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Top tags: supply chain disruptions  transportation 

Who are your NASSTRAC “Friends”?

Posted By Gail Rutkowski, Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Having recently returned from our annual conference, I find myself sitting here at my desk with a pile of business cards and scribbled notes from folks who said they would like to get more involved in NASSTRAC, or would like to connect with one of our members for help with a problem or the opportunity to work together. I’m always excited to have members step up, so I’m taking the time to respond to these requests doing what we can to ignite the connections and help our members help one another. I’m thrilled by the willingness and commitment of our members to get on a call, offer advice and feedback, suggest solutions to a problem, or help connect with another member.

It is NASSTRAC’s responsibility to ensure our members know we are working hard for them to deliver value for their membership dollars, but consistently delivering that value is a challenge in today’s lighting fast, nanosecond world. While I appreciate the remarkable people who step up and engage (and they deserve our thanks and appreciation), I wonder about our other members and prospective members…who are your NASSTRAC Friends? Who do you reach out to when you need advice, or help in sourcing a provider, career advice, or just need to toss around some ideas and potential solutions to a problem you may be struggling to resolve?

I know that NASSTRAC isn’t the only association confronted with lack of member engagement and I find myself wondering why. I know there are limited resources for time, attention, and discretionary dollars for associations like ours. Yet without those dollars and your support we cease to exist. I believe our goal of an engaged membership that communicates with one another is important and serves both our membership and the industry we serve.

In the past, through this blog and through our other communications, we have shared a number of stories of NASSTRAC members helping one another and depending on the relationships they have formed within NASSTRAC, that allows them to reach out in time of need and know that someone will be there to support them. This doesn’t happen via text or snapchat. It is the result of building face to face relationships over time through their involvement in an industry association. Members who view their interactions with NASSTRAC as a two-way partnership find the commitment to be professionally and personally fulfilling.

I was fortunate that I always worked for companies who supported association membership not only financially, but allowed my participation on committees, task forces, etc. Back in the day (was it really that long ago?) companies felt it a worthy cause to support professional groups. Their support helped the associations to grow and prosper and allowed them to reach out into the community to assist even more members.

As part of the supply chain, transportation has struggled to gain a seat at the table. Even as we see SCM professionals move into the board room, transportation still seems to be in the back seat, though it does tend to get a lot of notice when things go wrong (port issues, weather problems, etc.). Through NASSTRAC you can join a legion of professionals who seek to change that perception and elevate the status of transportation and the work that they do to become a fully engaged faction within the supply chain. We need your support. We need your engagement.

Our annual renewal requests will be coming out in the next week or so. Please consider renewing not only your membership, but your commitment to NASSTRAC and the transportation industry. It is our continuing goal to connect with professionals who are already in transportation as well as those who may have recently taken a position within a company that has been involved with NASSTRAC. With the never ending movement within and between companies, we have to depend on our members to make their associates aware of who we are and what we stand for in the industry. Make sure you add all of your transportation colleagues to your NASSTRAC member profile so they receive our communications and notices of upcoming events. Take the time to share with your colleagues member benefits such as the monthly View calls, the discounted Penn State Executive Supply Chain Certification program, and our Freight Resource Directory.

Won’t you join (or rejoin) today and meet some new friends?

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Why Can’t We All Just Get Along? - Insights from the Shipper/Broker Wars

Posted By Gail Rutkowski, Thursday, May 25, 2017

It seems that as long as there have been brokers and shippers there has been an adversarial approach to their relationships.  This love hate relationship can extend to their carriers that serve both of them as well.  What is it about brokers (or more politically correct, 3PL’s) that seems to engender such resentment and distrust?  And more importantly, what can brokers do to correct that perception?


