3PL

3PLBest PracticesConference

by Connor Dixon, CTB I’ve been working at AM Transport Services for five and a half years. That’s why I was excited to attend my first TIA Convention this year. Even as a first-time attendee, I could see how the members of the TIA are a pretty close-knit group of friends who also happen to be competitors. The friend/competitor thing makes for an interesting dynamic if you really think about it. Here’s what really got me, though. In the end, all these competitors/friends just want to see one another succeed. It’s not like anything else I’ve ever experienced. I learned a lot talking shop and attending sessions. The hottest topics included: ELD Compliance. Most folks agree that the mandate hasn’t created as much turmoil as was expected. Driver Shortage. Word is that driver shortage should be called driver misusage. Blockchain. Some believe that it will be a major part of the trucking industry within the next year. Enlightened Shippers. Shippers who understand the need for partnerships. AMT Squirrel Works. Huge success in the exhibition area! Lots of buzz about the white squirrel swag and our videographer, Morgan Henton. The Squirrel Works booth was always busy because no one else does exactly what Squirrel Works does!   For me, the 2018 TIA Convention was a great opportunity to leave the day-to-day operations behind and spend time with industry leaders. I spent several 8-5 days, in sunny Palm Desert, California, with the best in the business.  When the sessions were over, we’d meet up in the evening to continue networking. Group members hang out and share ideas, best practices, and what works and doesn’t work for them--all the while enjoying each other’s company. The TIA convention is one of those places where the more time and effort you put into it, the more you get out of it. I didn’t meet anyone who wasn’t open to sharing and networking. It’s pretty refreshing when you think about just how competitive our industry is. Anyone serious about advancing their skills and knowledge of the industry would benefit greatly from attending a TIA Convention in the future. I know I did!...
3PLCustomer Service

“First principles thinking is a powerful way to help you break out of this herd mentality, think outside the box and innovate completely brand new solutions to familiar problems.”  -Mayo Oshin What do business tycoon Elon Musk, the method of Socratic questioning, the famed philosopher Aristotle, and the team at AM Transport Services have in common? It’s a diverse list, but there’s a common denominator--the art of questioning assumptions--known as “first principles thinking.” We could add toddlers to the list above. No one is better than a toddler at asking why, why, why--and that’s what first principles thinking is all about. So what is first principles thinking and how does it work? In conversation with TED curator, Chris Anderson, Elon Musk, founder of PayPal, Tesla, and SpaceX muses that one of the reasons for his phenomenal success is physics and the scientific method of reasoning called “first principles reasoning.” Musk likens first principles reasoning to “boiling things down to their fundamental truths and then reasoning up from there instead of reasoning from analogy.” And James Clear, over at Farnam Street, defines “reasoning from first principles” as “one of the best ways to learn to think for yourself, unlock your creative potential, and move from linear to non-linear results.” He goes on to explain that “by identifying your current assumptions, breaking these down into their basic truths and creating solutions from scratch — you can uncover these ingenious solutions to complex problems and make unique contributions in any field.”   How does this apply to logistics and, in particular, to the way we do logistics at AM Transport Services? Right now, the logistics industry is experiencing an unprecedented capacity crunch. For a variety of reasons--driver shortage, hard enforcement of the ELD mandate, a strong economy, and produce season--shippers are finding capacity a bit elusive. DAT Solutions reported that for the week ending April 7, the van load-to-truck ratio was 7.4 loads per truck, the reefer load-to-truck ratio was 11.0 loads per truck, and the flatbed load-to-truck ratio was a staggering 111 loads per truck with rates soaring. Shippers need solutions and they need them yesterday. According to a recent article by Marc Chrencik, one of the best ways to navigate the capacity crunch is to create a strong relationship with a 3PL. He explains that 3PLs: Maintain extensive carrier networks. Utilize Transportation Management Systems (TMS) that offer increased visibility. Handle carrier related issues. We would add to the list that a good 3PL will schedule pick up and delivery appointments, provide in-house billing, and offer excellent customer service! But here’s where first principles thinking comes in. At AM Transport, we assert that a GREAT 3PL specialist asks questions. And that’s what we do! We ask questions in order to understand what our customers want and need. We ask questions so we can break every transportation equation down to its unique components. We build customized solutions for your most vexing logistics difficulties because safe, on-time, and cost-efficient delivery of your freight is our first priority. Every load. Every time. We don’t assume the rates are set in stone, or the necessary equipment is too hard to contract, or the delivery times can’t be made within the time-constraints because we start new each time. That’s a benefit our customers have come to count on. At AM Transport Services, no problem is too big--or too small--for the first principles thinking of our team. Give us a call and find out for yourself.  ...
3PLBest PracticesCarrier ManagerCustomer ServiceGPSintermodalThird-Party LogisticsTransportationTruckingUncategorized

