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Fresh-Cut Freight: Shedding Light on the Logistics of the Floral Industry

The nation’s 2nd highest gift-giving holiday is fast approaching and retailers and shippers alike are kicking it into high gear. According to the US Census Bureau, there are more than 23,000 florists in the United States! Flowers account for 70% of all gifts bought each year on Mother’s Day.

With such essential perishables on-board, you may wonder how these delicate tokens are transported from their origin to your mother’s hands. The inventory must be kept cool and in constant motion, creating a complex logistical approach to any supply chain. One day lost in delivery can equal 10% of the effective floral shelf life, limiting the opportunity for the re-seller to sell the product.

The journey begins with the snip of a stem – the clock is ticking to get the flowers to their destination. The majority of flower supply stems from Colombia and Ecuador. Christine Boldt, Executive Vice President of the Association of Floral Importers of Florida describes the supply flow after being placed immediately in a refrigerated truck for transport to a cool warehouse at the airport, “They go through a process we call ‘pre-cooling,’ in which any warm air that might be trapped in the box is vacuumed out. That allows the flowers to cool faster than they would if we simply left warm air inside the package.”

Fresh-cut Freight: Shedding Light on the Logistics of the Floral Industry, Mother’s Day 2012
Fresh cut flowers experience pre-cooling and are released to the warehouse, where shipments are broken down and shipped to their destination. Source: http://bit.ly/LXlMz2

Following the “pre-cooling,” the blossoms travel through the center of the U.S. flower distribution system: Miami International Airport (MIA). MIA houses approximately 2/3 of the supply (about 35,000 – 70,000 boxes every day) with huge spikes in volume around Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day! In an effort to challenge Miami International Airport’s market dominance, California-based Mercury Air Group’s opened a 12,700-square-foot refrigeration facility at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

Once packages arrive, they are inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS); ensuring the flora is free from harmful pests and diseases can take up to four hours. Fortunately, only two percent of shipments are labeled non-compliant under APHIS regulations. After the flowers receive the “green light,” the next step is another pre-cooling and release to warehouse, where shipments are broken down and shipped to an international location or placed on refrigerated trucks for domestic distribution. The flora can reach any city in the US by truck in less than five days.

Retailers are the final link in the cut-flowers supply chain before reaching your mother’s hands. Retailers include traditional florist shops, online stores, supermarket chains, roadside vendors, gas stations, drugstores, etc. Supermarkets account for nearly 40% of our flower sales and are steadily increasing sales throughout the slower parts of the year.

From harvest to retailer, perishables are a challenging transport, but 3PLs are here to help. BlueGrace® Logistics offers freight shipping services and solutions that aid in simplifying the supply chain process. Our dedicated representatives provide complete consult in helping shippers choose the best mode of transportation as well as the right carrier for their needs. Our customizable transportation management system, BlueShip™, provides detailed visibility of time-sensitive shipments so you’re always aware during transit.

We know the importance of on-time delivery. Whether it is flowers or materials, let BlueGrace® handle the logistics while you manage your other critical business operations. Contact a member of our team for a free, customized freight quote today!

If you’re involved in the shipping process of flowers, please add your input! Do you work in the floral industry and have any tips to share? Let the community know by commenting on our blog!

Happy Mother’s Day!

-Jennifer Masters, Business Information Analyst
Twitter: @BG_JennyD

 

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Logistics: What is it? BlueGrace Offers the Whole Package

What is logistics?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions in the industry. Add “third party” to “logistics” and you may as well be wearing a sign that says “barrage me with questions, please!” Confusion may be created because the meaning is so broadly applicable across a diverse range of trades. The scope of “logistics” could describe the operations of a thriving corporate enterprise or the play-by-play of a day in the life of a soccer mom. While both accurately depict the word, those are not exactly the everyday logistics we manage at BlueGrace® Logistics.

To say we handle the details of transporting your goods from Point A to Point B would not do justice to what truly goes on behind the scenes of your freight’s journey. The factors below offer a glimpse into what you experience by partnering with BlueGrace for your logistics.

  • Optimization. One way BlueGrace creates value is by helping customers optimize existing transportation and logistics functions. We take a deep dive into the inner-workings of your transportation management to identify inefficiencies. With these discoveries we engineer solutions for specific processes in your supply chain and aid in execution across all departments. We strive to create new opportunities which ultimately increase efficiency and your bottom line.
  • Preservation. With so much change and variability in the supply chain, optimization is a recurring process. We don’t abandon you once changes are in place, it is our job to take that extra step and ensure those improvements are maintained and your success continuous.
  • Reporting. When you work with a logistics provider, we know that the ultimate goal is to take care of your shipments from start to finish without having to chase anyone for updates along the way. This is why we provide complete visibility through BlueShip™, our transportation management system. Using information like real-time tracking, we allow you the freedom to dictate what, when, and how you view your shipments and reports. Our customized reports take the guessing out of your supply chain.
  • Understanding. This part of our “logistics” is one that we hold in the highest regard. BlueGrace is comprised of over 150 years of experience in logistics, freight and transportation management. Our expertise helps you make the best decisions for your company. We strive to gain a healthy understanding of your business goals and how you wish to attain them.

