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You Will Need Expedited Freight After The ELD Mandate Begins

The Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate is going to put a serious squeeze on many supply chains, and possibly have a major effect on your business as soon as December 2017. With the devices in place, stricter hours of service regulations will be going into effect. While these are meant to increase the safety and wellbeing of the driver, many are concerned about the interruptions this mandate will cause to scheduled delivery times.

Some Exemptions are Available

While an acclimation period is to be expected, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is making some exemptions to the ELD ruling in a few cases, the most important being:

Sprinter vans up to 24ft and straight trucks with a gross weight under 10,000 lbs WILL NOT HAVE the ELD regulations and will be able to meet time sensitive deadlines. Why is this exemption important for your freight? We will discuss more below.

So while the FMCSA is insistent on the implementation of the devices across the industry, they’re leaving a smaller, cross section of the trucking industry untouched. This comes with a slight sigh of relief as the rest of the industry continues to resist against the ruling. With the deadline for ELDs drawing closer and companies trying, and failing to repeal the mandate, other avenues for fast and timely deliveries need to be considered.

This is Where Expedited Shipments Can Help

Whatever the reason, a shipper needs to get their goods moved, and they need to get them moved in a hurry.

Unlike most other freight that moves with routine regularity, expedited freight has a nature of its own. Consider the timing aspect of it. The whole idea behind expedited freight is that it should be picked up and moved off quickly. A solution for anything from a shortage of parts to a peak season order. Whatever the reason, a shipper needs to get their goods moved, and they need to get them moved in a hurry.

In addition to the change in time and pace, there’s also the consideration that expedited freight might have some irregularities that aren’t found in normal day to day hauling. For example, the product that needs to be delivered might be going to an urban area. This usually means that ramps and docks aren’t an option, so the driver needs to have access to the right equipment to get the freight loaded or unloaded. There’s also a variance of cargo from one delivery to the next.

the nature of expedited freight is considerably different from standard freight.

In short, the nature of expedited freight is considerably different from standard freight. It needs to be quick, versatile and most importantly, available.

The BlueGrace Expedited Solution

So what do you do when you’re faced with less available hours and capacity? You turn to an expedited freight expert. The days of overpromising and overdriving trucking companies are quickly coming to an end. Instead, working with a broker who has the resources to expedite shipping will be the answer. BlueGrace not only understands the importance of getting your product from A to B quickly, but they also understand that the new regulations are very quickly going to start cramping up the rest of the industry.

BlueGrace is ready to serve customers with our national fleet of non-dock high sprinter van, small/ large straight trucks with liftgates and pallet jacks for inside pick-ups and deliveries. As we mentioned, sprinter vans up to 24ft and straight trucks with a gross weight under 10,000 lbs will not have the ELD regulations and will be able to meet time sensitive deadlines. We will also be able to provide true teams services for sprinter vans and up to 26ft straight trucks. Another added benefit to the hands on approach for expedited is that all shipments are tracked with updates every 2-4 hours depending on day points.

BlueGrace Logistics strives to streamline the expedited process for you.

BlueGrace Logistics strives to streamline the expedited process for you. BlueGrace provides you with a pool of 300+ pre-screened carriers that specialize in expedited shipments and can provide you with a quote in as little as 30 minutes. How’s that for fast?

In an uncertain time, BlueGrace takes the stress out of your freight by giving you the information and technology you need to get the job done. Click here to download our Expedited PDF with more details.

Need An Expedited Quote?

Fill out the form below for your FREE 30 Minute Expedited Quote, or call TOLL-FREE 877.630.7446 to be connected with our Expedited Freight Team immediately.

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An Optimistic Outlook for the LTL Market

The US less-than-truckload (LTL) market is undergoing a tremendous change. Improving economic conditions as well as manufacturing growth has helped increase demand for LTL shipments. As a result, Stifel analyst David Ross noted that the $35 billion LTL market combined for publicly traded carriers reported tonnage per day increased 4% year-over-year during the second quarter of this year.

Indeed, the overall US economy appears to have awakened after a sluggish start to the year. First quarter GDP rose only 1.4%, a disappointment for sure but second quarter growth certainly made up for it growing at a 3.1% clip thanks in part to strong consumer spending.

