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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 

NASSTRAC Carrier of the Year Program

Posted By SmithBucklin, 15 hours ago

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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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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What’s Next?

Posted By Gail Rutkowski, Monday, November 7, 2016

Like many of you I have worn myself out watching and listening to the various political ads during this long drawn out election cycle.  The attack ads from both parties, PAC’s, and various groups have been filled with vitriol and many unsubstantiated charges.  What’s even more unfortunate is the media has been just as complicit with their reporting.  What happened to unbiased (or at least less biased) media reporting?

 

The sad thing is our country is more divided than ever.  If you’re like me, I am extremely hesitant to even bring up politics in mixed groups for fear of inciting a riot.  There is no longer any room for lively discourse or open discussion and agreeing to disagree.  You’re either for us or against us.  There is no middle ground.  If you look back to the early days of this country, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson carried on their debate over state’s rights for years while maintaining a respectful and cordial friendship.  Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act when Republican Senator Everett Dirksen crossed the aisle in support.  Doubt we would ever see Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell that genial. 

 

Another sad example of how far we have strayed is an amendment on the Illinois ballot that will legally bind the Illinois legislature to only spend taxes and fees collected for transportation infrastructure funding to be used for that purpose.  How sad that the only way we can get these legislators to do their job is by passing laws to force them to do the right thing.

 

So why are we surprised to see this attitude and tone in our Congress?  No one is to blame for the current state of affairs than the American people.  We elected these folks and we continue to put them back into office term after term while decrying the lack of term limits.  We have the power to limit those terms but don’t use it.  Why do we allow Congress to continue to ignore the fact that we elected the President and he (or maybe she) is our choice and they need to respect the office (even when they disagree with the person) and allow the executive branch to do their job as they need to do theirs?  It doesn’t matter what side of the aisle you’re on.  This is pervasive on both sides without exception. 

 

As we head into Tuesday’s election it is more important than ever that voters make their voices heard and their choices accepted by everyone involved in the democratic process.  Until we all accept responsibility for our choices nothing will change.

 

I realize this missive strays from my usual transportation focused narrative, but the outcome of this election will determine our future as a country.  Issues like highway funding, over-regulation, and gridlock will continue until or unless something changes.

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Are you prepared when the toilets don’t flush?

Posted By Gail Rutkowski, Thursday, October 13, 2016

When I was growing up in the south suburbs of Chicago, my Dad was the mayor of our little town. Being a small town politician, he was involved in all matters involving municipal operations and government, including sanitation. The one phrase I remember my Dad using was “the person who controls the sewers controls the city”. Not cool or sexy to be sure, but it sure rings true, particularly when you compare it to supply chain disruptions.


Not to belabor the “toilet talk” but at the recent CSCMP conference I attended a session entitled: “Supply Chain Disruption: What to do when the Toilet Doesn’t Flush”. Mark Heinrich from Microsoft and Mike Regan from TranzAct shared the speaking duties and both did a great job impressing upon the audience the importance of responding to chaos and how they approached their decisions.


So my question to you today is: Are you prepared for when the sewers clog and the toilets don’t flush? Or to relate it to your supply chain, how did you fare in response to the Hanjin bankruptcy? It seems obvious that the industry lacks the ground rules to deal with the situation and it appears that most of us are making it up as we go along. To minimize the collateral damage, industry wide ground rules among carriers, terminals and other supply chain participants seem to be in order.


What about the weather related mega-storms we have experienced in the past couple of years? I don’t think Supply Chain executives realize the power of they have controlling their “sewer” (read supply chain). The only time they get noticed is when things go awry.


A larger issue for shippers is the increasing fragility of the supply chain and its transportation providers in general. While ocean carriers and ports have been the primary indicators of disruption, shippers also need to keep an eye on their motor carriers, both local and long-haul truckers and railroads. The carriers you use and their financial stability can make a big difference. It will be interesting to see whether financially sound carriers will be able to extract a rate premium for the security they offer to shippers. While current freight demand is soft and there appears to be enough capacity to go around, shippers should enjoy it while it lasts. The time is coming that if a carrier isn’t being compensated for providing surge or insurance capacity, they simply won’t provide it.


What this means for shippers is that their transportation providers are much less resilient than they used to be. Supply chain disruption can take many forms, be it financial distress, operational mistakes, natural disasters (an ever-growing threat thanks to climate change), or an unexpected uptick in demand.


I believe one of the key factors in managing disruption is to plan for it. Now you can’t divine every possible scenario but you can identify the possibility of major disruptions and construct a response. Having a sound Business Continuity Plan helps. Having table top enactments of those disruptions help even more.


Reliability isn’t free and as shippers we need to be prepared to pay the price for quality.