Logistics means different things to different people. All of the factors above encompass what it really means to BlueGrace. Logistics goes well beyond just shipping… it reaches into the heart of your business. If you would like to request a free freight quote or an audit on your logistics processes, contact our team today!

What does logistics mean to you? What are the most important factors in determining who handles your freight? We’d love to hear from you!

If you’d like to join our team of professionals, contact BlueGrace Careers or visit our Careers page for more information about a career in logistics.

 

-Jennifer Masters, Business Information Analyst
Twitter: BG_JennyD

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Partnership Reduces Costs and Transit Time… Creating Benefits for All

This is a fantastic read and I wanted to share it with you! Logistics Management reports how a closeout retailer, Tuesday Morning, partnered with a leading transportation provider, Averitt Express, and increased their bottom line.  Headquartered in Houston, TX, the retailer strived to find a solution to transport its “obnoxious freight” and keep inventory moving. The experts at Averitt Express, one of our valued partners, provided a distribution center (DC) bypass solution, eliminating significant transportation costs and shipment days for Tuesday Morning.

Kudos to the transportation professionals at Averitt and congrats to the team at Tuesday Morning! It’s evident you are a dynamic match!

At BlueGrace® Logistics, our team of experts can evaluate your supply chain to identify inefficiencies and propose solutions to eliminate time and enhance your bottom line. Contact us today for a free audit and to discuss collaborative distribution.

Read the Logistics Management article  “Tuesday Morning’s DC bypass cuts two weeks, 19 percent cost out of supply chain.”

 

– Samantha Hill, Community Manager
Follow @SamHill_BG on Twitter!

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Shrinking the Carbon Footprint of Transportation: Earth Day 2012

To commemorate Earth Day 2012, we believe a proper “shout out” to Mother Nature is in order. People say the driving force behind the nation’s economy is the trucking industry. That’s a logical rationale considering nine million people help transport eleven billion tons of freight annually. In regard to these figures, BlueGrace® Logistics asks not only what the freight and shipping industry can do for you, but what can transportation do for the planet?

Sustainability efforts do not come in a one-size-fits-all box, here are methods to shrink your carbon footprint and reduce waste on either end of the supply chain!

Shippers/Warehousing:

      • Motion sensors:Only illuminate
        Shipping Pallet Garden Wows Visitors at the Canada Blooms Garden Festival
        Shipping Pallet Garden
        areas when a truck or other vehicle is actually present at the pickup point.
      • Solar panels: Utilize natural energy and light from the sun, thus reducing energy consumption, or… add a skylight!
      • Packaging materials: Biodegradable packing peanuts made from renewable resources are a great aid in the quest for sustainability. Companies such as StarchTech, produce packaging alternatives that dissolve in water after use.
      • Pallet-sharing programs: Thousands of pallet recyclers buy/sell pallets to create a comprehensive retrieval network. If a pallet cannot be reused for shipments, grind it down to reuse as mulch, animal bedding, or create a pallet garden!

Drivers:

      • Speed Reduction: The easiest (and safest!) step to take. Reducing your speed from 75 to 65 saves up to 27% of fuel and reduces carbon emissions by approximately 31.5 million tons!
      • Idling time: If you’re on a long haul that requires overnight rest, take advantage of truck auxiliary units or truck stop electrification systems to heat or cool your truck instead of wasting diesel while in idle.
      • Accessories and Equipment: Low viscosity lubricants can be used to reduce friction. Monitoring tire pressure regularly is also an efficient step towards fuel-economy.

Carriers:

      • Aerodynamic/engine modifications: Install aerodynamic panels on trailers and replace older engines with new, environmentally friendly engines.
      • Alternative fuel: Biomethane gas emits 50% less carbon than current diesel standard and is derived from organic matter in landfill sites. Coca-Cola Enterprises was the 1st in the logistics sector to invest in biomethane trucks.
      • Collaborative distribution: Merge different loads destined for the same end point to maximize trucking efficiency.

It’s easy to take a pro-active hold on the planet’s future. If you or your company is “Going green” we’d love to hear from you! Comment below and tell us about the steps you’re taking to make a difference!

BlueGrace takes pride in its involvement with the community and sustainability efforts. Several carriers in our network are SmartWay Certified. Naturally, a 3PL is a green solution to manage your logistics needs as BlueGrace operates from web-based systems or cloud computing thus reducing paper waste, consolidates your freight bills into a single invoice, and allows you to select the best carrier to move your goods – saving you green!

Let’s reduce the carbon footprint in your supply chain together! To learn more about how BlueGrace can help increase efficiencies in your logistics processes, shoot us an email or call 800.MY.SHIPPING today!

– Jennifer Masters, Business Information Analyst
Follow @BG_JennyD on Twitter

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It’s a Man’s World

Its a Mans World | Women in Trucking Industry and MMA | BlueGrace MMA Sponsor Felice Herrig“You see, man made the cars to take us over the road. Man made the trains to carry heavy loads.”

Ah, James Brown…how the times are a changing. Man may have made those things, but guess who’s transporting these days? That’s right,women.