  Shippers continue to experience the “spot market blues.” According to DAT Solutions, the average spot rate for trucking was 2.15 per mile at the end of March. The natural disasters occurring in the last half of 2017 merged with the ELD Mandate and the continuing driver shortage to send spot markets through the roof. You see, capacity isn’t coming back any time soon. Here at AM Transport, customers are top priority; that’s why we believe in cultivating great logistics partnerships! How can partnering with a 3PL help shippers navigate a volatile freight market? Let’s take a look. Right now, drivers are frustrated by the ELD Mandate because by eliminating paper logs, it forces compliance with HOS rules. We believe that the April 1 hard enforcement of the mandate is going to force shippers to change they way they do business.  Transport Topics’ Eric Miller reports that at a recent MATS (Mid-America Trucking Show) in Louisville, KY, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration chief, Ray Martinez told drivers frustrated with the mandate that when they wait at loading docks inefficiency is created in the economy. That inefficiency is bound to drive freight rates up. Both Martinez and drivers agreed that while HOS rules affect drivers, there’s no equivalent mandate forcing shippers to conform to strict time windows.   Furthermore, the driver shortage will continue squeezing capacity until the industry finds ways to mitigate the negative aspects of the driving life--lack of exercise, healthy food options, disrupted sleep cycles. In the same issue of Transport Topics, Miller reports that truck drivers, as a group, have a “50% higher rate of Type 2 Diabetes than the national average.” There’s a lot of work to be done before we begin to see an ease in the driver shortage. However, with many good people researching and working on this problem, we fully expect innovative solutions—check out ATRI’s (American Transportation Research Institute) Young Driver Assessment Tool for an example of industry innovation. How can good partnerships with 3PLs mitigate these problems? Did you know that most small carriers still receive their freight from direct interaction with shippers instead of load boards and brokerages? That’s what a recent survey developed by CarrierLists and Freightwaves indicates. Here’s what we know--good brokers have relationships not only with shippers but with carriers. Shippers looking for solutions could benefit from these relationships. And what about contract rates? We understand a shipper’s reticence to lock in contract rates; after all, according to our friends at Freightwaves, those rates have increased up to 10%. However, brokers with their wide variety of carrier relationships, can often lock in affordable contract rates that even out a shipper’s freight spend. In the coming months, savvy shippers will shift their strategy from last-minute bids to long-term solutions. And the best way to do this is to cultivate relationships with freight partners you can trust. At AM Transport, we have 30 years of experience partnering with shippers and carriers. With over 10,000 approved carriers, we are positioned to find the best solution for your freight. We understand the worry skyrocketing rates cause, not to mention, the impact they have on your bottom line. When you work with us, we get to know you and your business. We ask questions, analyze your supply chain, and create solutions. We know logistics and we want to take the worry out of transportation so you can get back to doing what you do best.    ...
3PLBest PracticesCommunityCustomer ServiceIndustry NewsLeadershipThird-Party LogisticsTransportationTruckingUncategorized