E-commerce

E-commerce is taking more of the consumer’s spend. According to the US Commerce Department, second quarter e-commerce as a percent of total retail sales increased to 8.9%, up from 7.4% in second quarter 2016. The rise in e-commerce has sparked new service solutions from LTL carriers particularly as “supply chains become shorter, turn times are quicker and there’s a drive for small, but more frequent shipments”, according to Mr. Ross.

Some truck carriers have introduced last mile delivery services for items such as exercise equipment, mattresses, and furniture.

E-commerce packages have been the primary domain of small parcel carriers FedEx, UPS, USPS and regional small parcel carriers. However, as more consumers become habitual to ordering larger, bulkier items, FedEx and UPS, in particular, have struggled because their small parcel facilities and networks are not designed for such items. As a result, some truck carriers such as JB Hunt, Estes and Werner have introduced last mile delivery services for items such as exercise equipment, mattresses, and furniture. XPO Logistics, the third largest LTL carrier per the Journal of Commerce’s 2017 ranking, has taken it a step further by also offering white glove services such as set up, install, recycle etc. and just recently announced plans to expand their last-mile hubs to 85 within a few years. In addition, it is introducing technology that will allow consumers manage retail home deliveries with advanced, online tools.

Technology

Many shippers are looking for more integrated services, faster delivery and fulfillment and increasingly detailed shipment tracking and information. Also, third-party technology start-ups and TMS providers, such as BlueGrace are offering real-time pricing, booking and tracking solution services targeting both the shipper as well as the LTL carrier who may have available capacity on a particular lane.

Pricing and Labor

Stifel’s quarterly overview of LTL trends indicates that fuel surcharges are returning back close to 2015 highs (but remain far below 2011-2014 levels). Carriers are aiming for 3%-5% rate increases, and while getting some push back, they’re not losing freight over any rate hikes. The pricing environment currently remains healthy but could prove a concern over capacity.

LTL carriers are finding it more difficult to hire the needed labor to meet the increasing demands.

Labor continues to be another concern. LTL carriers are finding it more difficult to hire the needed labor to meet the increasing demands. Those that are hired are demanding higher wages. As an example, YRC was able to get some concessions from the Teamsters to allow them to raise pay above the contract level in certain markets.

ELD

The federal-mandated regulatory requirement, ELD (Electronic Logging Device) is set to go into effect in December. ELD is an electronic hardware that is put on a commercial motor vehicle engine that records driving hours.

It is believed that ELD could benefit LTL carriers at the expense of TL carriers.

It is believed that ELD could benefit LTL carriers at the expense of TL carriers. As such, many industry analysts anticipate pricing to increase as well as tonnage while TL capacity is reduced. As the Vice Chairman and CEO of Old Dominion Freight Line stated earlier this year, “A 1% fallout in truckload could equate to a 10% increase in the LTL arena, with larger LTL shipments.”

Outlook

The Journal of Commerce’s annual LTL ranking showed that total revenue dipped 0.4% from $35.1 billion to $34.9 billion after falling 1% the previous year. However, with US industrial output, consumer confidence and an increase in fuel prices, the top LTL carriers will likely return to expansion and revenue growth for this year.

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The Growing Need For Expedited Freight

Consumer expectations are changing. While this doesn’t come as a shock, the rate at which they are changing is picking up tempo. As eCommerce giants like Amazon and Alibaba continue to push the envelope, consumer expectations change as a result.

Today, the market has an expectation of “buy it now, wear it now.” While online shopping used to be a novelty, now it is the norm. With the advent of Amazon Prime offering a two day delivery for most products, people simply aren’t content to wait. While that’s great for consumers, it creates a significant shift in the way we look at logistics.

Disruptive Factors to Logistics

There are many speculations on what the most disruptive factors in logistics are. Some will point at ports, mega ships, and increased regulations. Others will say it’s the shortage of qualified drivers that are causing the most issues. CEO of FedEx Ground, Henry Maier, says it’s the next person to place an order through Amazon Prime. The “unparalleled and unprecedented growth” of e-commerce has created a “landscape of continuous change” that is rewriting the transportation playbook, Maier said.