Now more than ever, women are entering into arenas that were once thought to be ruled by men. Places such as the octagon of a fighting ring and behind the wheel of a big rig – both are familiar to BlueGrace® Logistics. As most of you know, we are proud sponsors of MMA and recently teamed up with our first female XFC® fighterFelice “Lil Bulldog” Herrig. The qualities that Felice and women of MMA embody are the same that ladies in the logistics industry possess in order to succeed.

“Integrity, determination, dependability, and a healthy respect for competition, that is what these UFC® fighters represent to BlueGrace,”says BlueGrace President/CEO, Bobby Harris.

Relevant to our industry, Desiree is a well known female truck driver recognized for her viewpoints and expertise. Desiree provides trucking news and shares her story as a  female trucker. She believes that women are an underappreciated resource—yet exemplify the critical skills that are needed to perform the job. To stay up to date on the latest news, read The Trucker Desiree Daily!

Working as a female in a predominantly male industry presents additional unique challenges and circumstances. Therefore, whatever obstacles men may face driving a truck or knocking out an opponent, women must overcome another set associated with the gender stereotype. Though the percentage of females employed in the “transportation and material moving occupations” is approximately15 percent, it’s worth reporting that this movement is trending in an upward and positive direction. Women should be acknowledged as “forces to be reckoned with” despite the barriers they face.

Some may argue that the road and the ring are no place for females, we beg to differ. We must recall the most important line of Mr. Brown’s song, “It wouldn’t be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl”.

Be sure to check out our exclusive video of Felice on the BlueGrace Facebook page.

BlueGrace is thrilled to be involved in supporting the women of the MMA industry; and appreciates the hard work and dedication of women in transportation.

If you are a woman in the transportation or sports industries, we want to hear from you! Do you have an example of an obstacle that you have had to overcome? Perhaps you can offer helpful tips on how to succeed in a male dominated industry.

Contact our Community Manager with any questions about our MMA sponsorships or logistics services today!

– Jennifer Masters, Business Information Analyst
Follow @BG_JennyD on Twitter

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#BGInvestigates: Why not use a 3PL?!

No acronym boils the blood of a BlueGrace® Logistics employee more than “3PL”. In our experience, this acronym conveys an adopted meaning that doesn’t give justice to the value added service BlueGrace delivers. We believe 3PL providers should be an extension of your business, not an outsourced process. So instead of a “3PL”, we consider ourselves a Logistics Service Provider.

Phrasing is not the reason that decision makers stray from 3PLs. To further understand the issue, BlueGrace investigated internally. Here are the most common concerns:

 “I’ve been burned by other 3PL’s, so now I steer clear…”

This could be the most common objection to any business considering a new 3PL. To those questioning the use of 3PL’s, we say, “Well you haven’t experienced BlueGrace.” Completely nixing all 3PLs from your life is the wrong move. We have learned the most common reason for failed 3PL partnerships is billing resolutions. At BlueGrace, we take certain precautions to safeguard against mistakes. We know that re-classes and re-weighs are the heartache of any shipper’s existence. Our new and enhanced BlueShip Transportation Management System allows users to enter weight and dimensions into their customized portal; alerting the shipper to contact their rep if the shipment requires special attention (pricing, class, etc.).

Another concern is the lack of education from the provider to the customer. This results in miscommunication and animosity, which potentially leads to a short-lived business relationship. It’s vital for you, the shipper, to understand what we provide. A good Logistics Service Provider (or 3PL) will help their customer understand resources like NMFC codes, cubic capacity and linear feet guidelines.

“If we can be of help, we will. If not, we tell you. We want to create mutually beneficial relationships and properly educate our customers,” says Eric Chambers, Sr VP of Sales.

“You don’t own your own trucks, so why should I trust you with my freight?”

That’s a good question. BlueGrace Logistics has a strong network of top rated carriers to handle our customer’s goods. We use a scorecard with each carrier to monitor overall performance such as damages in transit and punctuality. Our carrier partnerships allow us to negotiate competitive rates on your behalf. Take advantage of the lower costs that the buying power of the right 3PL can get you.

BlueGrace Logistics provides free quotes and internal audits of your current logistics processes. For any questions in regard to your shipping needs call 1.800.MY.SHIPPING

So, we hope this topic was helpful in identifying your concerns in determining whether or not working with a 3PL is right for you. Give us a call, send an email, or follow us on Twitter (@mybluegrace) for more on these important subjects as #BGInvestigates.

Visit us online at www.mybluegrace.com

– Jennifer Masters, Business Information Analyst
Follow @BG_JennyD on Twitter!

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Behind the Wheel of a Big Rig

If you follow our CEO Bobby Harris @BobbyBG_CEO on Twitter, you’ll see that he continually warns of capacity overload and driver shortages looming. I don’t understand why people that are stuck in “dead-end jobs” do not want to become truck drivers! According to Indeed.com the average salary of a truck driver in Florida is $53,000/year and the salary index is on an upward trend.

I believe that most people typically think of drivers as long haul and that is a huge misnomer. Many drivers that work for LTL carriers go in to their home terminal in the morning, help load their van, take deliveries out in the morning, enjoy lunch, do pickups in the afternoon, unload back at terminal and then go home. These routes are very structured and the pay tends to be as well. Independent owner operators that do the long haul driving across the country have more freedom to name their own price and make more money.

