Shippers

Best PracticesCommunityCustomer ServiceProductivityShippersThird-Party LogisticsTransportationUncategorized

By Michael McKinney, CTB   “Culture eats strategy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.” --Peter Drucker, Founder of the Drucker Institute   Why would a shipper work with a small company like AM Transport? It’s a valid question; after all, we compete with multibillion dollar behemoths who have vast financial resources, dirt cheap pricing, the latest gadgetry, and seemingly endless hiring budgets. You might even think the behemoths hold all the advantages. But you’d be wrong. You see, when I have the opportunity to talk about the benefits AM Transport offers, I always come back to our great culture. Culture? Really? Sure, the hardline skeptics will tell you culture isn’t a benefit--that culture is too vague and intangible to be measured or defended. I argue otherwise because the effect culture has is real; I’ve experienced it.  In fact, I believe a company’s culture is perhaps the most telling indicator of the value they bring to the table.   “Who we are matters more than what we know or who we want to be.” --Brene Brown, Author of Daring Greatly--   The other day I had coffee with Connor, one of our long-time team members and posed this question, “What makes us different from our competition?” Connor paused, raised his eyebrows, and looked at me. I could tell he wondered if the question was a trick. I’m pretty sure he thought the answer was simple, so what the heck was I getting at? After a second, he said, “When a customer calls AM Transport, they know they’ll get someone on the phone who knows them.  They know when they call or email they’ll get a quick response. Customers know we care about their business and are committed to getting the job done.  That we’re available 24 hours a day, 7 days/week. They know we have highly talented and trained people and low turnover. That we’re high energy and eager to serve because we have a great team and atmosphere.”   He went on but I think you get the point.  Connor was talking about culture!   “A hallmark of a healthy, creative culture is that its people feel free to share ideas, opinions, and criticisms. Lack of candour, if unchecked ultimately leads to dysfunctional environments.” --Ed Catmull, Co-Founder of Pixar Animation Studios and President of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios-- It all starts with culture! You see, the right culture breeds a team that cares about each other, their customers and their carriers.   So, let’s break this down a bit. How does the culture at AM Transport translate into real, tangible benefits for our customers? We’re a happy bunch! What’s happy got to do with it--come on, we’re talking about business? Quite a lot if you look at the research. Over at The Happy Manifesto, Elinor Schmitz-Jansen breaks it down. She claims that happy people are more creative, accurate and have better analytical skills. Furthermore, she highlights how happy people handle adversity with aplomb, take fewer sick days, and are better negotiators. Research indicates that happier people are more productive and provide better service! Finally, happy people stay!   If we look at the happiness factor a little more closely, you’ll see why culture is important. Everyone’s talking about creativity these days, but is creativity really a big deal? After all, we’re here to move freight, not write poems. Let me assure you, the importance of creative thinking cannot be overvalued. A culture promoting creativity promotes innovative ideas and quick decision making. Our team members have the autonomy and authority to make on-the-spot decisions for the customer!   We all know that in the transportation industry, adversity is the name of the game. Our team members aren’t afraid of adversity. They are great problem solvers. Sure, we enjoy those difficulty-free shipments that go off without a hitch, but we don’t shy away from challenges. In fact, we thrive on finding solutions!   We pride ourselves on our excellent customer service. We care about our customers and get to know them. But we also know and have great relationships with folks all along the supply chain--logistics managers, warehouse personnel, consignees, and over 10,000 carriers. Our ability to cultivate relationships translates into great customer service all the way around.   Let’s talk about retention for a minute. All the research shows that a good company culture means people stick around. Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly  says that human beings are hardwired for belonging. If you belong, you stay. People who stick around have more experience, more know-how, more relationships, more skills.   “Company Culture is the product of a company’s values, expectations and environment.” --Courtney Chapman, Product Manager, Rubicon Project--   Here’s the deal--culture matters. It matters a lot. If you’re not convinced--think about this for a minute. The big guys promote a culture of competitiveness among and between their employees who are always looking at the bottom line and concentrated on the top dollar--for themselves. They have to--it’s the nature of the beast when you’re looking out for number one. Instead of working together, employees compete--your freight is just a vehicle, if you will, for someone else’s drive to the top.   At AM Transport, we work together. Always. We truly believe that who we are makes everything we do better. ...
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....
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....
Industry NewsShippersTransportation

The ELD Mandate The Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate is now in effect, and it’s time to start getting prepared for the changes that will come along with it. The mandate is specifically directed towards carriers, but shippers and consignees will also be affected. While the implementation of ELDs does present potential benefits to shippers, there will also be special issues that will need to be on shippers’ radars in the near future. Ways Shippers Can Stay Ahead of the ELD Game We recently put together a white paper that gives a brief introduction of the mandate, exemptions, how the rule can potentially impact shippers, and what to keep in mind as the rules moves forward. Specifically, shippers are going to need to start preparing and evaluating their own organizations and processes to see how they too can begin adapting to the new mandate. Here are just a few ways shippers can get started: Plan Ahead The transportation industry already presents plenty of challenges to shippers, such as potential capacity crunches, bad weather, closings for holidays, and so forth. Implementation of ELDs is going to add another layer to these challenges. Planning is going to become even more crucial for shippers that require specialty services such as expedited trips, long hauls, job site deliveries, and so forth. Evaluate Dock Space and Storage/Warehouse Options Take steps to understand how your docks are currently using space to stage product. Can staging be condensed in order to prepare more loads and therefore load trucks more quickly? Is there another space available to stage product before it is transferred to the dock for loading. If you are shipping product that is need to go directly into production, look into storage and warehousing options to prevent halts in production due to drivers who are detained at the shipper or are unable to deliver before they are required to take a break. Evaluate Loading/Unloading Processes As mentioned previously, detention is going to be even more of a hot-button issue for drivers with ELDs. How can your loading and unloading processes be streamlined? Are there steps that can be fixed and/or eliminated to reduce the possibility of detention? Adapt Your Own Trucks Early Even though the mandate is still two years from the implementation deadline, many small steps need to be taken that will require investments of research, time, and money (e.g. device decisions, registration, installation, training, driver turnover). For more information and resources about the mandate, download the full ELD White paper here. Have a topic or suggestion for a blog post you'd like to see? Let us know! Email us - blog@amtransportonline.com...