In the interest of full disclosure, I have been both a shipper and a broker (earning my CTB a few years ago) and have been exposed to both sides of the argument.  As a shipper I recall not wanting to do business with brokers and my work colleagues calling it the dark side of transportation.  I only dealt with asset based carriers and used brokers as a last resort option.  As I broker, I recall shippers telling me (everyone has heard this one) that they don’t do business with brokers and C. H. Robinson is their biggest carrier. The apparent complaint from shippers about brokers was that when something went awry they were nowhere to be found and the shipper was left to deal with a bad situation and an unknown carrier. Or, better yet, the broker closes up shop after cashing your checks and the shipper is left being sued by the carrier for payment with courts upholding the carriers’ position to be paid.  Another major issue is that shipper’s generally don’t penalize a potential new carrier when they have a bad experience, but when a broker screws up it seems that every single broker has to pay the price for that failure.


Recently, I had the opportunity to moderate a panel at the TIA Annual Conference titled “Overcoming Shippers Objections” which my panel and I subsequently subtitled “10 Things I Hate About You”.  The panel consisted of two brokers and two shippers talking about the things that made them crazy about one another.  Just to make things interesting, the audience participation was very vocal and actively contributed to the discussion.


While both sides made a number of valid points about what bothered them about one another, during the course of the discussion certain similarities became apparent.  I’d like to share them with you:

  1. No matter how good you are, bad things will happen.  It’s how you handle the bad things that establish the basis of your relationship.
  2. Honest and open communication on both sides is the only way a healthy relationship can be sustained.
  3. Brokers need to do what they do best…accessing the capacity that shippers don’t have the time or resources to procure.  And, making sure those resources are safe, legal, and reliable.
  4. Neither party wants to waste time getting the run around.  If shippers aren’t interested, quit dodging phone calls and emails and just tell them.  And, brokers need to respect their position, though it is appropriate to see when a follow up would be entertained.
  5. No shipper wants to get caught in the middle of warring brokerage offices.  If you have multiple locations that will be contacting the same shipper base, figure it out before you move forward.  There are some larger brokers out there that are well known offenders and shippers just don’t want to deal with them.
  6.  If you are unable to sustain a long term pricing arrangement, do NOT participate in an RFP where rates are required to be sustained for a year or longer.  Nothing annoys a shipper more than a broker being awarded freight in a RFP and then backing off when the market moves up.  And, on the flip side, shippers pulling back a load already tendered because they found a cheaper option.

We can (and did) go on and on about the issues that arise between shippers and brokers but the bottom line is we do need one another.  Brokers have proven to be a valuable addition to a shipper’s transportation network. At NASSTRAC we encourage all of our members to vet brokers as conscientiously as they do their carriers. We also tell them to make sure the broker they are doing business with is a TIA member. TIA members adhere to a code of ethics and business practices that ensure you are doing business with a responsible business partner. TIA members that are members of NASSTRAC can also designate that they are TIA members on-line at the NASSTRAC Freight Resource Directory…a resource used by NASSTRAC members to source transportation providers. 


I’d like to believe that shippers and brokers can get along…given the current transportation landscape, it’s important that we do.

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“It’s Time to Build” Infrastructure Week Kicks off Monday, May 15, 2016

Posted By Gail Rutkowski, Friday, May 12, 2017

Infrastructure Week May 15-19 will bring together businesses, elected officials and members of the public at the local, state and federal level to participate in a series of media events, projects, talks, initiatives and activities to shine the light on the nation’s need for an across-the-board infrastructure fix. Infrastructure Week is actually an organization led by a bipartisan team comprising business groups, chambers of commerce, labor unions and think tanks working to improve America’s sagging infrastructure.

The events are hoped to get the attention of government policy-makers at all levels to convince them of the broad-based support for fixing the nation’s roads, bridges, rail infrastructure, airports, ports, and water and sewer systems. The week formally kicks off on Monday, May 15 with key leaders from American business, labor and government. Addressing the Week’s theme, “Time to Build,” panels, presentation and keynotes will speak to the critical role infrastructure plays in America’s economy, will highlight new technologies, projects, and priorities for infrastructure in the21st century, and will debate how policymakers at all levels of government can work together to pass a transformative infrastructure package. Speakers include:

• The Honorable Elain Chao, US Secretary of Transportation
• Thomas J Donohue, President & CEO, US Chamber of Commerce
• Mayor Eric Garcetti, City of Los Angeles, CA
• Mayor Michael Hancock, City of Denver, CO
• Judith Marks, President & CEO, Siemens USA

This event is by invitation only, but will be webcast live and portions will be broadcast on Facebook live. If you are in the DC area and would like to request an invitation, please contact You can also find a full listing of events at

We would like to ask all NASSTRAC members to get involved in helping to spread the word that “It’s Time to Start Building.” Now is a great time to start planning how you’re going to PARTICIPATE during this year’s Infrastructure Week. Become an Affiliate, Plan an Event, or Tell Your Story, your organization is encouraged to take part — in whatever way makes sense for you.