By Michael McKinney, CTB   This week, I was notified that AM Transport received a longevity award from the TIA (Transportation Intermediaries Association) for 25 years of continuous membership since 1993. I have to admit, it’s pretty cool to be recognized, and it’s hard for me to believe it’s been that long. I guess time really does fly when you’re having fun. The recognition comes at a great time. You see, I’m getting ready to attend the 2018 TIA Conference in Palm Desert, California. It’s TIA’s 40th conference, and I’m guesstimating that it’s my 15th or 16th, but to be honest, I’m just not sure how many I’ve attended. Like all great experiences, these conferences have become one long good memory I reflect upon often. Did you know that the TIA Capital Ideas Conference & Exhibition remains the only conference solely for 3PLs? AM Transport has been in the brokerage business for nearly 30 years, and this conference is always one of the highlights of my year because spending time with other brokers rejuvenates my passion for the industry. I could give you lots of reasons for why I attend--I like traveling to new places, meeting new people, and catching up with old industry friends. But there’s so much more to the TIA conference. The energy is palpable when industry leaders mingle, when ideas fly over the dinner table, when newcomers walk into the trade show for the first time!     Let’s talk about the membership. TIA members share ideas. It’s surprising, really, how willing members are to share best practices, tools of the trade, risk issues and their unique take on the industry. It might seem counterintuitive--competitors coming together to help one another. In fact, I’ve heard first-timers express real disbelief at how willing everyone is to share! I always head to the TIA conference with a list of challenges we face, as well as, thoughts I’d like feedback on and questions about industry tools/services. And of course, I like to share too. I’ve learned so much from others in my career, that I’m determined to give back when I can!   Education is another biggie. If you want to learn and grow knowledge, the TIA conference is the venue for you! Industry experts offer educational sessions on a deep and wide range of topics from Sales & Marketing to Technology and Risk Management; from Legal Concerns to Regulations and Capacity Sourcing. Whatever your interests might be, there’s a session for you because the list also includes: Compensation and Personnel, Finance, Change Management, Data Analytics, and so much more.   And let’s not forget the amazing trade show. The TIA trade show is the place to find out what’s new, upcoming, and cutting-edge in the industry. It’s where we go to review and learn about services and tools to boost productivity and efficiency. TMS solutions, visibility and tracking, compliance, insurance, payment solutions, LTL, rail, it’s all there.   I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that I like a challenge, and that’s another reason I don’t miss out on the annual TIA conference. Each year, I attend to see and hear what other companies are doing--growth they’re experiencing, new solutions they’ve created, staff development they offer. When you’re hanging with the best in the industry, you can’t help but catch the energy and the desire to do better.  It reminds me of what motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, famously said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Come to think of it, Goethe’s maxim might be more appropriate, “Tell me with whom you consort and I will tell you who you are.” If it sounds like I’m looking forward to the TIA conference, then I’ve done my job. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t end with the one aspect of the conference that I simply can’t do without. It’s friendship. Over the years, I’ve met some awesome people who turned out to be good friends. This annual conference, is often the only time of the year I see them in person.  Sure, we talk on the phone, but you can’t beat talking in person, catching up on work and life. After all, breaking bread together and relaxing in the company of others who understand is a big part of who we are at TIA.  ...
3PLCarrier ManagerIndustry NewsShippersThird-Party LogisticsUncategorized

