Third-Party Logistics

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.  ...
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.  ...
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 ...
3PLConferenceThird-Party LogisticsTransportation

By Erik Jensen, CTB When I found out I would be attending the 2017 TIA Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, I was extremely excited. I’ve been working at A.M. Transport for four years and always look forward to hearing about the conference and the wealth of information attendees come away with. I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity, so I leaned on Mike and David who would attend the conference too with questions as simple as “What should I wear?” to searching questions such as “What do you enjoy the most about the conference?” And while I knew the experience would provide me with new-found perspectives, I was surprised at how much there was to take in when we arrived. The conference exceeded my expectations in three particular areas: 1) the sessions with so much industry knowledge shared on panels and by speakers, 2) networking and meeting with new industry friends, 3) the trade show and exposition where I demoed and tested some great technology. I am an information junkie, so the education sessions were my favorite part of the conference (I ended up attending nine specific sessions). These sessions ranged from “How are Shippers Leveraging Their Relationships With the 3PL Community?” to “The Path to Growing a Freight Brokerage” to “I’m With The Government And I Am Here To Help: 3PL Rules And Regulations.” I didn’t attend a session that didn’t enlighten in some way, but the Economic Update really stoked my interest. Noel Perry of Transport Fundamentals and FTR Associates shared a bunch of eye-opening information that I’d be happy to share if you have any interest in it. I’m pretty sure I have about eight pages of notes. Networking and meeting new people was a blast. Folks were nice and willing to share tidbits of information that helped make their companies successful. As a first-time attendee, I found it a bit shocking. I’m pretty competitive—so it was odd to see 3PLs and brokers sharing ideas and methods with their competition. But this is what makes the TIA Conference so special; everyone wants to see everyone else succeed. I spoke to people in the industry for just a couple years and others who’ve been in it for 40+ years. Each person shared the same inspiration for their craft and desire to keep learning. I felt as if I’d walked into a group of old friends and left with the intention of keeping in touch to share thoughts and information as we continue our growth process. The Exhibition Hall (trade-show) was something else.  The big-shots were there with impressive booths displaying their products. It was thrilling to see how other systems worked in comparison to ours. While I had fun checking out the displays, I really enjoyed talking to the younger start-up companies that were trying to get their feet in the door of our industry. They had great products and a lot of initiative. Most of these companies are attempting to automate the mindless daily processes that eat our time. I have a feeling a few of them are on to something big. And yes, we were in Las Vegas, so of course, I had to do a little bit of gambling. And yes, I lost. It’s ok, though, because I gained more from four days than I lost at the table (I did have a little explaining to do to my wife—she’s not much of a gambler). Overall, I had a great time and expanded my knowledge base at the TIA Conference. I’m still processing the unforgettable experience, and I sure hope I have the opportunity to attend again. As for those eight pages of notes—I do have them. And if you are interested in hearing more about the individual sessions, give me a shout. I’d love to share....