These modes, in addition to railroads, have been the backbone of this country for many years and it will remain as such. President Obama spoke about how manufacturing is experiencing an uptick in the United States, which means that more American-made products will need to get from point A to B.

Can you see yourself behind the wheel of a big rig? The opportunity is there to have a career for years to come. Your future is up to you!

– Dustin Snipes, Inbound Sales Supervisor
Follow me on Twitter: @DSnipesNole_BG

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Rising Price of Oil: Effects on Daily Purchases and Transportation

Oil prices are going up in 2012! If you are in the trucking industry or just a consumer, when oil prices go up … YOU are affected. Oil prices not only effect the price of gasoline that we put in our car every day or diesel in a truck (which is more expensive) but also the cost of our food, packaging of products and many other items that we use daily. Remember, the cost of a barrel of crude oil is based on what speculators think will happen to the production and delivery of the barrels of oil around the world. Recently Iran made a statement that they will close the Strait of Hormuz, which is a major waterway for theStrait of Hormuz, Iran transportation of oil from the Middle East. The reason for the statement is not important pertaining to this blog, but the impact to the price of oil would be huge. The NY Times reported that if the Strait of Hormuz was closed, the price of oil could rise as much as 50% or more within days (which we are already beginning to experience).

Today the average cost per gallon of gas is $3.30 and for diesel is $3.78 (eia). Just sit back and imagine if the cost of these two items doubled within 2 days. Let’s do some quick math, to personally fill my car the cost would go from $60 to $118. To fill a truck that can carry 400 gallons of diesel would go from $1,512 to $3,024. For shippers, the fuel cost that you would pay for a shipment from Los Angeles, CA to Boston, MA would go from an estimated $1,581 to $3,849 just for the cost of fuel. That does not count the line haul cost. If the cost of transportation for our products goes up, so do the costs at stores where we buy our goods. Food, paper towels, diapers, apparel, paper for the copier, etc… will go up.

So, if you ever wonder why oil prices are such a big issue in this country or why the USA spends so much time in the Middle East, just look at the impact it has on your personal budget and transportation services. Look at the impact on one of your shipments if oil prices should double.

-Chris Reeves, Director of Specialized Services
Twitter: @BGTruckload

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Not the end of Hours of Service (HOS) Rules Changes

Who has seen the new HOS (Hours of Service) rules that just came out by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)? The trucking industry has been waiting to see what the FMCSA was going to do with the HOS rules that they currently operate under. I am not going to get into the details of the changes, but I am going to make this point. If trucking was so unsafe that the FMCSA had to get together to make changes to the law, then why did they make the effective date start 1.5 years in the future? Personally it does not seem to be that big of a safety issue if drivers are going to continue to operate under the same rules till July 2013 before they have to change.  With the Millions of drivers on the road that is a lot of unsafe driving till July 2013.

If we are going to make change, let’s change. I said I am not going to let you know the details and the main reason is because the rules will change before this ever goes into effect.

Trucking Industry be aware. This is not the end of the HOS rules changes. More to come!!!

– Chris Reeves, Director of Specialized Services
Twitter: @BGtruckload

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Cocoa Collaborators Exemplify Holiday Spirit

Hershey and Ferrero Group collaborative distributionSo the holiday season is upon us once again. ‘Tis the season of love, laughter, and generosity of spirit. While candy canes and mistletoe are abound, one more important element comes to mind. It’s the element that makes perfect stocking stuffers and the element that continuously gets sent to BlueGrace Logistics and ends up in our break room. The one that seduces the indulgent heart of ladies everywhere and it’s certainly not sugar plums. That’s right—rich, creamy chocolate. In the true peaceful spirit of the holidays, two goliaths of the chocolate world, Hershey Company and The Ferrero Group joined forces in October in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint on the world–what a match made in chocolaty heaven. The competitors allied together through joint warehousing, transportation and distribution. Joy to the world! Now if only they could celebrate by giving out samples of their yummy goods everywhere (Merry Christmas to me)!  Hershey, alone ships over 100,000 outbound refrigerated truckloads annually. Holy toothache, batman!

I read in a manufacturers survey that, in unions such as these, supply chain savings and new growth are high atop the priority list of many large global manufacturers. About half of companies surveyed said reshaping supply chains was a top priority. Though collaborative distribution is indeed a growing trend (across all industries), adoption is slow and is still very much under-utilized in my opinion. For middle-market companies that lack the volume to ship in full truckloads, this method just seems the sensible alternative. With fewer deliveries, less road congestion, reduced energy use and more efficient receiving at the retailer’s distribution center, it’s much more economical and mutually beneficial for both parties involved. Who wouldn’t want to save money while saving the planet?

So, I think these “green”, confectionary trailblazers are setting a terrific example for fellow shippers in their supply chain operations. My hope is that this distribution model will become more of a standard in the future of logistics. All I’m saying is that if Santa Claus could strike up some kind of collaborative supply chain deal, that jolly old man could end up back in the North Pole with his feet up and out of those boots a lot faster and maybe afford to give those elves a raise too.

