Today’s pickup: An option for slow-speed, low-altitude air transport; does PSR run afoul of rails’ common carrier obligations?

Good day,

Lockheed Martin is developing a helium-filled airship that can move goods and is powered by renewable energy, writes Harry Valentine in The Maritime Executive. Aircraft builders such as Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin have designed and built modern prototype versions of airships, using heated air for buoyancy, that offer future applications in heavy lift operation. Lockheed Martin is believed to have secured an order from an oil and gas exploration company interested in leasing the “LMH-1” helium airship with 20-ton carrying capabilities in a roadless Arctic region, Valentine writes. There is interest in France in using airship technology in the forestry sector to carry logs from regions difficult to access through traditional means, he writes. The same technology could be used in mountainous areas of Western Canada, the United States, the Andes Mountains of South America and across Mongolia, Valentine says.

Did you know?:

Puerto Rico far outpaces any U.S. state or territory in producing the most pharmaceutical exports, according to Pharma Boardroom. The island’s 2018 export output of $13.2 billion was almost double that of second-place Indiana at $7 billion.


“There’s a scenario where [U.S. trucking] could be as robust, or more, than 2018. Even if freight volumes don’t improve materially from 2019, it’s going to be less trucks chasing the freight.”

— Brian Fielkow, president of Jetco Delivery, giving FOX Business his 2020 predictions

In other news:

Plug Power jumps on fuel cell deal

Shares of Plug Power Inc. jumped in early trade Jan. 6 after the hydrogen and fuel cell technology company said it received a $172 million order for fuel cell deployment from an unidentified Fortune 100 customer. (Marketwatch)

FIBRA Prologis buys infill land in Mexico City

FIBRA Prologis, an owner and operator of industrial real estate in Mexico, said it has acquired 41,779 square feet of urban “infill” logistics space in the affluent Santa Maria section of Mexico City for US$53 million. (PR Newswire)

Jordan piloting TradeLens initiative

The country of Jordan’s customs agency announced last month a pilot of the TradeLens blockchain supply chain platform, a joint initiative between IBM Corp. and Maersk Line. A pilot zone will be set up in the Aqaba Customs Center to transport goods through the Aqaba Container Terminal using the TradeLens platform. (Ledger Insights)

Fire at trucking firm destroys seven semis

A fire at a Pasco, Washington, trucking company, Harms, destroyed seven semi-trucks Jan. 4, said fire officials and sheriff’s deputies. The cause is still unknown. (Tri-city Herald)

DOT unveils map showing `Opportunity Zones’ investments

The U.S. Department of Transportation on Jan. 6 rolled out a map highlighting federal investment in major infrastructure projects located in and around “Opportunity Zones,” created under the 2017 tax law to encourage economic investment and job creation in underserved communities, especially rural areas. (USDOT)

Final thoughts:

The Washington Post ran a story Jan. 4 on U.S. railroads’ cost-cutting measures centered on the newly popular model of Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR), in which the carriers follow their schedules no matter what the scenario. Wall Street loves PSR because it pushes the railroads to reduce dwell times and cut labor costs (i.e. workers), thus fattening their bottom lines. Lost in all of this was a comment several years ago by then-BNSF Railway Chairman Matt Rose that the railroads were using PSR to turn away undesirable traffic, violating their statutory obligations as common carriers. No one ever paid much attention to Rose’s comments, and the executive has since retired. With PSR spreading through the industry like wildfire (save for BNSF), maybe folks should now take heed.

Hammer down, everyone!