Industry News

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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.  ...
3PLCarrier ManagerIndustry NewsShippersThird-Party Logistics

By Erik Jensen, CTB If you’ve worked in the transportation industry long enough, chances are you have participated in many RFPs (request for proposals).  If not, I’ll do my best to explain one quickly. Typically, a customer sends out a list of lanes and the number of times they expect these lanes to ship during a specified time-period. Our job is to give our customers rates we can hold for this particular time-frame along with committed capacity. Sounds simple enough, right? Not so fast… In an ideal world where the market stays the same and fuel prices never change—which is relatively close to what we’ve seen over the past couple years--this can be accomplished somewhat easily. Rates would stay the same and nothing would ever change. But with events like hurricanes occurring and mandatory ELD Implementation dates approaching, this creates a level of uncertainty. To be quite honest, there might not ever be a more difficult time to participate in an RFP than now. Carriers that have implemented ELDs (Electronic Logging Devices) have stated we can expect a 4-7% reduction in fleet utilization as they learn to operate under the new technology, and some industry experts think that number might be too low. Many carriers are waiting until the last second possible to install these devices. Some of these carriers, for all intents and purposes, would rather just hang up the spikes than install ELDs, while another group of carriers that have actively been “fudging” their logbooks will be put out-of-service for a short period of time and might not have the resources to get back in the game. It’s safe to say that capacity will be harder to come by in 2018 and beyond—which means higher rates. Some industry experts expect rates to increase by at least 10%, and possibly even more. But then again, who really knows?  We can only predict what we’re going to see based on extensive conversations with carriers and our knowledge of the industry. What we can predict with ALMOST 100% certainty is that rates will increase and capacity will decrease, your guess is as good as mine for how long though....
3PLIndustry NewsThird-Party Logistics

Written By: Jesse Baker, CTB The new keyword in business and consumerism is Blockchain.  From the distribution of data to financial transactions, blockchains are being used everywhere.  But what exactly is blockchain?  Let’s take a look at an example that will describe it best. To best describe blockchain, it is easy to say it is just like Google Sheets.  Google sheets is a spreadsheet that is shared publicly (distributed through different servers, where every server sees each transaction), is decentralized (everyone is allowed to create a transaction and set rules), secure, trusted, and automated.  What makes this so nice is that the flow of data is happening all at once, while preventing duplication. Here is a great reference for the actual flow of the transaction, from beginning to end As the above example shows, blockchain is vital to the growing ecommerce world because of how secure, automated, and efficient it is.  Be prepared to one day be a part of a blockchain, as it will soon start moving in to every sector and be commonplace....
3PLIndustry NewsThird-Party LogisticsTransportationTrucking

Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who have been devastated by the relentlessness of Hurricane Harvey. We are inspired by the strength and bravery shown by the first responders, volunteer rescuers, and residents who are helping in the wake of this landmark event. Along with the visible damage left by Hurricane Harvey, supply chain networks have been thrown out of wack and the storm is expected to cost the economy tens of billions of dollars. Below are some key points you should be aware of as relief efforts in the area continue. I'm not in Texas, why is my capacity impacted? Houston is one of the biggest cities in the country, and because of that, the supply chain the city serves has the market in a state of flux. Trucks have been unable to get empty and the ability to find a reload has been very challenging and will continue to be so for the immediate future. Shippers will need to understand this and implement certain procedures to make this scenario less problematic in the coming weeks. We encourage shippers to offer longer lead time, give drivers flexibility when it comes to shipping hours and ship dates, be flexible with equipment requirements if at all possible, avoid unrealistic expectations and show empathy for carriers as they battle through the change and devastation left by Harvey. One thing we have seen as a course of action from shippers to continue to serve their respective markets is changing the origin points in the southwestern United States. This will help goods reach those who need it most but will have an immediate impact on several markets. To combat this, storm relief is being sent into the area from FEMA-designated points. FEMA sets the market for transactional transportation in these lanes, but this also impacts the transactional market rates to all destinations from those origins. Along with the issues facing the trucking industry, people across the country will feel the economic impact left by Harvey. Houston is a massive hub for the oil and gas industry, producing half of the petroleum and gas exports in the United States. Harvey has forced 13 refineries to completely or partially shut down, which will lead to nearly two million barrels of lost production. That means higher gas prices around the country. Harvey will also have a major impact in the plastics industry. Houston is responsible for 70 percent of the nation's ethylene, which is the main ingredient in plastics. Experts are saying 37 percent of U.S.-based ethylene production will be disrupted by the storm. This will impact the economy but to a lesser extent than the oil and gas industry. All told, Harvey has and will continue to leave a lasting impact on the trucking industry and the economy as a whole. Time and patience dealing with these changes will be necessary and beneficial to all. Feel free to call the AM Transport team if you would like our feedback in what we're seeing in the market and what we expect to see in the coming weeks. Example Carrier Network Shipping INTO storm impacted area halted OUTBOUND shipping lanes shut down Equipment unavailable to meet customer commitments as it has not been repositioned ...
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A Much-Needed Slap to the Head By Michael McKinney, CTB Often we don’t even know we are sleeping. Let me explain; a few weeks ago, I attended a Small Giants Passport Event in Boston with David Abell. It was a much-needed wake-up call—a metaphorical slap-to-the-head! AMT belongs to a group called Small Giants. Small Giants is a collective of business leaders who heartily believe in making money but “share a passion for values-driven leadership, committing to let purpose and people drive our strategies rather than financials.”[1] Within the Small Giants group, we’ve found other small to mid-size businesses who want to make a difference not only in the lives of their employees, but in the community at large. Passport Events are offerings from Small Giants that bring together 20 values-driven business leaders for intimate conversation and workgroup discussions and in-depth visits to some very successful value-driven businesses. In Boston, we were lucky enough to visit the successful and warm business workplace of Life is Good. I was excited to visit Life is Good as in the McKinney household, we are the proud wearers of Life is Good t-shirts. The highlight of touring Life is Good was the opportunity to hear co-founder Bert Jacobs talk about the company he and his brother John founded in 1994 and to talk to him about what is important to him as a business leader. Theirs is an amazing story about resilience and optimism. In fact, the mission statement of Life is Good is to spread the power of optimism. Bert explains that believing in optimism isn’t an exercise in blindly accepting what is, but rather an empowering belief in open-heartedness and open-mindedness. Being optimistic doesn’t only inspire us to do good, it also feels good. Something I found most interesting about the Life is Good mission is that Bert says that mission—to spread the power of optimism—underlies everything they do in the company. When things have been tough, that mission gives them something to fall back upon. Everything they do must help them spread the power of optimism. What a powerful mission! In support of that mission, Life is Good donates a full 10% of its profits to support children in need due to violence, poverty or illness. The trip to Boston rejuvenated me, and it inspired and continues to inspire me to be more optimistic in my own life. Bert Jacobs gave us an effective method of generating optimism in our daily lives. It’s easy and makes a difference. I’m calling it my new “Get-to Pledge.” Here’s how it works: When my daughter has her fourth ball game in as many days, Instead of saying, “I have to attend another ball game,” with an irritated tone, I say, “I get to see my talented, healthy kid play ball tonight.”  It works across the spectrum—GET TO instead of HAVE TO. Try it a few times, and you will see. And speaking of talented kids—when I arrived home from Boston, I was so excited about the trip that I was discussing it with my daughter Madeline who is a high school freshman and a wonderful artist. We talked about optimism and its power to change lives. Inspired by our conversation, she drew this great picture I will leave you with.   [1] From the Small Giants Website...