Tags:  supply chain disruptions  transportation 

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When Nothing is Really Something

Posted By Gail Rutkowski, Friday, October 7, 2016

Recently, the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) proposed changes to the bill of lading that governs motor carriers and shippers.  NMFTA proposed the update July 14 with an effective date of August 13.  While the NMFTA says “there was no attempt to burden shippers or diminish their rights and remedies,” I wonder if many shippers are even aware of the changes to their shipping operations.

 

Both NASSTRAC and TLC (Transportation and Logistics Council) have petitioned the STB to block the implementation.  They are concerned that the language will make it harder for shippers to hold carriers liable for damage during transport.  NMFTA claims that the Uniform Straight Bill of Lading has not kept up with the substantial changes to laws governing motor carrier transportation.

 

Regardless of where you come down on either side of this issue, I have to ask…how many shippers out there are even aware that this is going on?  Also, have you ever read the terms and conditions of the long form Uniform Bill of Lading?  According to John Cutler, NASSTRAC’s general counsel, “In limiting liability to the carrier on the bill of lading, NMFTA is rewriting decades of precedent supporting shippers’ right to file claims with any participating carrier.”

 

There are other changes as part of this proposal that alters the window for when a party can begin to file claim moving from the date of delivery to the date on the bill of lading.  There is also a clause on calculating financial caps to recover money for damage or loss, otherwise known as release value.

 

Now I will leave it to you to research and understand all the details involving this issue (John Cutler’s comments are located on the NASSTRAC website).  My concern is how are shippers supposed to know when what may appear to be nothing but a “small revision” is actually a big deal?  What impact does this have on your shipping operations?  Do you have transportation contracts that could override these bill of lading changes or are you at the mercy of whatever bill of lading is provided you?  What level of protection does you company need to operate in its best interest?

 

Since 1952, NASSTRAC has been watching out for shippers and working with carriers to ensure fairness on both sides of the shipping transaction.  If you are not a NASSTRAC member you could be opening your company up to much more liability by not knowing and understanding issues like this.  Come and join shippers who are “in the know.” 

 

Join NASSTRAC now.

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Scorched Earth

Posted By Gail Rutkowski, Thursday, September 8, 2016

I was speaking with a couple of large shippers recently and they were talking about how difficult it has become being a shipper in these uncertain times.  One shared that her company literally put the transportation group “out to bid” within the corporation to see if anyone would want them.  Fortunately, the group had been able to produce significant cost savings and clearly provided value and was snapped up by the CFO.  Now the challenge becomes explaining (another word for selling) the function to a group that is unfamiliar with transportation.  Another shipper had her corporate group add international transportation to the domestic group’s workload with very little additional resources to do the job.  Consequently, their workload doubled and the stress level increased proportionately.

 

As I was listening to their stories and thinking about the shippers in our membership and those who haven’t found us yet…I pictured the scene from the movie “The Matrix” where Morpheus shows Neo what the earth really looked like.  It was a scorched panorama of burned out cities and towns with little life left in them.  Is that what is happening to shippers?  If so, why is this scene being repeated so frequently throughout corporate America, and what can we do about it?

 

The days when transportation was the invisible department somewhere down in the warehouse are gone.  As transportation costs increase, it has now become front and center in the minds of senior management.  What are you doing to insure that your senior management understands your function and has a basic knowledge of how outside elements are affecting your transportation budgets?  I can tell you this, if you’re not thinking about that and taking some action, you better start freshening up your resume.  More and more companies are looking to outsource their transportation function, not considering the fact that in order to be successful, these 3PL relationships need to be managed and their activities overseen by educated and informed personnel.  There are some excellent 3PL companies out there, but they can only be as effective as the companies who contract and work with them are.

 

NASSTRAC is here to help.  Our Education Committee is working on building a year round educational program to help our members develop a comprehensive transportation strategy and more importantly, provide help in selling your function and strategy to the corner office.  The importance of transportation in the supply chain cannot be understated or ignored and it is your responsibility not just to negotiate the best rates for your company, but to help your company understand that those are the best rates and that cheap and efficient don’t always go together.

 

Join us this Friday, September 9th on the NASSTRAC View as we talk about developing and selling your transportation budget.  This View is open to NASSTRAC regular members only and will be moderated by Mike Regan, of TranzAct Technologies and NASSTRAC’s Advocacy Chairman.  Attendance is limited, so make your reservation early. 

 

We have also begun planning for our 2017 conference and many of the sessions will revolve around helping you do your job better.  Watch for details here and on www.nasstrac.org as they develop.

 

Finally, we are all in this together, so please share your shipper story here with us and together we can all become better.

 

 

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A Voice in the West

Posted By Doug Kahl, Thursday, August 25, 2016
Please welcome our new guest blogger, Doug Kahl. Doug resides in Phoenix, AZ and has agreed to be our eyes and ears out west. Doug has extensive sales leadership, strategic sourcing, consulting, and global experiences throughout his logistics career. He is a member of NASSTRAC, ISM, and CSCMP, has been recognized by the American Society of Transportation & Logistics as a Distinguished Logistics Professional, and was named one of our industry’s “Pro’s to Know” by Supply & Demand Chain Executive. Doug is also a contributing columnist to various trade publications, a subject matter expert to research firms, and has spoken on timely industry topics at numerous conferences.

