the executive order but later were exempted along with other essential workers such as airline personnel and first responders. It took the Nevada Trucking Association (NTA), in league with the American Trucking Associations, Utah Trucking Association, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, to point out the governor’s edict was unconstitutional.

In a press release, the NTA said, “We appreciate the governor’s office for recognizing the operational burden the requirement puts on the trucking industry and others that are responding to this public health emergency.” 

NTA leaders correctly pointed out at the time of the Utah governor’s original announcement that such “an impediment to interstate commerce” had been one of the key reasons why the United States Constitution replaced the Articles of Confederation in 1789. The founding fathers were worried that states could block commerce for any variety of reasons which could be judged as discriminatory. 

With New York, California and Washington experiencing a high number of infections from the coronavirus, trucking spot rates in those areas have increased and carriers are even rejecting loads into places where the virus has hit the hardest. In addition, load times at many warehouses have increased.

Rates to haul from Los Angeles to Seattle, including fuel, are up 9.6% in one week alone. Rates from Dallas to Los Angeles are up 27%, although those rates had cratered in February. Many truckers are now turning down some loads to New York where more than 15,000 cases (and growing exponentially every day) of the virus have been detected. In particular, less-than-truckload (LTL) jobs are being rejected because those loads tend to cause drivers to have to enter and exit their trucks several times for various deliveries.

In the New York area, carriers are adhering to a COVID-19 policy by not taking signatures for delivery, not doing inside deliveries and practicing social distancing (staying 6-feet away from others). Some carriers are also turning down shipping loads into the major ports of New York and New Jersey centered around Elizabeth, NJ. Rejections are up to 16% in New Jersey, compared to 13% across the rest of the nation.

While all of this is happening, wait times have soared at many warehouses with freight brokers unable to verify appointment times. The average wait times are now at 159 minutes and can be as much as 322 minutes for loading and unloading in the Philadelphia market. This is leaving many carriers to turn down high spot rates because the wait times are simply not worth it.    

 

Volvo Trucks has awarded General Truck Sales of Muncie, Indiana as its 2018 Dealer of the Year for North America. Volvo Trucks also honored its top dealers in Canada and Mexico. The 2018 Canada Dealer of the Year is Sheehan’s Truck Center of Burlington, Ontario, and the 2018 Mexico Dealer of the Year is Tractoautobuses Del Norte S.A. de CV of Chihuahua.

The annual North American Dealer of the Year award recognized General Truck Sales of Muncie, Indiana and its employees for outstanding performance in a number of key areas, including growth of new truck sales, parts sales, customer satisfaction, dealer operating standards, franchise investment and support for other dealers.

“General Truck Sales consistently proves to be one of Volvo Trucks’ best all-around performing dealers and 2018 was no exception,” said Bruce Kurtt, senior vice president of U.S. sales for Volvo Trucks North America. “Dealer principal Steve Bassett and the whole General Truck Sales team’s continued commitment to customer success is unmatched in the industry and they are the ultimate ambassadors of the Volvo brand.”

General Truck Sales leveraged Volvo’s new VNL, VNR and VHD model families in straight truck and tractor applications to penetrate new markets, and has continued to invest in its facilities and service operations as a Certified Uptime Dealer. General Truck Sales has been in operation since 1958 and has a track record of success under Bassett’s leadership, having previously been named Volvo Trucks’ North American Dealer of the Year in 2006, 2010 and 2016.

Volvo Trucks’ 2018 Dealer of the Year award recipients include:

North America                          General Truck Sales – Muncie, Indiana

U.S., Central Region                 General Truck Sales – Muncie, Indiana

U.S., Northeast Region             S&S Volvo – Lima, Ohio

U.S., Southeast Region            Nextran Truck Center – Pompano Beach, Florida    

U.S., Southwest Region           Bruckner Truck Sales – Fort Worth, Texas 

U.S., Western Region              TEC Equipment – Portland, Oregon

Canada                                     Sheehan’s Truck Center – Burlington, Ontario

Mexico                                    Tractoautobuses Del Norte S.A. de CV, Chihuahua