Are you jumping on board the “green” train this holiday season? Any collaborative distribution plans in the near future? Comment on this blog and let us know!

– Jennifer Masters, Business Information Analyst
Follow me @BG_JennyD

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Response to a Fool

A recent discussion on Linkedin regarding 3PL’s in the transportation market included a number of foolish comments made by a clearly disgruntled freight carrier sales rep. Below are the highlights from his misinformed, one dimensional, price hoarding rant, followed by my b*#!@ slap…

  • “Most shippers of any regular frequency have become fairly saavy during the “great recession”. Most accounts I call on are turning away 3PLs because they don’t provide a value added. Even in the case of a small shipper (5-10 LTL shipments per month), I regularly see the difference in the 3PL price and the direct-to-carrier price to be under $10.00 on an average pallet sized shipment…”
  • “A few 3PLs are great partners for both the customer and the carrier. Most are not. They regularly call the carrier with no idea of what is going on with a shipment THEY scheduled or the customer cannot get an answer on a shipment, claim, pickup, etc…”
  • “I have worked in one of the largest markets in the country and in one of the smallest and the song remains the same, an 800 number, a computer and assorted tariffs from multiple carriers do not a logistics provider make.”
  • “…what I do know about most 3PLs is: 1) They depress freight rates which directly impacts the livelihood and opportunity of carrier associates. 3PLs don’t create freight, they create lower profitability on the freight that exists. 2) They will undercut their carrier “partners” without hesitation yet howl in indignation if a carrier dare “back solicit” a customer. 3) Frequently mislead or directly lie to a customer about how the customer-3PL-customer relationship is defined from a legal perspective. 4) No carrier does business with a 3PL because they want to. Why would they? It invariably results in the carrier moving the same freight at a decreased O/R.”

I’m also going to disagree with you on a number of fronts. There may be a number of 3PL’s who operate as such but you clearly underestimate the value in which a 3PL brings to a carrier. It’s obvious as to why you would have such bias. A good 3PL partnership does not hurt the carrier, it hurts the rep. The historic mentality of a carrier rep is to sell on price, price, price.

Of course, a carrier will make less direct profit on a shipment when the revenue is less. What you are overlooking is that the carrier has significantly less overhead on that shipment. The revenue may be less, but the profit % will be higher. The carrier is not paying a sales rep salary, car, commission, expenses, insurance, cell phone, etc. on that shipment. They are not paying the rent, electric bill, office supplies, phone service, etc. for sales to secure that shipment. With a 3PL using EDI and TMS, the carrier is not paying the administrative expense of tracking, uploading W&I or POD’s or communicating this with customers via phone or email. I could go on and on. This is a statistical reality and of course I would expect this to be overlooked by a sales rep losing out on commissions and thinking this is just a matter or price v. price.

Also way understated is the value of the 3PL. You are right that a carrier would not deal with a 3PL if it didn’t have to. But they have to – because a good 3PL can and does provide value that the carrier cannot. The carrier cannot provide a single source for data management, data warehousing, a single source for tracking, shipping documents, addresses, product information, carrier procurement and rate negotiating, unbiased carrier scorecards, etc. some of the best carriers, partners like SEFL or Con-way, can only provide the services that SEFL or Con-Way provide. Even YRC, who has some of the better technology, is leagues behind what a good 3PL can do. Customers cannot pay the hundreds of thousands of $ to purchase a TMS and even if they did and attempt to manage their own transportation, they are doing so at the expense of their core competencies.

A carrier and especially a carrier rep can only provide “Freight” Services, and as we all can see, this discussion group is for freight as well as LOGISTICS and SUPPLY CHAIN – two things which go way beyond the scope of what any one direct carrier can offer.

-Nick Klingensmith, Director of Sales and Personnel Development
Twitter: TheBGexperience

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The Blurry Line Between LTL and Small Parcel

Often the line between the use or difference of UPS and freight services may seem a bit blurry.  Most would agree it’s easier to ship a few boxes via UPS Small Parcel versus LTL (less-than-truckload) via a third party logistics solutions provider…. And at times, it may be the best option.  Although with a bit of information you may learn the benefits of using an LTL provider. 

Here are a few thoughts to consider before shipping:

  • How many boxes are shipping to the same location?
  • If you have a few boxes shipping to the same location it may be advantageous to use an LTL provider.  Why? Well, you can assure that all of the boxes will reach the destination at the same time. 
  • Most people believe LTL providers only move palletized material – WRONG. You do not have to put them on a pallet. However doing so may offer a sense of comfort and confidence knowing that they will arrive together. The average cost of a pallet is under $5.00.
  • What are the dimensions and specs? How long or heavy is the box? A UPS Small Parcel provider is equipped to carry smaller, lighter boxes.  Therefore when the boxes reach certain dimensions or weight the transportation provider will charge additional fees.  These fees can be avoided if shipping with an LTL Freight carrier – and the package may qualify as a “minimum” charge depending on the distance.

There are many other factors to consider when choosing to ship through UPS Small Parcel versus LTL services provider.  Hopefully these helpful tips have provided you with more resources to help your decision making a smoother process and also save your wallet!