Carriers are purchasing new trucks at record levels. According to the Wall Street Journal, heavy-duty truck orders hit a whopping 48,700—twice as many during the same time frame last year. Some industry people believe this might loosen the crunch of tight capacity. But is capacity coming back to the market? A recent article from Craig Fuller over at Freightwaves suggests that the uptick in big rig and trailer orders does not indicate capacity flooding the market. Fuller explains that prices on used trucks aren’t firming and that there haven’t been enough new labor hires in the trucking industry to offset the continuing driver shortage and the deficits created by the ELD Mandate. So what’s happening? Here at AM Transport, we’ve seen this before. Historically, when carriers are enjoying good margins, they hope to multiply those margins into larger financial successes by investing in more trucks to grow their fleets. Typically what happens is the load-to-truck ratio shifts, creating a more favorable climate for shippers. It’s a cycle. But times have changed, and due to many factors such as eCommerce, tighter regulations, and advanced technologies, we believe this cycle might be gone for good. And it’s definitely not what’s happening today. We’ve been keeping track of the data, and while it could indicate a flattening of capacity we believe it paints a different picture. In fact, we think the data shows carriers will be spending money proactively in a dynamic and changing market. Here’s the evidence: The surge in trailer purchases is a smart hedge against the difficulties in drive-time created by the ELD Mandate. A drop trailer pool is an excellent solution to HOS rules and the tracking of drive time. Arranging a drop trailer minimizes a driver’s nondriving time. We believe shippers will impose drop trailer requirements on vendors, and carriers who don’t position themselves with trailers will lose out.     The driver shortage continues. Carriers may use excess cash to purchase new equipment but they’ll have a tough time filling seats due. Carriers must invest money in technology and other previously nonessential areas—amenities such as comfortable seats, rest quarters, and access to fitness equipment—in order to retain and help recruit new drivers.     Carriers are top-grading equipment to remove inefficiencies.  Those who use this as an opportunity to incorporate better technology into their fleets will win in the long run vs though who are just simply trading older for newer equipment.  ELDs come in all shapes and sizes, but Carriers who understand their business hinges on these devices will not only invest in physical equipment but also in the necessary education.   The past year has been one of upheaval in the trucking industry with several natural disasters, a burgeoning driver shortage, and the implementation of the ELD Mandate and new regulations which goes into full effect on April 1. Carriers are responding to these changes in confident and interesting ways. While many predict that Carrier investments point to an ease in the capacity crunch, we don’t see it. We believe capacity will continue to be tight for a while that’s why we keep our eyes on the trends and continue to analyze the data. Information and communication help our customers make smart and cost-efficient decisions for their freight.  ...
3PLGPSShippersTechnology

By Erik Jensen, CTB Each year a few new buzz words or phrases hit the transportation industry. These words and phrases typically embody an event, such as the mandatory implementation of electronic logging devices, or a service you offer, like “available capacity.” VISIBILITY is the keyword sticking with me for the past couple of years. Shippers not only expect to know what’s going on with their freight but want to see it in real time. If you’re not actively providing visibility and not constantly in pursuit of options to provide shippers with a better experience, it’s likely your customers are looking for a new partner. And they should be! But how can you do this? It might sound like hard work, but there are some available solutions we provide our customers every day. From our experience, the best solution is when your core carriers allow you access to their GPS Tracking systems. Obviously, this requires strong relationships with carriers but is an invaluable resource. This allows you to have complete visibility on your shipments and the ability to track them 24/7. If carriers do not allow access to their GPS Tracking systems, there are some options we use to ensure shipments are tracked and monitored 24/7. One of our go-to tracking providers is MacroPoint. MacroPoint allows us to obtain real-time visibility on our shipments and eases our concerns when managing them. Repeatedly calling a carrier with the question, “Where is your truck?” is no fun and a ridiculous waste of resources. Let’s face it; it’s a bad look when your customer asks for an ETA, and you can’t provide an accurate time because you can’t reach your carrier. With MacroPoint, we’re able to avoid that hassle and update our customers with accurate location updates and ETAs. Trucker Tools is another tracking provider we use to stay on top of shipments. What I like about Trucker Tools is that it pings the driver’s cell phone every 5-20 minutes with location updates. This eases any concerns we might have through transit, and if we see something alarming, it affords us the opportunity to respond quickly and create solutions to potential problems. At A.M. Transport, visibility is a must. We strive to provide our customers with the best service out there and are always looking for new ways to improve. Tracking is one of the key services we provide, but there are many others as well. If you have any other questions feel free to contact us. We would love to help....
3PLBest PracticesCustomer Service