Follow the events at #TimeToBuild.

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Has the Uber Freight Wave Crested?

Posted By Gail Rutkowski, Wednesday, April 26, 2017

We Americans love our heroes. We love building them up, idolizing them and worshipping them almost to a fault.  But more than that, we love tearing them down. You can go high, but only so high or we’ll pull you back and remind you that you are at our (or social media’s) mercy.


Uber, the darling of taxi riders everywhere, entered the freight world over a year ago launching speculation whether the tech company could replicate their success in the taxi industry.  While Uber has been quiet about their plans, other tech firms have attempted to mimic the idea of uniting purchasers and suppliers through smartphone apps.  Some of these companies have gained traction in the market while others have followed a different path.  But the bottom line is more drivers have more apps on their phones and tablets.


Uber’s success in the taxi industry was the result of superior technology, but they also added unregulated capacity into a heavily regulated market.  Trucking is already unregulated and Uber has no assets.  Now what does this mean to the traditional freight broker?  Is Uber just a broker with better technology?  Many brokers feel they have been offering technology and systems to augment their personal relationships for years.  “The purpose of (a technology) platform is to eliminate waste,” said Andrew “Drew” McElroy, CEO and co-founder of Transfix, which has distributed its app to 25,000 drivers and handled 20,000 truckload shipments last year. “We’re trying to aggregate this capacity and provide them with tools,” especially for reducing deadhead, or empty miles. “When you apply technology to scale, you create a virtuous cycle,” McElroy said.


While everyone has been watching Uber, no one has noticed that another 800 pound gorilla has been getting ready to launch.  Amazon has been in the process of launching initiatives that will disrupt the transportation industry by eliminating the middle man (3PL’s).

Now 3PLs are actually quite cost effective, even non-asset based ones. Aggressive pricing can be locked in based on the amount of volume a 3PL can acquire.  Carriers would much rather be guaranteed a larger number of shipments from a 3PL than one or two shipments thrown to them sporadically.  Having a steady stream of shipments keeps their trucks running so it makes sense for them to negotiate better pricing with a 3PL to ensure those loads are theirs.  If Uber Freight functions anything like their ride-sharing service does, they will likely charge a surge fee at their discretion.  It also seems reasonable to assume that a hands-off approach to pricing via an app in a dynamic marketplace won’t get you the best deals if you have multiple loads to ship.  So long story short, it’s expected that long term and volume freight likely won’t be affected by Amazon and Uber, but they will probably take spot market freight that does not require any type of white glove service away from brokers and 3PLs.

Technology continues to surpass our expectations on a regular basis, but not every element of a complicated supply chain can be accounted for in an app – at least not in the near future.  Getting a person from point A to point B is a much simpler process than moving freight, therefore the things that a human broker handles are vital in smoothing out difficulties that can, and often do, occur along the way.  At this early of a stage in their development, it is hard to imagine how services such as Amazon and Uber, that seek to cut out critical processes, will actually provide value in the end beyond giving you a price and a truck at your door.  So, can Uber be over before it even begins?

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It Only Takes a Moment…

Posted By Gail Rutkowski, Wednesday, March 22, 2017

When I ask NASSTRAC members when they realized the value of NASSTRAC many were able to recall the exact moment.  They quickly recalled the single event when it was clear to them they made the right decision to join us.

For many of our members that exact moment was their first NASSTRAC conference.  It was at that conference where they met people like them struggling with similar challenges.  They solved some of their problems listening to excellent speakers or by connecting with individuals who have been where they are now.  They learned a lot.  They met other like-minded professionals.  They realized they were not alone.  