If you have any questions, please contact a member of our team at BlueGrace Logistics to help with your shipping needs!
800-MY-SHIPPING
Twitter: @myBlueGrace

– Vanessa Castillo, Sales Manager
Follow me @Vanessa_BGmngr

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News: What S&Ps downgrade really means for the US economy

After listening to President Obama’s speech today, it helped to answer some of the questions regarding the recent downgrade of our nation’s credit rating. For those that don’t know, Standards & Poor (S&P) downgraded the credit rating of the United States from AAA to AA. As Obama stated, this is not a doubt in the ability of our country to pay our debt, but a doubt in our political system’s ability to act. The President made some great points, many that focused on the fact that we didn’t need a rating agency to tell us that our country needs a balanced, long-term approach to policies.

The Standard & Poor’s rating agency has actually caused a stir among those who feel the downgrade was unnecessary and inconsistent. The other top two agencies maintained AAA and Warren Buffett even said he would give the US an AAAA if there was a rating. S&P’s determination also led them to downgrade the credit ratings of agencies linked to long-term US debt, such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This has caused markets to fluctuate, but is it something that should worry us all long-term? If similar situations from other countries are any indication, we shouldn’t have too much to worry about. As the President said, “Markets will rise and fall, but this is the United States of America. We will always be a AAA economy.”

What this all really comes back to is the need for Washington to cooperate and form the balanced, long-term proposals necessary to maintain our country as a superpower. The lack of political will to work towards achieving these proposals needs to stop. Combining spending cuts with tax reforms and adjustments to healthcare programs is a necessity for the future of the US. As we look back at those soldiers who lost their lives this past weekend, we need to honor their memory. They served our country as a team and we all need to work together to ensure our generation, and future generations, can enjoy the freedoms we do today.

– Ben Dundas, Web Analyst
Follow me @ben37dBG

Today’s Transportation & Logistics News:
Survey Shows Driver Shortage Limiting Hauling Capacity, Growth Potential
Partisan Finger-pointing Draws Credit Downgrade Warnings While Oil Prices Tumble
OOIL Sees ‘Disappointing’ 2011 Outlook
Trucking Industry Hiring Slowed in July
Obama Finalizing Truck Fuel Efficiency Rules

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News: “Bandaids” or Duct Tape?

News has come out that the FAA shutdown has temporarily come to an end, as Congress has continued to work together to pass a temporary extension until September 16th. It is great to see that both sides are finally starting to work together towards making sure the country continues to operate. This goes to show that while there are large differences between the sides, getting Americans back to work and the loss of money for the government lights a fire.

The real question now is how long it will last. With so many important pieces of legislation being proposed to Congress, will they be able to form enough bipartisan committees and get enough support to continue these strides? I find it very hard to believe. The transportation reauthorization has been proposed “500 times by 500 different people” and no one seems to like anyone’s proposals. Word is already coming out that there may be some large differences in the approval of a gas tax extension.

It is great that they are passing some legislation, but I have started to notice that there are a lot of “bandaids” being placed on important subjects. While I appreciate the agreement to increase the debt ceiling, it seemed like just another small fix. The same is noticed with the FAA agreement, while the transportation reauthorization and gas tax could be next. It is time for Washington to take real action on these important topics. They can’t all wait until 2013, after all of the elections take place and politicians aren’t afraid of losing their seat. It’s time to start getting long-term programs finalized and build for our future. Forget bandaids, it’s time to start using duct tape. It will hold a lot longer than a bandaid! Let’s see some real ACTION!

– Ben Dundas, Web Analyst
Follow me @ben37dBG

Today’s Transportation & Logistics News:
Gas tax may be next Tea Party target
FAA shutdown to end with deal, Harry Reid says
The gas tax is likely safe for now. And that’s the problem
Survey Shows Driver Shortage Limiting Hauling Capacity, Growth Potential
Will U.S. manufacturing step up?
Trucking Hiring Slowed in July

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News: Bicyclists Beware

On my way to work each day, I am reminded of how appreciative I am for my life and the family and friends I have had throughout. The reason for this is because back on February 13th, I left my apartment complex and drove past the scene of a local bicyclist dying on the side of the road. He died before an ambulance or authorities even arrived. A white painted bicycle with flowers that is still present commemorates Robert Niedbalec and the mission for safer roads.

The reason I bring this daily routine and story up, is to stress the importance of investing in safer roads for bicyclists and pedestrians. This includes building and/or extending bicycle lanes, adding better sidewalks with more defined crosswalks and even widening roads as a whole. Without these improvements, there will be many more scenes like the one I witnessed across the US.

With the transportation bill reauthorization being discussed in Washington on a consistent basis, it is important that you realize a few things. The most recent proposal from John Mica did not include funding for bicycle and pedestrian programs, as part of his drive to consolidate federal transportation bureaucracy. Congressman Mica is a fraternity brother of mine that I have had the joy to spend some time with at various events. While I share his love for our fraternity, I have to disagree with his charge to eliminate this funding.

Transportation funding has a large impact on making roads safer for those without vehicles. Just because the roads are mainly used by motorcycles, cars and trucks does not mean that bicyclists and pedestrians aren’t also using them to get from point A to point B. These are also the people at the highest risk of dying should a motorist lose control. While I agree that we need to be more fiscally responsible as a country, it is important that we are not cutting things that affect the lives of Americans, especially those that actually put their lives at risk!