Driver shortage; natural disasters; and an ever-tightening capacity giving you the spot market blues?   What recourse does a shipper have?   A few weeks back, a worried customer, feeling the capacity crunch frantically demanded a meeting. Let’s face it, when natural disasters and federal mandates mix it up with driver shortages and a robust economy, shipping rates begin to climb. According to the Wall Street Journal and a recent DAT Solutions report, 10 loads for every available truck on the spot market were waiting to be moved in the week ending Jan. 20, compared with three in the same week last year. You know what it’s like, relying on the spot market where carriers and other logistics providers are taking advantage of increased rates. According to the same Wall Street Journal article, “spot-market prices for dry vans, the most commonly used big rig, are up more than 20% year-over-year.” No one knows how long it will take for the industry to reach a new normal. At AM Transport, we predict the market is going to fluctuate for a while, with that new normal more than a few miles down the road. Are contract rates the answer?    Sure, we know that during the last 3 months of 2017 due to a variety of disruptions old contract rates were broken as carriers began to shift capacity to the better-paying spot market. However, we believe the best antidote to volatility is still a good rate. Even at 3-5% increase, newly negotiated contract rates will save shippers both time and money. This is how we approached our customer’s out-of-control budget. Once they recognized that the super low contract rates of the past were gone forever, they saw the benefit of fair and consistent rates.   And guess what? Our customer is better off than ever. No longer playing a spot-market game with freight that must be moved, they are better able to budget while leaving the freight moves to us. If you have the spot market blues; if your budget is busted halfway through a busy month; if you need innovative and consistent ways to manage your freight spend; give the professionals at AM Transport a call. We believe good contract rates will get the load off your shoulders and back on the road!...
3PLBest PracticesCarrier ManagerintermodalSales

By Joel Carey, CTB While in recent months much of the news in the transportation industry has been a clamor of who’s crafting which latest future-rattling technology applications, some shippers may find great benefit from a step back for fresh consideration of the original transportation game-changer. Intermodal rail transportation has evolved in the past several years from a perhaps well-deserved reputation for unreliable service, poor communication, and tracking, and damaged freight, to a level of operational efficiency and customer service that rivals most over-the-road trucking options - often at substantial savings. Shippers with relatively durable palletized freight that can be limited to a gross weight of 42,500 pounds and loaded at facilities in reasonable proximity to a primary rail ramp can readily garner savings of 10-30% over TL rates in certain lanes. Lanes from the Midwest to the West Coast and the Midwest to the Northeast are prime examples where current Intermodal rates are well below OTR. To enhance shipper’s options that might encourage the shift to Intermodal, the major railroads have recently opened new service in lanes from the lower Midwest to the Northeast and Florida which also offer competitive pricing. With the exception of ensuring thorough bracing and an extra day in transit on most routes, a shipper might otherwise not even notice these days that their freight is riding the rails rather than the road.  The Class I railroads have made excellent use of Internet technology to provide effective communication of shipping orders and appointments, as well as 24-hour position tracking and notifications.  The Intermodal specialists at AM Transport closely monitor all shipments and can provide any level of detailed reporting that our customers might request. Spot market Intermodal capacity is readily available for next-day pickup or beyond, so why not do your shipping budget a favor and consider a solid and cost-effective alternative?  AM Transport is ready and able to discuss the benefits and options that Intermodal might present to your shipping operations....
3PLBest PracticesCustomer ServiceGPSInnovationProductivityTechnologyUncategorized