Often I hear that the annual conference format for any association is outdated.  Folks are too busy, millennials don’t value the face to face interaction, etc.  While I believe there needs to be continual rejuvenation, I firmly believe that nothing beats face to face networking and interaction with colleagues.  And, the best place to do that is at the NASSTRAC annual conference.  

Of course, interaction is a two-way street.  You can’t attend a conference, any conference, and expect to be successful sitting in your room or keeping to yourself and not interacting with any other attendees.  At NASSTRAC we give our attendees a number of ways to connect with colleagues and providers. Here are a few:
The Newcomer Breakfast:  If this is your first time at NASSTRAC make sure you attend the newcomer breakfast on Monday morning.  Meet members of the NASSTRAC board and other first time attendees prior to the start of the conference.  Find a buddy and make a connection.

The Expo Hall:  The Transportation Expo provides attendees with the opportunity to meet with current providers and source new ones.  We have a wide variety of carriers, 3PL’s and technology providers who are there to meet with you and help answer your questions.

Ask the Expert:  New this year, is your opportunity to bring your questions and meet one on one with an industry expert for support and help.  A variety of topics (you can suggest one when you register too!) will be covered during the expo hours.  

Networking Receptions:  After all that education, everyone needs some down time and we provide that too!  At our networking receptions you can relax and mingle with other attendees, make connections, and share experiences.

Now, if all that isn’t enough to convince you, NASSTRAC has some of the best educational sessions at their conference than you will find anywhere in our industry.  Take a look at our conference schedule at  While you’re there, click on the “Register” button and join us!


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What a Difference a Year Makes

Posted By Gail Rutkowski, Thursday, March 9, 2017

Last week I had the opportunity to tour the Port of Long Beach.  The Port of Long Beach is the second busiest container port in the United States and the tenth largest port in the world.  The port has six container terminals and intermodal rail service from BNSF Railway and the Union Pacific Railroad.  The port’s Middle Harbor terminal is highly automated and one of the most technologically advanced port facilities in the US.  It is also considered to be the world’s greenest Port, pioneering many green initiatives throughout the facility.


I have to confess as I sat in the bus on my way to the Port I wondered what we would be seeing.  After the huge mess of delays that many shippers suffered through last year, how has the port recovered?  As we entered the port facility we were escorted to a conference room overlooking the port container loading area as well as the central operations center in their offices. 


Long Beach is engaged in a 10 year, $4 billion capital improvement program with the money being spent on larger, modern terminals, taller cranes to handle super post-Panamax cranes, deeper water at the berths, on-dock rail improvements, improved roadway access, and a new bridge.  Interestingly, the night before our tour there was a construction accident on the new bridge causing a shut-down of the roadway for a few hours, but we saw no evidence of any lingering delays.


Long Beach is also improving its rail program that will allow railroads to build full unit double-stack trains.  The program is current under environmental impact review.  Each double-stack train eliminates about 200 truck trips easing congestions at the terminals gates and on local freeways.


As we drove through the port facility, our tour guide was the person responsible for labor relations at the port.  He shared with us that before they began this most recent improvement project, they sat down with the union and explained what they intended to do and got their buy in from the very start.  In the control center, union and non-union employees sit and work together as a unified team.


Our first stop was the In-gate where we all expected to see long lines of trucks waiting to get in.  We saw two and they were clearing the gate quickly.  By the time we got to the loading bays the drivers were getting ready to off load their containers. We watched the entire process of one container getting off loaded and another container being placed on the chassis. It took less than fifteen minutes!  In another instance, the driver’s container was already hovering over the bay ready to be placed on his chassis before he even backed into the bay.  Once the drivers have completed their container loading/unloading they proceed to the Road-ability station that ensures any container leaving the premises is road worthy. 


