By Paul Page

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Volkswagen AG's truck and bus business wants to use technology to stay connected to its vehicles, customers and fleet owners. The company plans to roll out a cloud-based service over the next few months, the WSJ's William Boston reports, hitting the accelerator on the drive to bring more technology to on-the-road trucking operations. Called RIO, the service is being tested with a fleet of 60 vehicles in a plan that would ship back data to plan for maintenance and repairs. The operation comes as VW Trucks is overhauling its own business, including operating as a standalone company that combines Volkswagen's utility vehicles operations and truck makers Scania and MAN. The company generated nearly $1.4 billion in pre-tax in its first year as a single unit and expects the new technology and a strategic stake in U.S. truck maker Navistar International Corp. will put it in a strong position as companies renew their fleets.

Brexit is on its way, whether supply chains are ready or not. Britain's notice that it will formally trigger negotiations on March 29 to remove itself from the European Union opens a two-year window for talks set to disentangle deep trade ties and echo across the trading world, the WSJ's Jenny Gross reports. Prime Minister Theresa May's notice paves the way for Britain to leave by March 2019. The negotiations will be some of the most complex either side has undertaken, and the two sides publicly remain far apart on some central issues. Their progress may bring some clarity to manufacturers and logistics providers that have been trying to adjust to the uncertainty over issues like tariffs and trade freedoms that may be at the center of supply-chain planning. Waiting in the wings: the potential for talks between the U.K. and the U.S. as the future of Britain's trade policies take shape.

Perishables supply chains out of California are all wet. Two months of precipitation have threatened almond, celery, strawberry and other crops in the state's agriculture-rich Salinas Valley, the WSJ's Heather Haddon reports, the latest in a string of increasingly erratic weather events to hurt farmers in the region. The Salinas Valley produces most of the leafy greens for the U.S. during this stretch until cooler areas supplement supply, and some grocers say the conditions have forced them to brace for disruptions. The weather problems are stretching across the country: A string of warm days in the Midwest has worried producers of maple syrup, apples and other fruit, while volatile weather has struck agricultural regions in Arizona and the southeast U.S. Some researchers are breeding plants to tolerate higher temperatures. In the meantime, farms taking extra steps to preserve crops and prices for products like cauliflower and romaine lettuce are soaring.

TRANSPORTATION

DP World says getting bigger helped it get more profitable in a tough shipping economy. The Dubai-based cargo terminal operator counted a $1.13 billion profit for 2016 that was 28% ahead of the year before, the WSJ's Asa Fitch reports, and came as the company extended its global expansion strategy. The results gota boost from a full year of ownership of Economic Zones World, which develops and operates infrastructure around ports including Dubai's Jebel Ali terminal, and a full year of revenue from a container terminal in Canada that it acquired in April 2015. DP World's expansion is part of the broader consolidation going on among shipping terminal operators, and the Middle East operator says the diversification has spread out its risks in a volatile global trade arena. DP World has bulked up its container handling capacity by more than 20% since 2012, and aims to expand nearly as much by 2020.

QUOTABLE

IN OTHER NEWS

Germany's top economic officials defended the nation's giant foreign surpluses, pushing back against U.S. criticism of German trade policy. (WSJ)

Wholesale trade in Canada posted its biggest month-over-month gain in over seven years in January, on record motor-vehicle sales. (WSJ)

Oil prices have fallen around10% since the start of the month. (WSJ)

Qualcomm Inc. will start shipping a new cellphone designed to bring faster wireless service to basic, lower-priced phone in emerging markets. (WSJ)

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Limited Ltd. plans to put a regional distribution hub in Malaysia for its fast-growing Southeast Asia business. (Reuters)

The Cass Freight Index for U.S. shipments jumped 7% from January to February. (Logistics Management)

India's Flipkart Online Services Pvt finished a $1 billion fundraising round and aims to raise as much as $1 billion in the coming months. (Bloomberg)

Several Chinese delivery companies have set up a foundation to address the growing packaging waste resulting from the e-commerce boom. (South China Morning Post)

High-volume shippers are likely to get the biggest benefits from new shipping alliances that will consolidate Asia-Europe container services. (Lloyd'sLoading List)

Maersk Line says it has "almost eradicated facilitation payments" in an anti-bribery drive at the shipping line. (Copenhagen Post)

The head of South Korea's SM Lines says the small container line is looking for acquisitions to boost its profile. (Yonhap)

Kuehne + Nagel International AG bought pharmaceutical distribution specialists Zet Farma in Turkey and Ferlito Pharma Logistics in Italy. (American Shipper)

State police are devoting more attention to truck stops as a front line in their battle against the U.S. opioid crisis. (Associated Press)

Several of the world's largest chocolate makers signed an agreement to end deforestation in major cocoa-producing areas. (Quartz)

Hitachi Transport System is starting a service to ship Japanese sake internationally with a special container to preserve the flavor. (Nikkei Asian Review)

ABOUT US

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

March 21, 2017 06:56 ET (10:56 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2017 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.