Shippers need to be able to respond quickly to meet customer demand.

FedEx isn’t the only company that’s feeling the shift. “Think about the way things used to be on the parcel side,” Jack Holmes, president of UPS Freight, said. “Our business used to run right up to Christmas and then get very soft for six weeks. Now that (post-holiday) period is one of the most challenging for us.” Shippers need to be able to respond quickly to meet customer demand which means they need carriers that can meet their needs. That expectation and demand are only going to continue to grow as time goes on.

More About The Challenges

shippers need to not only be smarter about how they handle logistics, but they need to be smarter about how they handle their customers as well.

More than simply responding quickly, shippers need access to carriers that can suit their needs. Having trucks with lift gates, for example, is necessary for urban and suburban deliveries. Not only does this mean quicker deliveries but also a better service. Service, after all, is key in today’s market. Not only do consumers expect near instantaneous deliveries, but they have many platforms to express dissatisfaction should a shipper fail to perform. Therefore, shippers need to not only be smarter about how they handle logistics, but they need to be smarter about how they handle their customers as well.

The Growing Need for Expedited Freight

The holiday and the post-holiday season can become the most frantic for shippers and carriers alike. As holiday shoppers go on a spending spree, delivery times tighten as does available capacity. As a shipper, it’s important to have access to a reliable network of expedited carriers. Getting your products where they need to be, when they need to be there. So what do you do when you’re in a bind and need to have something shipped yesterday? Call BlueGrace Logistics.

 Why BlueGrace?

BlueGrace is an award-winning, full-service Third Party Logistics (3PL) provider that helps businesses manage their freight spend through industry-leading technology with a large network of established carriers to customers across the country. Sure, lots of firms may claim that, but what really sets us apart is our passion for supporting your success in this complex $750 Billion U.S. freight industry.

Our expedited freight services are second to none.

Our expedited freight services are second to none. We offer 30-minute quotes on price and capacity directly, from over 300 pre-screened, local expedite carriers nationwide. With over 10,000 pieces of equipment from Sprinter vans and semis, to domestic air, we can handle any type of freight. Each shipment is tracked by Macropoint, so you always know where your freight is located.

 

 

 

 

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Is WalMart’s OTIF Initiative Placing Impossible Pressure On Carriers?

Carriers already face many challenges in the transportation industry. It includes a multitude of rules and regulations that they must follow or else they could be fined. Or, even worse, drivers could lose their CDLs.

Now on top of all of their rules and regulations, WalMart is making it even tougher for carriers by imposing their OTIF program on them. Carriers can expect, heavy financial penalties for making late deliveries, for having missing freight, and for even delivering freight early.

OTIF – On Time In Full

WalMart is known for trying to squeeze profits in every area they can, even when it comes to receiving freight and their ‘OTIF’ or On Time In Full program is their way to crack down on carriers to become more efficient at delivering loads and properly packaged freight on time. This initiative should provide WalMart with an extra $1 billion in revenue by simply getting items to the shelves faster.

WalMart has already warned retailers that disputes will not be tolerated.

WalMart’s logistic center that includes over 150 distribution centers will greatly be impacted by their aggressive program that not only fines drivers for being late, but for being early and improperly packaged as well. If the carriers want to dispute a fine, that won’t work. WalMart has already warned retailers that disputes will not be tolerated. This unforgiving campaign already began in August with a previous goal with a 4-day delivery window and hitting OTIF regulations 90 percent of the time. Now by February  Wal-Mart wants to see deliveries on time and in full 95% of the time or carriers can face the penalties.

Since this program began in August, some carriers have already been invoiced for penalties. For example, if items arrived late or missing carriers receive a fine of 3% of their value. Items that arrive early are fined because they create overstocks. WalMart expects this initiative help them compete with major retailers like Amazon because let’s be honest, people are happier with stocked shelves and when people are happier, they spend more. With more revenue flowing WalMart will continue to squeeze and pinch pennies in the freight industry regardless of the unfair pressure that it puts on them.