We were told that current turn times at the port were running less than 45 minutes…a vast improvement from a year ago.  What a difference a year makes…

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NASSTRAC Carrier of the Year Program

Posted By Gail Rutkowski, Friday, February 24, 2017

As long as I have been a member of NASSTRAC I have voted every year for the Carriers of the Year. I believe it is important to acknowledge and recognize those providers who have taken care of the business and provide excellent service to my customers. Back when I was working in corporate transportation I remember carriers calling on me to ask for my vote. The award meant something to them and I believe it still does to this day.

Sadly, as demands on shippers increase, they have become more and more disconnected from the people who are delivering to their customers, they have lost interest in recognizing the performance of the folks who day in and day out are delivering to our customer’s docks dealing with congestion, both on the highways and at the docks, along with every increasing customer demands and regulations.

It is important that every Regular NASSTRAC member who is a buyer of transportation services cast their vote this year. All carriers who are members of NASSTRAC are on the ballot and are graded on a quantitative scale in five key areas: Customer Service, Operational Excellence, Pricing, Business Relationship, and Leadership/Technology. Last year we expanded the Specialty Carrier category. This category includes a growing list of niche carriers who handle shipments within a defined service area (i.e. AK, HI, Canada and Mexico).

The NASSTRAC Carrier of the Year program is co-sponsored by Logistics Management, a leading trade magazine for buyers of logistics services. The award will be presented at the NASSTRAC 2017 Annual Shippers Conference and Expo in Orlando, FL April 9-12 and will be recognized in Logistics Management magazine.

Please take a few minutes this week to show your carriers some love. Vote for the NASSTRAC Carrier of the Year. If you haven’t received your email link to the ballot please email

What are you waiting for? Go! Go now and vote!

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Voice in the West- Regional Comprehensive Roadway Freight Network

Posted By Doug Kahl, Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) retained WSP|Parsons Brinckerhoff to complete a study to define a comprehensive roadway freight network to serve businesses, consumers, and growth in the metropolitan Phoenix area. I recently attended a presentation given by Joe Bryan of WSP.


Phoenix is one of the top growing markets in our country. Expansion brings pressure on logistics systems, whether we are trying to bring supplies in to our facilities or get deliveries out. Part of Joe’s presentation identified the key roadway infrastructure that supply chains and their freight carriers depend upon to help focus public investment and management resources on those roads. The objective is to keep freight transportation reliable, productive and safe, support the competitiveness of industry, and help attract business to the region. 


This network needs to reach the clusters of industrial and commercial activity where freight is picked up or delivered, and it needs to connect them with cross-town surface routes as well as interstate highways.  The presentation provided information about how the project is accomplishing this, showing:

  • A range of relevant data about business location, freight activity, forecasts and roadway freight performance
  • A draft network for serving the region, based chiefly on existing infrastructure
  • An interactive feature that will let area supply chain professionals look at the network and the data themselves, and provide comments about additions, deletions, and improvements

The depth of research and graphical depictions provided the opportunity for an open discussion about the network, its components, and potential issues that see on first look. The roadway freight network will shape and support supply chain logistics in greater Phoenix for years to come, and will be the focus for infrastructure investment aimed at improving the performance of freight. Area businesses who are managing truck fleets, engage in intermodal transport, or who ship or receive significant volumes of goods regionally, nationally or globally will have their operations affected by this network.


Leaving the presentation I was wondering, how many other major municipalities and regional government authorities are being proactive and encouraging the involvement of area supply chain professionals as MAG has done here to design a transportation network sensitive to the needs of freight transportation.  We would be interested in your thoughts and comments.

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Another Disappointment?

Posted By Gail Rutkowski, Thursday, January 5, 2017

Yet another incoming US President is proposing another infrastructure spending plan before a Congress that simply won’t hear it.  President-elect Trump’s $1 trillion investment plan, relying heavily on public private partnerships, sidesteps the unpopular fuel tax hikes, almost impossible general spending increases and business tax reform that tanked President Obama’s infrastructure agenda.  The Trump team also floated the idea of an infrastructure “task force”.  But neither the plan nor the task force to support it can avoid the opposition of the president-elect’s own party for increased spending.

