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Get the latest industry news from NASSTRAC Executive Director, Gail Rutkowski.

 

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Top tags: supply chain disruptions  transportation 

The Key to the Right Freight Contract? Know Your Rates

Posted By Nick Wynkoop, Product Marketing Manager, Truckstop.com & Real Time Freight, Thursday, August 3, 2017

The best freight contracts not only save you money but can bring stability to your business. But the right rates aren’t always apparent. Even if you have a great system for pricing, you likely wish it was faster, more accurate, better organized, and easier to share internally. But if you’re like most companies, you don’t even have that luxury. Sometimes, you’re even guessing on what a good rate is, or on what a carrier or broker expects. Here are a few steps to creating a system to help you price your freight, grade responses to your RFP’s, and create contracts that benefit your business.

 

View Both Historical Data and Trends
The ability to get historical data and trends at the tip of your fingertips is a huge competitive advantage. Being able to go back on a particular lane and see 1) the carriers that have been used and 2) the past rates paid on the lane, gives you the ability to gain a better margin on freight. You are able to see where you have won or lost on a particular lane and work to gain better margins. Also, being able to see the rate changes on a seasonal level is a huge advantage when pricing an RFP. Many bids are applied for a 12-24 month period, and having the ability to look at historical trends and analyzing seasonality will let you price your freight needs in a more educated manner.

 

Customize for Confidence in the Market Rate
Confidence in the market rate is important to people seeking to consistently move freight. You likely use multiple rate sources (e.g. historical, market analysis, etc.) in order to come up with the "magical rate" to price your freight…but you frequently get back different information and don’t always know what to trust. By making early decisions about how you’ll process your rate data (i.e. more importance given to last year’s rates, less importance given to overall market trends, etc.), you will truly make data-driven rate decisions, instead of just using confusing and contradictory info to make an educated guess.

 

Maintain Urgency in the RFP Process
The ability to streamline the RFP process gives you a huge advantage when you head to the negotiation table. So, before you put out that RFP, keep this extra little edge in mind: maintain urgency. Are there timelines or milestones in the contract process? Does it keep both parties on track to negotiate? Is it a dedicated RFP process to keep other players from causing disruption later in the negotiation? Mutually agreed dates and timelines are vital to keeping a contract moving forward, and keeping the ball in your court.

 

Keep these tips in mind before you reach out to brokers or carriers, issue your next RFP, or sign your next contract. The results should not only save you money but build your business and strengthen your partnerships for the long term.

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And the Survey Says…

Posted By Gail Rutkowski, Tuesday, July 11, 2017
Countless Shipper surveys have indicated that improving real-time supply chain visibility is a top priority for shippers. Many shippers are demanding a more granular level of visibility to shipments while in transit. Without the ability to communicate shipment status in real time, shippers need to resort to calling carriers, waiting for answers and then hoping that information was timely and accurate. There have been scads of articles written about this topic, talking about predictive automated solutions and full data integration, but really it all comes down to this:

Shipper: Where is my truck?
Carrier: I know where you truck is.

That sounds pretty simple and on the surface, logistics is pretty simple. Pick it up, deliver it on time and don’t damage it. It’s amazing how often the simple things become not so simple. Our customers are demanding to know exactly where their shipments are at any given point in the supply chain. Amazon has led the way in providing this information and many other e-tailers are following their lead. I know as a customer, I like to click on the link and have all the details of my order, including carrier transit information pop up on my smart phone whenever I need (or want) it.

In today’s world, shippers expect carriers and 3PL’s to carry the burden (read cost) of providing the systems to give them that information in real time. And many of these companies have met the challenge and continue to drive improvement into the visibility process. But in today’s data driven, data overload era, do we need to know everything? I prefer to subscribe to the exception theory of management. Unless it’s a problem, I don’t want to know. Show me only those shipments that are in jeopardy of making their arrival dates in enough time that I can be proactive if possible, but at minimum let me be the one to notify my customer, not the other way around.

As Shippers work to develop their procedures for providing real-time visibility, there is one other overlooked area, and that is misclassification exposure. The more involved a shipper is in communication with drivers, the greater the risk of the Department of Labor or courts classifying contractor drivers as employees and plaintiffs’ attorneys holding a shipper liable for a crash. We all know that any plaintiff’s lawyer is going to go for the deepest pockets and most often, those are the shippers. And if a shipper has indirectly touched a driver, that creates a potential for liability.

I believe the key is to forge strong reliable partnerships with your transportation providers and trust them to do their jobs by providing you with timely and accurate information that you in turn can provide your customers.

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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 partnerships@infrastructureweek.org. You can also find a full listing of events at infrastructureweek.org.


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 nasstrac.org/conference.  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 info@nasstrac.org.


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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