– Ben Dundas, Web Analyst
Follow me @ben37dBG

ATA Says FMCSA Strategic Plan Doesn’t Go Far Enough
Will The Federal Gasoline Tax Be Grover Norquist’s Next Hostage?
Ocean cargo capacity exceeds demand
Obama Targets Trade, Infrastructure to Boost Economy
LaHood Blasts Congress for FAA Impasse

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News: Share your Concerns!

As of 2:04 PM, the White House reported that President Obama has signed the debt ceiling bill into law. This is great news and will hopefully help to create bipartisan cooperation on the next few important steps towards rebuilding our budget of revenues and expenses. Even with this great step, many of us in the industry are still concerned with future legislation that has a large impact on the industry.

The American Transportation Research Institute is calling all industry stakeholders to complete a survey on your top concerns this year. With their call I will emphasize mine. It is important for all those with a stake in our industry to express our concerns with our colleagues, our industry leaders and our leaders in Washington. We need to be vocal as an industry to ensure that the US continues to invest in our infrastructure and our industry.

I hope that you can share my concern with the upcoming bill to help reinvest in the transportation infrastructure of the US. With a continued focus on repair and development, we can ensure that the roads are safe for truck drivers, car drivers, motorcyclists, bicyclists and even pedestrians. Restrictions are continuing to get tougher on drivers and more expensive on trucking companies. The lives saved from simple road repair or widening would be a great contributor towards lessening deaths on the roads and highways.

If you have any stake in the industry, complete the survey at www.atri-online.org. Be heard!

– Ben Dundas, Web Analyst
Follow me @ben37dBG

Today’s Top Transportation News:
Debt Ceiling Deal Reached To Avert Default (LATEST UPDATES)
What does the debt ceiling deal mean for transportation?
US Steel Imports Fell in June
Diesel Prices Fall First Time in Four Weeks
NAFTA Surface Trade Rises 15.7 Percent

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News: Debt Deal is Just the Beginning

With all of the current changes going on in the industry, government and economy in general, I felt it was fitting to change up the blog. This will now be an opinion blog, with a focus on current events and news that affects the transportation industry. For those that still want them, top news articles will still be included. Here goes!

Last night while I was watching Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, I saw on Twitter that the debt deal was being agreed upon. It brought some great relief that I could enjoy all of Shark Week worry free. However, even with the deal finally being made, I realized that this is just the first step in a several month process to help finance the government, its agencies and projects. There are several important bills, authorizations and votes that need to be decided upon. Some have already gone unresolved and put thousands of people out of work. The focus on a debt deal overshadowed many of these important topics, especially those that largely affect our industry.

The first is the FAA reauthorization that went unresolved during the debt negotiations. Due to this, the FAA began a partial shutdown, over 4,000 federal employees were furloughed and $2.5 billion in airport improvement work stalled. This partial shutdown also caused the FAA to lose about $200 million in airline taxes each week.

The second is a transportation bill that has been reworked over and over again by different politicians all thinking they have the best plan. These plans have included the options for a simple extension, a massive increase in spending by the Obama administration to improve infrastructure and massive cuts in spending including bicycle and pedestrian project funding.

The third is the gas tax that expires on September 30 and could drastically change things in the industry if not reauthorized. While no one in Washington is suggesting an increase, many are worried that it may be targeted for a cut. Many advocates for transportation and improving infrastructure are actually hoping for an increase to help fund projects.

So with Washington finally coming to an agreement on a debt deal, I say good job and get back to work for the next two months. When October 1st comes around and the rest of these issues are resolved, you can take a break then. For the rest of us, let it be known that you want this resolved. Get on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ to discuss it. Contact your representatives. Let yourself be heard on this!

– Ben Dundas, Web Analyst
Follow me @ben37dBG

Debt deal is done. Now what?

Debt Deal Could Mean More Painful Cuts for Transportation

Obama and Leaders Reach Debt Deal

Paul Krugman And Ron Paul Agree: Debt Ceiling Deal Sucks

Group Fears Fuel Rules Will Drain Road Funds

Agriculture Groups Urge Free Trade Approval

US Manufacturing Falls to Two-Year Low

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15 Minutes

About a week ago I was outside trying to replace the handle to the door to my Lanai. It had been broken for several weeks and should have been a 15 minute job. It took me the better part of two weeks. I had to go to Home Depot and buy a new one. I had to remove the old one which took tools that I did not have. I had to find a way to break off a centimeter’s worth of metal, again, without the right tools. It was 96 degrees and the mosquitoes which have taken up residence were laying siege. Nearing the end of this project, and after working out in the bug infested heat for the better part of an hour while my dog and cat looked on in amusement, I thought about all of the other house projects that I have as a single home owner.  I thought about the broken handle to the patio door, the lights that needed changing in my 12 foot high ceilings, the screens that needed replacing, the broken garbage disposal – and all of the fun stuff I was going to have to put on hold while I became Mr. Fix-It. Wiping the sweat from my brow I said to myself, “Damn, I have GOT to get better at this stuff.”

