Digital Edition

January 2 2023

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 11 of 131

10 Journal of Commerce | J anuar y 2, 2023 Cover Story But those "ifs" aren't leaving the room any time soon. "The new normal is that change is constant," said John Janson, senior director of global logistics at apparel importer SanMar. "What will be the disruptor we don't see coming?" There are plenty to choose from, he said, from labor disputes to unfore- seen geopolitical crises. Normalization can mean many things, but one thing it does not mean is a return to the transporta- tion world that existed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. That world is as distant as Atlantis, and those who try to return to it will likely struggle. "We're in the early stages now," Michael Pettit, CFO of trailer man- ufacturer Wabash National, told the Journal of Commerce. "We're not seeing things go back to the way they were, but we're seeing a more normalized trend." Wabash in recent years has reor- ganized its supply chain to source more components and materials from North America, Pettit said. Because of supply chain disruption, "Every manufacturer is producing less than their optimal output, but that's a positive," he said, in that manufacturers that are still rebuild- ing production volumes can more "The question is: Do we go way down with a recession, or do we snap back to the trendline?" he said. The economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic — more specif- ically, the brief but sharp recession in early 2020 and the break-neck recov- ery that saw US real gross domestic product (GDP) jump 5.9 percent on an annualized basis in 2021 — bent that trendline way out of shape. In 2022, real GDP growth slowed to just 1.8 percent, according to S&P Global, parent company of the Jour- nal of Commerce, which expects the US economy to contract 0.2 percent in 2023 and expand only 1.3 percent in 2024. That signals a rather flat eco- nomic outlook, with minimal change over the next two years. "Normal" in that case would feel much softer than 2021, but inflation might come down to the 2.8 percent target set by the US Federal Reserve System for 2023 and 2.3 percent in 2024. The 2.6 percent US GDP expan- sion in the 2022 third quarter was caused by what S&P Global called a "large and unsustainable" 14.4 per- cent surge in net exports, while net imports dropped 6.7 percent. That imbalance suggests global supply chains have yet to reach normality. easily scale to meet demand. Jeff Tucker, CEO of third-party logistics (3PL) and brokerage firm Tucker Company Worldwide, said that although global and domestic US supply chains have not yet "nor- malized," pricing in most modes, especially transactional spot market pricing, is undergoing the type of correction that typically precedes a normalization of operations. "Fulfillment rates are not so good, but all the shuffling of the deck with motor carriers has set- tled down," he said. "People were shipping extra stuff they didn't even know they had to ship." Pettit expects Wabash to return to pre-pandemic production vol- umes in 2023, and for industry in general to return to the long-term, pre-pandemic trendline, at levels that erase the 2020–22 "bulge" seen in almost every graph of industrial activity, from inventories to produc- tion to pricing. Spot pricing in most modes is normalizing, but supply chains aren't reverting to a pre-pandemic "normal." Phil Harland / ANNUAL REVIEW & OUTLOOK 2023 "The new normal is that change is constant."

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Digital Edition - January 2 2023