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The Future of Freight and Where Freight Brokers Fit In The freight brokerage industry has been a foundational piece of the transportation landscape for decades, with widespread growth experienced in the vertical over the last several years. Successful freight brokerage operations allow both the customer and the carrier to increase bandwidth through a myriad of value-added services that are designed to streamline the process. As a vital factor in connecting the supply and demand sides of the shipping business, freight brokerages generated an estimated $40 billion in revenue last year – an impressive number slated to grow in the upcoming year. Although freight brokers have shown their worth in years past, the shifting environment of freight has some concerned about the viability of brokerage operations into the future. Moving toward a Digital Approach Over the last two years, a flurry of activity has taken place in the venture capitalist arena focused on freight brokerage operations. Major players in technology have used their ample resources to quickly join the ranks of companies designing and delivering virtual connection services between customers and carriers, due in part to the opportunities freight brokers have in the marketplace. While there has consistently been a great deal of competition in the industry, with more than 15,000 registered freight brokers nationwide, behemoth corporations entering the mix shows clear signs of disruption. These additions to the freight broker environment are hyper-focused on creating and implementing services with technology at the helm. This move toward a digital, more automated approach in freight operations is attributed to the technological advancements in several silos of transportation. From self-driving trucks to help lower costs and improve efficiencies, to highly predictive freight and shipping analytic software that taps the power of big data, the digital disruption coming to the freight industry is intended to make customers and carriers less dependent on third-party intermediaries. However, there are challenges inherent to distributing new technologies on a grand scale, including slow adoption and the capital needed to replace or supplement legacy systems already in place. Even with these known obstacles, large technology companies are in the freight industry to stay. Preparing for the Future The digital disruption sweeping over the freight and transportation industry is not something that should be taken lightly by freight brokers, no matter their location, niche, or percent of market share. But adapting to the revolution taking place – and continuing successful operations as a freight broker – is a real possibility for those who take proactive steps. One of the most critical components of adding value to customers and carriers in the ever-changing freight environment is embracing the technology currently available to brokers. There are countless solutions for managing the freight process, which work in various ways to save time, reduce hassles, improve communication, and offer invaluable data which can be used to benefit broker operations on a large scale. Finding the best-fit solution that not only improves processes in-house but also adds value to customers and carriers is a necessity in today’s evolving freight market. In addition to grabbing hold of the digital wave, freight brokers can prepare for the changing landscape of the freight industry by strengthening relationships with current partners and customers. The human touch aspect of the freight broker business is something that cannot be replaced by technology, no matter how far it comes or how cost-effective it may be. Business relationships can be proactively insulated from digital disruption by simply checking in with customers and carriers periodically, asking what can be done better or differently, and then following through with feasible suggestions. While there is no stopping the influx of competition and digital disruption coming to the freight industry, freight brokers can view these changes as prime opportunities. Now is the time to update systems and processes, strengthen customer relationships, and ultimately, lay the groundwork for business growth in the years to come....
Technology

By Jesse Baker, CTB It’s a new year, and it’s time to figure out what the crypto-buzz is all about. Many businesses are getting in on Blockchain and Cryptocurrency even though their main objective has nothing to do with the tech sector or doling out this new currency. Take a look at a tea company, for example, that changed their name from Long Island Iced Tea to Long Blockchain and quickly tripled its price. Or what about the parent company of Hooters? When they began offering rewards via Cryptocurrency, their stock prices rose a stunning 50%. So why are companies getting in on the Crypto Craze, and what will it lead to? The obvious answer to the question is the demand to be involved in the newest get rich quick fad coupled with an almost complete lack of public understanding of this new tech. Crypto is big, but most of us can’t make sense of it or explain it. If you are interested, this video helps decipher some of the more difficult concepts. Once you see that Crypto is huge because it is decentralized and can be mined on your own, you will also see the inherent risk. People believe Cryptocurrencies can’t be hyperinflated by excess production and they love the concept of government having less control of their money. However companies that create the currency do have the ability to increase or decrease the amount of currency mined when solving the algorithms, so there remains an entity in control of the means of distribution. And because these companies are not regulated, they run an extremely large risk of producing another bubble, much like the dotcom bubble of the late 90s--companies adding “.com” to their name in order to drastically increase stock value before selling quickly and getting out. Blockchain technology will very likely change some if not many aspects of the transportation industry creating a more efficient transfer of contracts, documentation, and payments. Some industry experts expect Blockchain technology to revolutionize the industry; however, we believe it’s prudent to do your research. Staying ahead of the technology curve is important, and here at AM Transport, we’re keeping our eyes on Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies in order to keep you informed. As with everything when it comes to your own money, keep in mind that purchasing and mining Crypto is completely speculative. Remember that Blockchain is an amazing technology which will play a significant role in the near future, but be sure to watch out for companies who claim Blockchain or Crypto technology hoping to capitalize on the name. Keep your eyes open, read a lot, and be ready for a wild ride....