Let’s Talk More About the Unfair Pressure Placed By OTIF

OTIF will be expensive for carriers not only because of the fines, but to implement. Bigger carriers can add new factory processes to help with the packing and loading of freight, but smaller carriers may not be able to handle those costs. Plus, smaller carriers, who are just emerging into the market sometimes start off by trying to simply break even on deliveries until they can build a good reputation for themselves. If they incur the cost of fines they might go under.

This program will force carriers to become responsible for making deliveries on time even when they face factors that they can’t control.

What happens if a carrier realizes they will make the delivery a day early? Do they face the costs of the early delivery fee or do they face the costs of having to find somewhere to park overnight and to pay for meals not to mention the hours being out of business? Also, an extra day on the road away from families can put a lot of demoralizing stress on truckers. This program will force carriers to become responsible for making deliveries on time even when they face factors that they can’t control. For example, inclement weather could force drivers off the road, or they could get stuck in major traffic jams.

In order to make deliveries on time, some carriers may feel pressured to drive past the daily limit of 11 hours, which is extremely dangerous and illegal. Driving is exhausting and driving tired is the equivalent of driving drunk. Paper logs can easily be forged for now, but in December once the ELD mandate goes into effect records will be harder to forge, so drivers won’t even have the option to push themselves to make a delivery in time.

At the end of the day, WalMart will do whatever they can to improve their bottom line, even if it imposes impossible stress, extra operational costs and fines on carriers, who will have to completely rethink their operations in order to make deliveries on time, in full.

Do You Need Help With OTIF Issues?

A 3PL, such as BlueGrace, can help your business overcome the challenges of OTIF and other supply chain issues. If you have questions about OTIF or just how to simplify your current transportation program, feel free to contact us via phone at 800.MY.SHIPPING or using the form below and we will be happy to assist.

 

 

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What Is The Current Status Of Trucking Capacity?

A sudden increase in freight demand throughout the United States might put shippers in a difficult position for capacity and price later this autumn.

According to the American Trucking Association’s’ (ATA’s) Truck volume leaped 7.1 percent in August from July, and 8.2 percent year over year, the ATA said Tuesday. ATA revised July’s tonnage index, increasing it from 0.1 to 0.5 percent.

Tonnage Gets An Added Boost

“Tonnage was stronger than most other economic indicators in August and more than I would have expected,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “However, prep work for the hurricanes and better port volumes likely gave tonnage an added boost during the month.

“I suspect that short-term service disruptions from when the storms made landfall, as well as the normal ebb and flow of freight, could make September weaker and tonnage will smooth out to more moderate gains, on average,” he said.

Some of that 7.1 percent surge, however, may just be a seasonal adjustment.

Some of that 7.1 percent surge, however, may just be a seasonal adjustment. August is often a light month for tonnage as freight demand typically doesn’t start picking up till the fall. With such an increase taking place in August, ahead of schedule, that will push the seasonally adjusted index higher for the month. With the huge 10.5 percent uptick from July to August for unadjusted tonnage, that means that more, heavier freight was being shipped across the U.S. during August.

While this is good news for carrier, it could mean a rough season ahead for shippers. This increase in tonnage will likely mean tightened capacity for the fall. Additionally, shippers could be facing the biggest rate increase since 2014. 3PLs have been noting for months that capacity has been tightening as the economy improved.

The Effect of Disasters on Trucking

The devastation left in the wake of hurricanes Harvey and Irma is also having a significant impact on the trucking industry. Combined, the hurricanes have done almost $300 billion in damage, which has lowered U.S. economic growth by 0.8 percent in the third quarter.

Considering the damage alone, it’s no surprise that reconstruction demand will be taking the lion’s share of the trucking capacity that would normally be used to serve more general needs.

“Hurricane Harvey will ‘strongly affect’ over 7% of U.S. trucking during the next two weeks, with some portion of that fraction out of operation entirely, according to an analysis by freight research firm FTR Transportation Intelligence,” says Fleet Owner.

While the disruption was more or less contained around the epicenter of the damage, there is an effect that is going to be felt across the country.

“Due to the already tight nature of the truck environment, that means that loads could be left on the docks, according to Noël Perry, one of FTR’s partners. And though the largest ripple effects of Hurricane Harvey will be “regionalized” where freight shipments are concerned, transportation managers across the entire U.S. “will be scrambling,” he added.”

