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January 2 2023

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Januar y 2, 2023 | Journal of Commerce 87 Surface Transportation IN PERSPECTIVE 2023 ANNUAL REVIEW & OUTLOOK Theodore Prince Broken arrows less likely to join the transportation industry in the first place. Chassis are not a free economic good, but they may be too important to be a stand- alone profit center. One challenge that continues to plague the industry is a lack of exper- tise. Personnel turnover — planned or unplanned — results in a lack of qualified employees to perform nec- essary work. That shortage is often exacerbated by unqualified managers either making disastrous decisions or making no decisions at all. Since nature abhors a vacuum, a new generation of snake oil salespeo- ple and charlatans has stepped into this void, wielding the twin tools of social media and self-promotional conferences, and hubris has replaced knowledge. When this misinfor- mation enters the mainstream, it becomes a flawed intellectual founda- tion for possible improvement. This nonsense becomes even more dangerous when the govern- ment and Wall Street listen to it. Remember, Socrates was the wisest man in ancient Athens because he alone was prepared to admit his own ignorance. The coming year could be a catapult for structural change, but unfortunately, chances are better that it will simply cement the term "broken arrow" into the industry's collective vernacular. JOC Theodore Prince is chief strategy officer and cofounder of Tiger Cool Express. Contact him at many benefits; however, many companies found successful growth to be more difficult than widespread cost-cutting. Too often, investment has been deferred until the need for expansion is certain, and this too- little-too-late approach has too often resulted in system sepsis. As capacity and competition concerns increase, it was inevita- ble that some would advocate for government to take a more active role in regulating the sector. But after decades of inaction, it is ludicrous to expect the public sector to be instantly up to speed when it has been starved of resources and relevance. Further, it has become increasingly difficult to separate the activities of transportation provid- ers and the motives of their owners and investors. Governance by soundbite is equally cynical. Too often, we have been treated to public performance art in which one party makes state- ments that are untrue — or beyond its members' capabilities — and the other party nods like a bobble-head. Why are we surprised when nothing changes? The maxim that "you can't manage what you can't measure" is as true today as ever. And although there are some nascent efforts underway, the federal government has failed to develop any meaningful data with which to assess the health of the entire supply chain. That foundational premises are changing is also frequently ignored — or perhaps just misunderstood. The port tenant model, for example, doesn't work with mega-vessels and alliances. On-dock rail consumes too many resources for what little benefit it provides. Workers are increasingly likely to move on to other sectors and IN THE US military, the term "broken arrow" refers to an accidental event that involves nuclear weapons but does not create the risk of nuclear war. It's also used as a code phrase indicating that a ground unit is facing imminent destruction from enemy attack and all available air forces within range are to immediately provide support. I think "broken arrow" might be joining "logistics" in the list of military terms that have slipped into common parlance in the transpor- tation industry. Over the past three years, the global supply chain has seen more than its fair share of potential "nuclear" scenarios and accidental events that required immediate "air cover" from other stakeholders. Although economic uncertainty clouds the horizon as we look ahead to 2023, we should remember the chaos of the past several years to consider what the future might hold. "Supply chain" has been repeat- edly blamed for all sorts of problems — although the term is frequently used incorrectly — but this is more of a symptom than a cause. Big con- sulting firms made millions in their strategic sourcing practices, whereby suppliers were essentially beaten into submission. The short-term impact on earnings was positive, but many of these decisions ignored the impact of a reduction in — or outright elimina- tion of — qualified vendors. Whether dealing with silicon chips or intermodal ramp contractors, the financial and operational trauma caused by insufficient supplier resiliency and redundancy was wide- spread. The conventional wisdom of reshoring or insourcing might just be more consultant-speak. There can be no improvement if fundamental behaviors do not change, and there is little appetite for the increased expense and reduced margins of such an approach. The dogma of the last 40 years have also come into question. Deregulation and simultaneous financial engineering delivered The global supply chain has seen plenty of potential "nuclear" scenarios and accidental events that required immediate "air cover" from other stakeholders.

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