Best Practices

By Jordan Pottorff, CTB It’s no secret the transportation industry is going through an immense amount of change right now. The ELD mandate, the driver shortage crisis, the increased demand for autonomous trucks, and a capacity crunch across the country sending rates through the roof have come together to create a nearly unprecedented point in our industry’s history. Let’s take a look at the ELD mandate which is now in full effect. The entire industry is currently in a feel-it-out process. Rates are spiking and hours of service are interrupting normal transit times, while brokers, carriers, and shippers are working through an adoption and familiarity phase. Responsibility to conceive a fluid system will spread out to carriers, brokers, and shippers, but the major onus to counteract the requirements that come with the ELD mandate is on the shipper. In a recent American Trucker article, a notable carrier said, “ELDs were installed in all my trucks before the ELD Mandate. There have been many changes in dispatching. So far, all delivery times have been rescheduled due to long hold times at the shipper. Problems at shippers now heavily reflect on drivers’ hours. This must be addressed to operate efficiently for both drivers and company owners. Brokers need to be aware of HOS (hours of service) and understand the law to build freight accordingly.” Collaboration between all parties is key and will be paramount to a smooth operation. Shippers must streamline their processes to ensure the product is ready when the appointment is scheduled to avoid late deliveries and hours of service issues. If not, shippers will face the harsh reality of consistently higher rates. While the ELD mandate will require innovative solutions from shippers, the driver shortage crisis is forcing carriers to think outside the box. Some carriers are getting creative by offering incentives never before seen. To attract new talent, Celadon is offering drivers paid vacation, but that’s not all. They are also offering an $8,000 sign-on bonus for team drivers and an $8,000 sign-on incentive for lease purchase operators--both earned as mileage is accrued. Covenant is joining the fight against driver shortage and changing transit times by offering a $40,000 performance-based bonus for team drivers that will be paid out as mileage is accrued with each driver able to earn up to $20,000 in bonuses. Creativity, commitment, and innovation are necessary to navigate the current upheaval and volatility. At AM Transport, we operate primarily as a 3PL but also act as a part-time consulting firm to plot the course through these uncharted waters with our robust carrier network and solid customer base. We predicted the hurdles we are now jumping through and have planned accordingly, but at the end of the day it comes down to education and keeping our customers and core carriers in the loop. Tough conversations with carriers and shippers will continue to be necessary as no one can accurately predict when the market will stabilize, but relationships and value-added services will be king at the end of the day. Technological advancements, tracking updates & visibility tools, 24/7 communication and accessibility, and on-time pickup and delivery percentages will matter more than ever. Whether you are a carrier, dealer or shipper, we are here to help guide you through what is becoming the new norm in our industry....
CareerOffice Environment

Most people don’t get the opportunity to work with their Dad—and through that, to see him every day. I’m really going to miss that and his overall presence.—Erik Jensen January 11, 2018, was a bittersweet day for the folks at AM Transport because it was the day they said Goodbye to retiring Eric Jensen, fondly referred to as Coach, who has worked with the company since its earliest days in 1991 when AM Transport was located in the McKinney cabin at Vernor Lake. Eric joined Avery and the two of them worked long days in those early years at the cabin where their small workspace was dominated by two desks and two telephones. So much has changed in the intervening years. Avery, the founder of AM Transport and Eric’s father-in-law, retired a few years ago, and now it’s Eric’s turn. Eric remembers those early years fondly. “Because it was only the two of us,” he says, “I would man the phones while Avery went out on calls. We didn’t even have cell phones back then,” he laughs, “Avery would call in new loads on pay phones. The business has really changed.” Eric’s coworkers and friends at AM Transport are going to experience a new sort of change when Coach’s familiar face is no longer there to greet them in the morning. “I’m legitimately going to miss Eric around AMT,” says David Abell. “In a world where we are always trying to optimize and squeeze more hours in a day, it’s always nice to take a break and shoot the shit with Eric. He has taught me a lot about empathy, humility, and maybe even imparted some of his left-leaning views.” Abell continues, “He’s the best golf partner of all time, hands down. He makes you feel so good about yourself. You think you could play on the PGA Tour at the end of your game.” Eric’s ability to see the best in people is a common theme. Hillary Steber remembers, “Eric was