Today's Top Supply Chain and Logistics News From WSJ

By Brian Baskin Features Dow Jones Newswires

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If you're a trucker, Big Brother may be watching. Many trucks are now equipped with dashboard cameras, and more fleets are installing apps that prevent drivers' phones from being used when vehicles are in motion, the WSJ's Leslie Scism writes. Trucking companies are increasingly adopting safety measures that monitor driver behavior as they face soaring insurance premiums and multi-million-dollar accident settlements. Facing mounting payouts, insurers are hiking premiums by up to 30% a year, and some large carriers, including American International Group Inc., have ended certain types of coverage. Technology can help reduce accident rates and clear drivers who aren't at fault, and plenty of fleets are willing to eat those costs if the alternative is being dropped by their insurer. But cameras don't address some of the bigger forces pushing up accident rates, including improving economic conditions putting more vehicles on the road, and high turnover that can lead to inexperienced drivers taking the wheel.

A trucking rebound would mean a windfall for investors in the companies that make big rigs. Too bad the biggest truck manufacturer is buried within a conglomerate whose shares rise and fall for countless other reasons, the WSJ's Stephen Wilmot writes. The dominant Freightliner brand is a subsidiary of Daimler, which is falling out of favor on Wall Street over concerns about flagging car sales. Meanwhile shares of Volvo, which makes Mack trucks in North America but separated from its namesake automobile brand in 1999, are soaring. Some shareholders would welcome a Daimler Trucks spinoff, though that would require a change in Germany's conservative corporate culture. Evercore ISI, a brokerage, pegs the odds of such a move at 30% in the next 12 to 18 months, and at 50% for Volkswagen AG, which owns trucking brands Scania and MAN, plus a stake in U.S. truck maker Navistar International. Investors would have to look to the world of luxury autos for a model of how a spinoff might work: Ferrari's stock has almost doubled since it was separated from Fiat Chrysler last year.

A diplomatic dispute between Qatar and its neighbors is forcing a hasty redrawing of air freight routes. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and commercial ties - including air and marine transport links - with Qatar, accusing the emirate of backing terrorism. That's complicated operations for Qatar Airways, which has risen to become a top global airline on the back of a steady stream of travelers and cargo to and from Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the WSJ's Nicolas Parasie and Robert Wall write. Qatar Airways planes will need to burn more fuel if they're cut off from the U.A.E.'s airspace, reducing the country's utility as a waypoint for long-haul flights. The effort to isolate Qatar could backfire for the Gulf States, however, by introducing uncertainty into a region valued for its stability and interwoven economies. There were signs air cargo demand was already slowing, with year-to-date growth of 8%, compared with a five-year average pace of 11%, according to the International Air Transport Association.

INFRASTRUCTURE

President Donald Trump's first major infrastructure proposal faces a rocky path through Congress. Mr. Trump said he will push to privatize air-traffic control in an event intended to kick off his campaign for an expected $1 trillion infrastructure package. The administration has indicated it wants to pay for new roads, bridges and other projects almost entirely via private financing, a goal experts say will be difficult, if not impossible to achieve, the WSJ's Ted Mann and Michael C. Bender write. Privatizing air-traffic control would be a key test. Some aviation experts have long supported this change, saying it would make the system more nimble and cost-effective to run. But some lawmakers want to keep the government involved, including Republican legislators representing rural areas that could see service reductions. The Senate overwhelmingly rejected a privatization bill just last year, and it's not clear whether Mr. Trump's support will lead to a different result in 2017.

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QUOTABLE

IN OTHER NEWS

CSX Corp. shareholders approved an $84 million pay package to CEO Hunter Harrison. (WSJ)

J. Crew Chief Executive Mickey Drexler will step down and be replaced by a former West Elm executive. (WSJ)

U.S. worker productivity was flat in the first quarter. (WSJ)

The average size of new houses fell last year, a sign of rising demand among first-time buyers. (WSJ)

The U.S. and Mexico neared an agreement to avert a trade war over Mexican sugar exports. (WSJ)

Vertical farming, where vegetables are grown in shipping containers, is on the rise in New York. (WSJ)

A major Japanese trucking company is i ntroducing four-day workweeks - at full pay - to lure drivers. (Nikkei)

U.S. West Coast ports are receiving twice as many megaships as they did at the start of the year. (Port Technology)

Old Dominion Freight Line Inc. tonnage grew 5.8% in May from a year earlier. (DC Velocity)

Hapag-Lloyd will levy penalties on shippers that cancel bookings at certain ports. (Journal of Commerce)

Rickmers is working on a new restructuring plan after filing for bankruptcy on Friday. (Splash 24/7)

CSX is ending operations at an Avon, Ind. maintenance facility as part of its company-wide efficiency drive. (WTHR)

ABOUT US

Brian Baskin is editor of WSJ Logistics Report. Follow him at @brianjbaskin, and follow the entire WSJ Logistics Report team: @PaulPage , @jensmithWSJ and @EEPhillips_WSJ. Follow the WSJ Logistics Report on Twitter at @WSJLogistics.

Write to Brian Baskin at brian.baskin@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 06, 2017 07:09 ET (11:09 GMT)