By Paul Page

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A dispute between two of the biggest intermodal shipping operators in the U.S. will put the changing business of truck-rail shipping under scrutiny. BNSF Railway and J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc., its main trucking partner, are headed to arbitration over how to split the revenue the companies generate from moving shipping containers and trailers. WSJ Logistics Report's Jennifer Smith writes the partnership is important to both companies' fortunes, funneling large numbers of containers into their transportation networks and accounting for around $2 billion in revenue for J.B. Hunt. The impasse comes as intermodal rates paid by shippers are falling even as the railroad's share of the revenue appears to be growing. The companies are fighting over a shrinking intermodal pie: the Association of American Railroads says U.S. intermodal volume fell 1.6% last year despite a sharp surge at the end of the year.

The sales operation at Tesla Motors Inc. is moving faster than the auto maker's supply chain . The Silicon Valley business reported record high orders in the fourth quarter, with sales up 27% over the same period a year ago. But the WSJ's Tim Higgins reports Tesla couldn't make and ship the vehicles fast enough to headoff delays after introducing new hardware to the Autopilot semiautonomous driving feature in the vehicles. That suggests Tesla is still struggling to get its parts delivery, production and distribution bulked up to meet ambitions that included delivering 80,000 vehicles last year. Tesla fell several thousand cars short in part because of last-minute delays transporting vehicles it had sold. The big auto makers deliver far more cars than Tesla, of course, and the company may look for ways to match their supply chains as its own ambitions grow.

U.S. companies that have been holding their cash on the sidelines are preparing to invest again, and that could mean a new rush of goods heading into depleted domestic supply chains. Executives expecting regulatory rollbacks, corporate tax breaks and increased infrastructure spending from Washington have grown more optimistic about growth, the WSJ's Theo Francis and Vipal Monga report, and rising interest rates are unlikely to impede them. German steel company Klöckner & Co., which generates about 40% of its sales from its 50 U.S. sites, expects to increase spending on steel-shaping machinery in the coming year, for instance, after holding back investment amid slowing demand from industrial customers that make railcars and oil storage tanks. Although the Federal Reserve appears poised to raise interest rates, which would make borrowing more costly, many companies say they won't be deterred by higher expenses if the promise of strong returns remains.

E-COMMERCE

The world's biggest container shipping line is stepping into the e-commerce waters. Maersk Line, the shipping unit of A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S, and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. struck a deal that will allow the Chinese online sales giant to book space on Maersk vessels for its customers. Reuters reports Alibaba started offering the booking late last month under the OneTouch service that targets small and medium-sized Chinese exporters with online services such as customs clearance and logistics. Other technology startups have launched services to bypass the traditional third-party shipping services of freight forwarders. And Amazon.com Inc. is already in the freight forwarding business. But Alibaba's entry gives such efforts another high-profile standard bearer and will give Maersk -- and the carrier's competitors -- a chance to see how retail e-commerce capabilities fit into the purely industrial shipping business.

QUOTABLE

IN OTHER NEWS

Warehouse operator Global Logistic Properties Ltd. is seeking buyers . (WSJ)

Auto makers rolled out stronger-than-expected December U.S. sales, leaving the industry on track to set an annual record in 2016. (WSJ)

Eurozone consumer prices rose at the fastest annual rate in more than three years in December. (WSJ)

Macy's Inc. outlined restructuringplans that will eliminate some 10,000 jobs and shut about 63 department stores this spring. (WSJ)

Kohl's Corp. slashed its guidance for 2016 as the retailer said fourth-quarter sales were worse than expected. (WSJ)

Apple Inc. plans to invest $1 billion in SoftBank Group Corp.'s new technology fund to help finance technologies it could use in the future. (WSJ)

The Mexican peso hit a record low against the dollar a day after Ford Motor Co. canceled plans to build a new plant in San Luis Potosi. (MarketWatch)

Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer says a Republican plan for private tax credits for infrastructure won't "get the job done" to finance projects. (The Hill)

Union Pacific Corp. acquired the refrigerated distribution assets of Railex LLC. (American Shipper)

China Cosco Shipping Corp. Ltd. will acquire a 10% stake in Shanghai Rural Commercial Bank for $660 million. (MarineLink)

Germany's government approved a controversial proposal to allow longer trucks, dubbed "gigaliners," on highways. (Deutsche Welle)

Diesel prices in the U.S. reached their highest point since August 2015 to start the year. (Commercial Carrier Journal)

New Jersey based trucking and logistics operator NFI bought Canadian freight services firm Dominion Warehousing & Distribution. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Warehouse leasing rates in central Pennsylvania are rising despite record capacity expansion, according to CBRE Group Inc. (Central Penn Business Journal)

A Chinese autonomous-driving startup says it will test use of its technology for truck "platooning" operations by October. (Heavy Duty Trucking)

Tank Holding Corp. bought the material handling division of Canada's Agri Plastics. (Plastics News)

Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz Vans unit is displaying a modified cargo van aimed at hosting last-mile delivery drones. (Trucks.com)

ABOUTUS

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

Subscribe to this email newsletter by clicking here: http://on.wsj.com/Logisticsnewsletter .

Write to Paul Page at paul.page@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 05, 2017 07:00 ET (12:00 GMT)

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