always the one who made sure I was comfortable and confident here. I remember my first Saturday working, he made sure my code to the door worked. Anytime I run into him out of work, he asks how things are going, and actually remembers what I have going on that weekend and asks about it. He’s genuinely interested in what I’m doing.” Connor Dixon claims that Eric “is the most kind-hearted man I think I’ve ever met in my life. He goes out of his way to make everyone he comes in contact with feel special and that is truly a quality that we could all learn to improve on with his natural guidance.” Colby Shawver echoes Dixon’s sentiments. “Eric is fun to be around anytime, and he really cares about your well-being. We’re going to miss Coach, but we plan to ask him to help set up for the annual Halloween party if he has time!” And Jordan Pottorff will miss talking baseball with Jensen, “He has a knowledge of the game I’ve never seen before. He’s an awesome guy!” Michael McKinney, Jensen’s brother-in-law and CEO of AM Transport, also recalls how different it was in those early days when he joined the family business, “Eric taught me how to use the big trucker atlas with the circle points and measuring shipment distances manually with a ruler.” He too admires Coach’s way with people. “Eric was always good at dealing with the more difficult and irrational customers,” he laughs. “Someone could call in pissed as ever, and Eric could diffuse the situation and have that same customer eating out of his hand by the end of the call. And he knows everyone in the office more personally than anyone else here. He listens well and shows honest interest. People want to tell him about their lives.” Jesse Baker, like David Abell, has fond memories of those company golf outings, “Coach pulled off an amazing feat at an outing two years ago,” Baker says. “On hole two, we were going after a rogue ball, and of course, I didn’t want to stop the golf cart, so Coach was going to scoop it up. I was driving a little too fast, and when I turned to get Coach an angle on the ball, he was tossed from the cart. Amazingly, he held onto the front post and ran with the cart as I did a 360 turn, and then he jumped back in. One of the most athletic things I’ve ever seen.” It’s obvious that Eric, Coach, Jensen will be missed around the offices of AM Transport, but he’s looking forward to retirement. He plans to spend a lot of time golfing and hanging out with his four grown kids, his three grandchildren and his wife of 28 years. And we’re pretty sure he’ll come in to visit and make his special coffee. After all, old habits are hard to break!...
Community

Written By: Jordan Pottorff, CTB A group of AM Transport employees hosted the RCMS 5th Block after-school program at Elm Street Christian Church for our annual Give Thanksing program on Tuesday. We cooked turkey, green beans, mashed potatoes, stuffing and various pies and desserts for nearly 70 students and 15 adults from the school and church. The Give Thanksing program was made possible through collaboration between AM Transport, AMT Squirrel Works, Elm Street Christian Church and the RCMS 5th Block program. Hillary Steber was the lucky employee in charge of coordinating the day-long program with planning starting months ago. “I had to start planning in late September,” Hillary said. “I first reached out to the 5th Block Director to get a date that worked well for them. In years past, we would do it the week after Thanksgiving, but I always felt like Thanksgiving was over and everyone was ready for Christmas at that point. This year we decided to do it the week before to get the kids prepared for Thanksgiving the following week. We also decided to do it at Elm Street Christian Church, which was very convenient for both us and the kids since it was in town.” To make sure the day went as planned, we pooled together money to gather all the necessary food and then split up in groups to handle the cooking, food prep, serving of the food, and the clean up all while making sure we had necessary coverage at the office. “I thought it was easier for some people to give a little money instead of having to go grocery shopping or make a turkey or a pie the day of,” Hillary said. “I then asked for volunteers for the day of to help prep and serve the food. After that it was just collecting money and then going shopping. One other change we did this year was grilling the turkeys. We did 7 turkeys on R2BQ and they turned out wonderful! The kids kept talking about how good the turkey was and how it wasn’t dry at all, so that was a win! We were also able to send 8 boxes of food back with the kids that will be used for a cooking activity this week for the 5th Block program. “The best part for me was watching the kids come in and seeing how excited they were,” Hillary said. “I loved watching them fill their plates and just knowing we were able to provide that for them was a great feeling.  I was pleasantly surprised at how many kids like pumpkin pie! Sometimes their taste buds will surprise you! All the kids were so good and polite (as they are every year)!” The day was a complete success, and we are already looking ahead to Give Thanksing 2018!  ...
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....