While the majority of our shipper and carrier members reside in the eastern states, there are a few of us out here in the west. This once described “vast frontier” is no longer a frontier. If you’ve ever driven the 405 in Southern California, you know what I mean. We remain however that vast land mass covering over two-thirds of our country containing only a third of our population. This geography to population brings a different set of issues then those faced in the more densely populated, closer proximity eastern states. So I’ve raised my hand, with the closeness I have in living and working out west, to keep my eyes and ears open and share what I see and hear with all of you back east.

A sample of our transportation issues raised by the Western Governors Association include:

“Perhaps more than any other region, terrain and landownership patterns in the West underscore the purpose and vital need for a federal role in surface transportation. Western states are responsible for vast expanses of national highways and interstates that often do not correlate with population centers, but serve as critical national freight and transportation routes for the nation.”

“The transportation and transit needs in the west differ significantly from our eastern counterparts. Western states are building new capacity to keep up with growth, including new interstates, new transit systems and increased capacity on existing infrastructure.”

“Western states’ ports are national assets, moving needed parts and retail goods into the country, while also providing the gateway for our nation’s exports. Although they benefit the entire country, the financial burden of developing, expanding and maintaining them to meet the demands of growing trade is almost entirely borne at the local level.”

“Among other things, transportation infrastructure in the west: moves agricultural and natural resource products from source to national and world markets; carries goods from western ports on western highways and railroad track to eastern and southern cities”

Whether it has to do with the LA-LB mega-port, the impact the Panama Canal expansion will have on the west coast versus the east coast, the Interstate 11 corridor connecting Phoenix and Las Vegas with the potential changes in distribution patterns; or, the recent wild fires that impacted rail lines ability to move freight (how many of us accounted for that risk and had a proactive plan in place to execute?), the objective of this blog will be to share with you a logistics practitioner’s point of view. Please share your thoughts on topics of interest and we will keep an eye on those as well.

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If it’s Old School, does that make it wrong?

Posted By Gail Rutkowski, Monday, August 15, 2016

I’m Old School…I admit it. I’ve been in this industry for many years and have been fortunate to be able to make a good living and more importantly meet some amazing people. Through the years I’ve learned some valuable lessons from my Old School mentors.

  • Nothing beats looking into the eyes of the person you are doing business with and agreeing that we will do business and treat each other with respect.
  • Data tells the story…it’s NOT the story
  • If the data says one thing and your gut says another…check again.
  • If something appears too good to be true, whether it’s pricing or a business deal, it probably is.
  • If you choose to ride the low cost train, don’t be surprised when it derails.
  • Always be honest and fair. It matters.
  • And my favorite from the recently passed J. Harwood Cochrane (courtesy of Jack Holmes): “…don’t focus on the people above you, focus on the people below you. If you do, they’ll take care of everything else.”

Mr. Cochrane passed away a short time ago at the age of 103. He left an amazing legacy of being one of the last of his generation that transformed the transportation industry by establishing trucking as a mode of long distance transportation ending the dominance of railroads. Last year, Mr. Cochrane spoke at the NASSTRAC Annual Shippers Conference, being interviewed by Jack Holmes, past president of UPS Freight. His stories and advice are as pertinent today as they were back in the day.


In this era of faster is better and computers rule it seems that we have lost the personal touch. Texts and emails don’t take the place of personal interaction and frequently are the cause of many misunderstandings. I’m sure you all have been part of back and forth emails between your colleagues who sit only steps away from you. Or, receiving texts from people and when you call them, you get their voicemail. Now, I confess that I sometimes respond to emails in the evening so I can quickly get out a response without going back and forth or wait to hear a voicemail before I pick up the phone. There are times when we need to understand the difference between urgent, but not important and what is really important, though may not appear urgent. We are instinctively trained to jump at the ding of an email or beep of a text allowing our concentration to be interrupted and our focus shifted. The Old School guys took the time to fully understand an issue before making a decision and to have an actual conversation, face to face, before making a decision. A 140 character Tweet did not make up their minds.

That’s not to say that modern technology isn’t helpful or shouldn’t be used, I’m just offering an option. In our hurry up environment, of which transportation is the most “hurried up” of all, sometimes taking a minute to slow down and focus on the person or problem in front of you is the best action you can take.


Make a promise to yourself: the next time you are in to a back and forth email or text stream, Stop! Walk to the person’s office and have a face to face conversation or if that’s not possible pick up the phone and have a conversation. I guarantee it will make a difference. By focusing entirely on the issue/person/problem, shows people you value their opinion and consider their importance. Maybe those Old School guys weren’t so slow after all.

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