US High-speed rail comes to a screeching halt
When President Barack Obama took office, one of his main goals was to lay the foundation necessary to get high-speed rail jump started in the United States. On paper, the $2.02 billion secured to fund 22 rail projects in 15 states looks like he’s on the right track. Pun intended.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the money will “[bring] President Obama’s vision of high-speed rail one step closer to reality.”
But according to a blog on the Heritage Foundation, no high-speed rail will be built. Instead, the $2.02 billion secured will go toward subsidizing freight railroads and slow-speed Amtrak trains.
High-speed rail is defined as trains that travel at 150 miles per hour or more, but Amtrak’s average speed in Ohio is 39 miles per hour, which is slower than most cars can drive in reverse.
States around the country are questioning the merits of high-speed rail, due mostly to its prohibitively high cost. In California, one estimate pegged a San Francisco to Los Angeles high-speed rail line construction cost at over $80 billion.
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Some states are already pulling out of high-speed rail. Yesterday, the high-speed rail in Florida had its plug officially pulled, as new governor Rick Scott said $2 billion the state had received for high-speed rail would be spent elsewhere, according to the Transportation Department.
High-speed rail is a great green transportation solution, and its prospects in the freight rail industry sector are promising. But until costs come down, it looks like we’ll have to wait a little longer for this dream to become a reality.
FedEx is Reshaping Last Mile with Autonomous Vehicles
FedEx is embarking on an expanded test of autonomous, driver-less delivery vehicles to develop its last-mile logistics.
The US logistics firm piloted autonomous vehicles from Nuro in April this year, and the pair will now explore that further in a multi-year partnership. Cosimo Leipold, Nuro’s head of partnerships, said the collaboration "will enable innovative, industry-first product offerings that will better everyday life and help make communities safer and greener".
FedEx will explore a variety of on-road use cases for the autonomous fleet, including multi-stop and appointment-based deliveries, going beyond more traditional applications of the technology in single-route movement of goods from A-B. Exponential growth in ecommerce is spurring its broader experimentation in new autonomy solutions, Fed-Ex says, both in-warehouse and on-road.
“FedEx was built on innovation, and it continues to be an integral part of our culture and business strategy,” said Rebecca Yeung, Vice President, Advanced Technology and Innovation, FedEx Corporation. “We are excited to collaborate with an industry leader like Nuro as we continue to explore the use of autonomous technologies within our operations.”
The changing role of couriers
Unlike structured delivery networks, operating under long-term partnerships and contracts, agility is where couriers deliver true value - and their ability to deftly solve last-mile fulfilment has most acutely been felt during the pandemic. For the billions of people around the world forced to stay at home to protect themselves and their communities from the spreading COVID-19 virus, couriers have been a constant. They may have been the only knock at the door some people experienced for weeks or months at a time.
But the last-mile has been uprooted by a boom in ecommerce, a shift that has been most apparent in the UK, US, China and Japan, according to the Global Parcel Delivery Market Insight Report 2021 by Apex Insight. These are markets with dominant economies and populations used to running their lives with a tap of a screen or double-click of a mouse.
“Getting last mile delivery right has long been a challenge for retailers,” says Kees Jacobs, Vice President, Consumer Goods and Retail at Capgemini. “In 2019, 97% of retail organisations felt their last-mile delivery models were not sustainable for full-scale implementation across all locations. Despite increasing demand from customers, companies were struggling to make the last mile profitable and efficient.”
Jacobs says that the pandemic alleviated some of these stresses in the short term. With no other option, consumers were understanding and tolerant, if not entirely happy, with longer delivery times and less transparent tracking. “But, as extremely high delivery demand continues to be normal, customers will expect brands to contract their delivery times,” he adds.
Last mile's role in ESG
Demand and volume weren’t the only things that have changed during the pandemic - businesses looked closer to home and as a result became more sustainable. Bricks and mortar stores were transformed from mini-showrooms to quasi-fulfilment centres. Online retailers and other businesses sought local solutions to ship more faster. In densely populated London, UK alone, Accenture found that delivery van emissions dropped by 17%, while Chicago, USA and Sydney, Australia saw similar emissions savings.