Trucking

How about we all give a tip of the hat to the truck drivers out there? You know; the hard-working men and women who transport goods across our great nation on a daily basis to make sure we have what we need to go about our lives without interruption. This week is National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, which is the one week of the year where drivers are recognized for the work they do and it couldn’t come at a better time. A large part of our country has been ravaged by natural disasters but trucking hasn’t stopped. Thousands of drivers have played a major part in the relief efforts after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and will continue to do so in the coming months to help everyone impacted. In total we have 3.5 million professional truck drivers in America that deliver over 10 billion tons of freight on an annual basis. Ten billion tons! These deliveries go everywhere from the nation’s biggest cities to its smallest towns and villages and make up 70 percent of all freight tonnage in America. Like us in the small town of Olney, IL and the surrounding towns and villages, trucking is the only way for us to receive the goods we need to live. These professionals work long hours and spend a great deal of time away from their families without much recognition to serve us. I’m a logistics professional and can’t think of a time where I’ve thanked a driver in person when I’m off the clock. Drivers deserve to be thanked and thanked often for what they do. The trucking industry also collects over $650 billion dollars a year, which equates to five percent of America’s GDP and is expected to grow by 21 percent over the next 10 years. Truckers not only transport the goods we need on a daily basis but they keep our roadways safe. I know I’ve been frustrated when stuck behind a slow-moving semi but they are professionals and drive that way to keep us safe. Truckers have a crash rate that’s 29 percent lower than the average driver and are at fault in just 25 percent of fatal crashes involving cars and semis. The trucking industry makes all of our lives easier, keeps our economy moving and gives us extra time to do what we please. Thank a driver this week (and every week) and don’t take what they do for granted. Life wouldn’t be the same without them....
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....
HealthSelf Improvement

Written by: Michael McKinney, CTB Why the heck would anyone run a 50k, let-alone a 50k trail run over difficult and at-times dangerous terrain? It’s a question I’ve been asked a few times as I prepared for my first ultra trail run a couple of weeks ago. It’s one thing to love running, but why was I changing it up? I’d run a few road marathons, so why not focus on improving my time? Why take my running off-road while increasing the distance? I’ve been pondering these questions in the days since I competed in the Shawnee Hills 100m/100k/50k. After all, the training was intense and time-consuming, the run itself was difficult and risky as trails and rocks and streams aren’t always the safest running surfaces, and I’m fairly comfortable at home with my wife and three great daughters. What compelled me to get out there, to push myself harder, to risk failure or injury? *** I didn’t start running until I was 36 years old. I ran off and on for a few years until my wife, Brandy—a runner herself who had competed in a couple of half-marathons— encouraged me to run my first 1/2 marathon five years later. I was hooked to the sport from that first race, so I began training regularly with an online coach because I wanted to run a full marathon, and I did—it was a great experience. Since that time I’ve run a couple of marathons, a few 1/2 marathons, and an entire 5k dressed as the Easter Bunny. I have to admit, I didn’t plan to run the whole race in that hot-as-hell bunny suit, but the looks on the other runners faces as I ran along beside them, my big bunny eyes wide and my ears flopping, spurred me on. Running as a bunny was challenging, but not challenging enough. Neither were the marathons. And not because I'm an adrenaline junky or believe myself to be an elite athlete. I’m neither, but I do believe trail-running has a few benefits that make the risk of injury and the intense training more than worth it. Trail runs are less peopled. The Shawnee Hills 50k portion of the run had only 39 competitors and 34 finishers. This means that as a runner, I spent more time alone, had more time in my head. There is a meditative aspect to running that is amplified in the woods where everything is green and the breeze rustles through the leaves. At the same time, the small number of other folks on the trail made it imperative for me to create connections with other runners. This helped me to keep track of the trail’s twists and turns and created a safety net. This 50k trail run required me to pay attention in a way that we rarely do in our regular lives. Roots and rocks and ditches make missteps not just possible, but probable for the runner who isn’t paying attention. And paying attention to the trail isn’t the whole of it. I also had to pay attention to my hydration and my nourishment in a way I have never needed to before. Injury on a trail run is a real risk. So back to that question I started with—why the heck would anyone run a 50k trail run?  Sure, connections in a running community, solitude, building attention skills are great answers, and they all contribute to my love of the sport. But here’s the real reason. Because it’s fun and challenging. Seriously, it is that simple—being comfortable is great, but it can also be limiting. I believe it’s important that we push ourselves out beyond the edges of our comfort zones, that we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to risk failure. I didn’t know if I could finish a 50k trail run, and I don’t know if I can finish another, but that’s okay. It’s where I want to live at least part of my life, on the wild trail where not-knowing can bring the biggest rewards. ...
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 ...