Then I said, “No I don’t. I need to get better at MY job.” I am the Director of Sales & Personnel Development at BlueGrace Logistics. I oversee the Hiring & Recruiting, the Training & Development, and the National Sales Departments. I wear many other hats but at the end of the day, it’s my job to increase profits for the company and further the development of our employees. I need to get better at that job so that I can simply pay someone else to help with those items around the house.

The 15 minutes I spend doing my job are exponentially more valuable than the 15 minutes I spend screwing something up around the house. I need to focus on my core competency so that I can be successful in all aspects of my life. Focusing on my core competencies allows me to impact the careers and lives of our 90+ employees, our hundreds of vendors and our countless customers. Focusing on my core competencies will allow me the means to have the work around my house performed professionally instead of the shoddy band-aids I am going to put on it. This will allow me to spend my down time reenergizing and enjoying my personal interests. To make all this happen, I only have to do what it is that I do and do it well.

Why would a manufacturer of medical devices not outsource their transportation so that they can focus on their core competency? Wouldn’t a manufacturer of network equipment rather be #1 in network equipment than in shipping? Why would a distributor of PVC piping spend tens of thousands on an order management system when they could simply use our state-of-the-art Transportation Management System (TMS) at no cost?

The truth that I have found is that companies either are ignoring shipping as a necessary evil of what they do and are allowing a minimum wage employee to make million dollar decisions, daily; or are foolishly investing boat loads of money to have people handle their freight internally when they should really be investing their time, money and expertise into what it is that they are already great at. Allow a 3PL to handle your logistics simply because I am going to do it better than you are and significantly less expensive than it will cost you directly both in rates and soft costs. You spend your 15 minutes doing what it is that you do best.

– Nick Klingensmith, Director of Sales & Personnel Development

Follow me on Twitter: @theBGExperience

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Quality vs. Quantity… or Both?

A common comparison is quality and quantity. In this case, let’s compare low prices versus great service. It’s rare to find the two values together. Every day there are advertisements geared towards price sensitive consumers. One major example is, Walmart, “Save money, live better.” Then there is Sweetbay, focusing mainly on their “fresh” produce with billboards like, “Low prices taste better.” A focus on price point makes sense for such places due to the fact that people are going to buy food and other necessities; it’s inevitable. Why not get your Doritos for less? They taste the same no matter what store you get them from. A focus on experience is the marketing strategy at Publix, “Where shopping is a pleasure.” They do not focus on price as much… although there is plenty of room for savings (BOGOs). Each of these grocers are successful establishments.

I use this example because everyone purchases groceries, it doesn’t stop. People eat. They also need deodorant and laundry detergent. Similarly, businesses will always need to move their products. Will the decision to ship be solely based on price? Or, is it more important that the service received during the shipping process is more than satisfactory? Isn’t quality worth the extra cost? If trucks are Doritos, then service may not be as important to you. However, what if they run out of Doritos? At BlueGrace, we focus on strong customer service and tailoring our services to fit your company’s needs specifically. Price is certainly important and that’s why we offer very competitive rates.

OK, so is it quality over quantity, low prices over great service… or vice versa? You can have it all. The BlueGrace team will do what we can to assist your business and its shipping needs. The aim is to reach for the best prices AND provide the best service. Understanding our customers allows us to better meet their needs and help their business grow!

– Ariel Saiani, Sales Rep
Follow me @ArielSaiani_BG

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John Howard | UFC Fighter | Doomsday

Found and Delivered

Tom Hanks starred in Cast Away as an executive at FedEx who is stranded on a deserted island. He survives alone for years and when finally rescued, he makes sure an unopened package is delivered.  What a great example of product placement. In reality the product in this case is service.   How bold is the idea that FedEx could deliver a package under these circumstances? Well duh…it’s a movie! 

BlueGrace has no trucks, planes or ships of its own. What we do have is access to the best carriers in the logistics industry. Not only do we work with FedEx, but we also partner 100s of other carriers. 

John Howard | UFC Fighter | DoomsdayNow while BlueGrace hasn’t produced its own box office hit like Cast Away (yet), we have found ways to utilize product placement.  Recently BlueGrace began sponsoring some UFC fighters like Ben “Smooth” Henderson, Thiago “Pit Bull” Alves, Junior “Cigano” Dos Santos, Vagner “Ceara” Rocha, and John “Doomsday” Howard. We think these fighters portray our culture of character, determination and dependability and are proud to be associated with them. It is pretty exciting seeing our logo on shirts, shorts and even buzzed in the haircut of John “Doomsday” Howard. What’s next? Maybe you will see us soon as a logo on a driver’s uniform or car in an upcoming NASCAR race. Our Speed of Blue motto would be right at home on the track.  Until then check us out this Saturday 6pm/9pm PTET at UFC 132 as BlueGrace sponsored Chris “The Crippler” Leben and Carlos “Natural Born Killer” Condit enter the octagon against their opponents in Vegas.

Lastly next time you ship something, remember to take insurance. You cannot always count on your package being found and delivered 4 years later.

– Ariel Saiani, Sales Rep
Follow me @ArielSaiani_BG

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