“Look for spot prices to jump over the next several weeks with very strong effects in Texas and the South Central region,” Perry said in a statement. “Spot pricing was already up strong, in double-digit territory. Market participants could easily add five percentage points to those numbers.”

The State of Capacity

As far as the current state of trucking capacity goes, shippers will have to deal with a considerable constriction as the industry contends with the natural disasters and the reconstruction effort. With a considerable jump in demand from July to August and the “peak” season starting early, shippers will also have to contend with the largest rate jump in years in addition to the tight capacity. Simply put, shippers will have to make smart moves if they want to stay ahead of the competition.

 

 

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Embracing the New Future of Logistics

When it comes to transportation and logistics, the market is a decidedly different place than it was only a few short decades ago. These changes are not small things either, and given the speed at which these changes are coming, it’s creating a rift between those that are willing to plunge headlong into the abyss, and those that are still afraid to look over the edge.

While firms like Amazon are leading the charge, more companies are warming up to the idea of the new ways of doing business by embracing the digital chasm, as it were.

According to the findings from the “26th Annual Study of Logistics and Transportation Trends (Masters of Logistics)”,  more companies are beginning to understand that new business models and new competition in the field are changing customer expectations.

“Results from the 2017 study show that roughly 75% of respondents are using the mix strategy (be all things to all people) as the predominant approach for their companies compared to the 51% who we reported utilizing a mix strategy in our 2016 results. However, unlike 2016 where many of these same companies focused on reducing cost as a primary objective, respondents this year were almost equally focused on increasing customer service or reducing costs—31.3% and 30.9%, respectively,” says Logistics Management.

The Structure of Service

A strong structure is becoming even more important than it has been in the past. Part of the focus for this years study is the relationship between strategy and structure. Simply put, if a company’s strategy aligns with its objectives, then the structure of the company will naturally develop in a way that makes those goals achievable. While this seems straightforward enough, there is a surprising gap between strategic focus and organizational structure for many companies.

Companies that reported a cost leadership focus strongly agreed that transportation is strategically important to them

“For example, companies that reported a cost leadership focus strongly agreed that transportation is strategically important to them. However, there is not this same level of strong agreement for elements that would provide the supporting organizational structure, such as working together with transportation service providers to be successful or spending time with those providers to learn more about various aspects of their business,” LM explains.

Companies with a focus on customer service, however, have a strategy that better aligns with a transportation oriented structure. So why would a company that’s focused on customer service have a better transportation network than a company that is more dedicated to a cost leadership strategy? Because in the now digitized world of transportation, both transportation and speed of service are goals that directly align with customer service. This means that by focusing on customer service, a company can naturally set itself up to have a more efficient and successful supply chain.

The Impact of Technology

Cost is, of course, another important aspect of running a successful business. When developing a successful cost strategy, it’s crucial to understand the tradeoffs between cost and service. Sacrificing good service for the sake of cutting costs is just as bad, if not worse, than overpaying for subpar service. Additionally, the speed of service becomes even more important when it comes to the digital economy. Companies as well as their transportation service providers “must be able to quantify the cost/value of increasing service levels.”

“Understanding transportation pricing should rely heavily on data science,” says Tommy Barnes, a sponsor contributor. “Currently, there are a lot of decisions being made without a firm grasp and understanding of how they will affect transportation costs—both in the short-term and long-term.”

While we can certainly agree with that, Barnes also believes that most transportation providers don’t have the necessary technology in place to accurately determine the cost of delivering services to their customers.

“Without that, they can’t accurately convey the value associated with increasing service levels or capabilities, leaving their customers to make decisions on a commodity price basis only,” Barnes said.

Having the “right technology” in place is simply a matter of having the right Transportation Management System (TMS) in place.

Yet having the “right technology” in place is simply a matter of having the right Transportation Management System (TMS) in place. The transportation industry, as a whole, are embracing and utilizing a TMS and even those that don’t, can have access to a world-class TMS for free!