Republican leaders in the House and Senate balked at Trump’s plan.  Additionally, well ahead of her nomination hearing, Trump’s pick to head the DOT, Elaine Chao, advised a more cautious expectation of the amount of money coming down the pipeline.  Chao, wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is talking about steamlining not spending.

Not surprising, details from the Trump administration are still sketchy.  They discussed subsidizing private development with significant tax credits — equivalent to 82 percent of the equity private financiers spend on infrastructure. Developers would own the infrastructure and benefit directly from the collection of tolls and fees.

Some Democrats have called the deal a “Trojan horse” playing to the emotions of American shippers struggling with crumbling transportation infrastructure while providing tax breaks and giveaways to investors who simply get credits to do projects that are already underway.

The hope is that the incoming administration’s emphasis on infrastructure may present a few rare moments of peace between the Democrats and the new White House administration.  House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA), have apparently welcomed the plan with open arms.  “We have a unique opportunity,” Shuster said in a statement Nov. 10. “One of the few issues that provided common ground was the need for investments in America’s transportation network and infrastructure.”

Democrats like Schumer have, at the very least, given the plan a sense of bipartisan support. But it’s Republicans who control Congress.  Both House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have indicated that infrastructure was not a top priority for the new Congress.  It hasn’t been a priority for past Congresses either. 

So it appears that the Trump infrastructure plan, like infrastructure plans before it, may have never really had a chance in the first place.

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A New Effort to Modernize America’s Transportation System

Posted By Gail Rutkowski, Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Over the past two decades, innovation, technology, and societal trends have revolutionized the way Americans live, work, and how they use our transportation system to enhance their lives.  These trends are not only ongoing, they are accelerating. One of the prime drivers of these technology-enabled trends are on-line sales platforms led by eBay, Amazon, Etsy, and traditional retailers selling directly online. Yesterday’s standard 5-7 business day delivery has evolved into today’s same day delivery, providing ease of access to everyday items with the click of a mouse.


Today, e-commerce has become a staple of American life, as more than 69 percent of Americans shop online each month. For households with two working parents, single mothers and fathers, college students working to pay for textbooks, mid-career professionals spending nights studying to advance their career, senior citizens, disabled individuals, or those living in distant rural areas or the inner city, the ease of shopping for clothes, food, home goods, and more from a laptop or mobile phone means access and freedoms that would otherwise be difficult. 


The private sector continues to make investments in new technologies, including upgraded fleets and more, to ensure our transportation system is as efficient, as sustainable, and as safe as possible so all Americans can participate in the new economy. We need the same forward-looking effort from our partners in federal and state governments so all Americans have access to the full promise enabled by a modern transportation system that is environmentally sustainable, technologically advanced, and increasingly safe. 


NASSTRAC, along with Amazon, FedEx, UPS, and YRC, have joined Americans for Modern Transportation (AMT) which supports efforts to reduce emissions and improve fuel efficiency. Reducing oil consumption through more efficient transportation improves environmental quality and strengthens our economic and national security.  The tenets outlined below can make a difference for all Americans.

Commonsense solutions to increase shipping capacity are necessary as more consumers realize the benefits of e-commerce and America’s existing transportation infrastructure struggles to keep up with the growing needs and demands of a changing and growing nation. 

  • Advanced trucking equipment like Twin 33 trailers are low-hanging fruit for rapidly increasing fuel efficiency, cutting emissions, and making our highways safer. Fully utilized on the national highway network, Twin 33s in particular can reduce carbon emissions by 4.4 billion pounds, save 204 million gallons of fuel, and eliminate 912 crashes over the course of a year – all without compromising the condition or safety of our nation’s highways.
  • In fact, Twin 33s perform equal to or better than current trailer combinations in four critical safety measurements: static rollover threshold, rearward amplification, load transfer ratio, and high speed transient off tracking.
  • The adoption of advanced trucking equipment will be a win-win: relieving stress on road infrastructure and reducing congestion while enabling companies to ship more goods per trip.

This is our opportunity to finally work toward achieving some measure of productivity improvement in the transportation sector.  It is important that the Shipper’s Voice is Heard.  Stay tuned for more information on this important topic.

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