Say Hello to the Future! How well do you know your broker? Is their website transparent and interactive? Can you pull it up on your mobile phone? What kind of Transportation Management System (TMS) do they use? They do have a TMS, right? Do they utilize a portal where you can access tracking, payments, experts, information? There’s no such thing as too much information. Your broker should be your one-stop shop for everything freight-related. If not, then you aren’t getting your money’s worth. In January, the folks over at FreightWaves deemed 2018 as “the beginning of the end for the voice broker”--claiming “Voice brokers are a dime a dozen, and their days are numbered. Over the next year, companies that lack technology are doomed.” When we say voice broker, we are referring to the traditional old-time freight-broker, the guy or gal who books loads from a spare room in their three-bedroom ranch, using the bare minimum--a phone, a load board, email, and a personal relationship with carriers and shippers. Here at AM Transport, we know those personal relationships are important. But we saw the writing on the wall a long time ago. That’s why we complemented our exceptional customer service with a heavy investment in the newest technologies. We’ve worked hard to integrate the best efficiency-boosting technologies in order to streamline and optimize our client’s experience. How do we do that? Cloud Technology We can find and facilitate capacity easier because we leverage cloud technology and consider our Carrier sales as important as our Customer sales. Price Discovery We utilize multiple sources of industry rate benchmarking data as well as our own data to predict the current market rate of a shipment. This allows us to offer competitive rates to both shippers and carriers. Payment Settlement We offer innovative solutions that enable carriers to submit their shipment paperwork quicker and easier to us in order to get paid faster. Online Portal We offer a robust online portal that allows a customer visibility into their supply chain including dashboard views, KPIs, and custom reporting. People Of course, no great company works without people. Here at AM Transport, we’re special because we just flat-out have the best people. Men and women who are empowered every single day to make ethical decisions. Folks who leave work in the evening as energized as when they arrived in the morning because they love their jobs. Our people gives us and you an unparalleled benefit! Take a minute and ask yourself--Is my logistics provider a voice broker? If the answer is yes, give us a call! The truth is whether you are a carrier or a shipper, times are changing, and here at AM Transport we believe change is a great catalyst. We know that the best relationships are built on excellent customer service rooted in a passion to implement new and exciting technologies that keep our customers competitive. Remember, you deserve more than a voice on a phone!...
3PLBest Practices

By Jordan Pottorff, CTB Shippers shopping for the best rate on a per load basis or going out for bid every year to secure cheap capacity has been a long-standing practice in our industry. It’s a method that has benefited shippers across the country for years, but with our industry changing at such a rapid pace, is rate shopping really the best way for shippers to manage their freight? When I talk with shipping managers and other decision-makers about their freight, a common response I get is, “I just go out for quotes, and the best price wins. Send me an email, and I’ll get you added to my list.” For years the transactional freight relationship of having hundreds of brokers and carriers on a quote list has got the job done and never forced shippers to look at their internal operations when it comes to available capacity until now. The rate-shopping email blast practice of yesteryear won’t get any shipper-of-volume the return they want in today’s climate. The market has changed and is now putting a high amount of stress on shippers who don’t have strong relationships to fall back on. The ones who saw the market shift coming and planned accordingly likely have put new procedures in place that search for more than the cheapest price in a carrier or broker. For the ones who haven’t, now is a perfect time to start. A few things a shipper should consider when sourcing available capacity is the amount of lead time you provide a carrier or broker, being flexible with pickup and delivery appointments, and considering all forms of transit if it’s not a time-critical shipment. The ability to intertwine these methods - - paired with implementing procedures to minimize the amount of time carriers spend waiting at your facility - - will open the doors to additional capacity with quality carriers. Another step shippers need to consider is the volatility of the market. Going out for bid in today’s market does not make sense. You will secure rates that will compare to the spot market and not get you the desired results you’re searching for, which is affordable capacity with a quality provider. Shippers would be better off partnering with a smaller crop of carriers or brokers with strong carrier networks that will cover the necessary volume while working together to create a pricing model that benefits everyone involved. When looking internally and taking the current market and everything talked about above into consideration, a shipper will want to partner with a carrier or broker with strong technological offerings that aid in visibility and reporting to improve on-time deliveries and overall performance. A brokerage or carrier with service offerings such as a customer portal, various forms of tracking, a freight spend and on-time reporting tool, and 24/7 availability could be the difference in meeting your goals or continuing to struggle in this market. Lastly, implementing or partnering with a provider who offers a Transportation Management System (TMS) is the best way to streamline your operation, as studies show shippers who operate with a TMS see 12% savings on their freight. A TMS provides data and analytics that will provide hard data for shippers to review. This information could be looked at to gauge overall costs or determine areas that need improvement across the board as you look for internal improvement or prepare for your next procurement exercise. All told, our industry is changing and the way shippers manage their freight is different than in times past. It’s important shippers know the pulse of our industry and plan accordingly for what will best fit their operation now and in the future....