Improving Data Shows the Real Strength of Trucking

There is an interesting correlation between the success of the survey and the data technologies that are utilized as more companies start relying on digitized services. As more manufacturers and companies go digital, the ease of gathering information increases, which allows the survey to get a better feeling for what’s going on in all parts of the industry.

A company must have real-time visibility into the entire lifecycle of their freight—all the way from quote-to-invoice

The report credits this improvement as a direct result of adopting modern automation and visibility tools. “To compete in a digital economy, a company must have real-time visibility into the entire lifecycle of their freight—all the way from quote-to-invoice—in order to manage exceptions, and even prevent errors from happening altogether.”

“The most efficient way to achieve this is through a multimodal, multiservice connectivity platform, a single source that views and analyzes all inventory and transportation positions,” he added.

While new data does reveal a larger portion of the industry, it also highlights some of the troubled areas. Capacity in the LTL sector is beginning to tighten, owing to a lower availability of equipment. Additionally, we’re seeing a growth in turndown rates, which usually bodes ill for the industry.

“All of this is happening at a time when we’re also seeing some interesting changes in the transportation spend by mode. There was a sizeable increase in spend for private fleet/dedicated (23.8% in 2017 versus 20.8% in 2016). This was the largest shift in transportation modal spend YOY. LTL remained essentially unchanged despite healthy rate increases during the past 12 months. Surprisingly, TL showed a 2.1% increase in its share of the transportation budget despite significant pressure to reduce prices as capacity outpaced demand,” says TM.

All of this to say that despite the troubles the trucking industry has been facing, between new regulations, bouncing freight rates, and weak demand, the trucking industry is still going strong. In fact, trucking remains the favorite mode of transportation for the United States.

Embracing the Change

Fortune often favors the bold, and it will be the bold that emerge victorious in the changing market place. For companies who are still taking their first tentative steps to technology and digitization, embracing this new methodology sooner rather than later will pay off in the long run. Fortunately, trailblazing and pioneering isn’t necessary, especially when it comes to strengthening logistics and your supply chain. Find out how BlueGrace can help your company run more efficiently and let us help you take those first steps into the new market landscape.

 

 

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Strong Supply Chains Create Strong Customer Experiences

Regardless of the industry, customer service will always be the cornerstone of a successful business foundation. Ask anyone you know, and they can tell you about a time they received subpar service, and they will always remember the business who delivered it. It’s that little facet of human nature, the ability to recall something that displeased us so vividly, that makes customer service so vital to a company. Yet even knowing that only 27 percent of companies believe that they offer a superior service over their competitors according to research from Gartner.

A significant opportunity for companies to up their game isn’t from the front end, but the back

While customer service representatives play a prominent role in managing customer relations, a significant opportunity for companies to up their game isn’t from the front end, but the back. The supply chain is pivotal in both marketing and customer service, and strong supply chain organization can make a tremendous difference.

“The supply chain organization typically plays a secondary role to marketing in driving customer experience strategy,” according to Lisa Callinan, a research director at Gartner. “Things are changing, however, in forward-thinking organizations, because the supply chain is uniquely placed to identify customers’ needs and drive better customer experiences.”

Connection Between Supply Chain and Customer Service

Of course, many big name companies understand the importance of the supply chain when it comes to driving up customer satisfaction. Apple, Johnson and Johnson, and Toyota are just a few. Amazon is perhaps the reigning champ when it comes to their supply chain and customer satisfaction. “Customers are influenced by their experience of the supply chain — even in the simplest terms, it’s easy to see that a late delivery can disappoint, whereas an expedited delivery can delight,” Callinan added.

Logistics and customer service make up the backbone of customer interaction

Logistics and customer service make up the backbone of customer interaction, yet many companies still haven’t discovered the best way to obtain the maximum value from either aspect.

A Case Study

At BlueGrace we have the privilege of serving a broad range of companies and industries. One company in particular highlights just how important strong supply chain management can be when it comes to customer satisfaction.

In this particular example, we worked with a company that is the leader in lifting and moving equipment rentals for the U.S. and maintains a comprehensive inventory of equipment. However, despite being best in class for customer service, the company began to suffer when rapid growth began to affect their supply chain.

“Within their industry, this company has a well-earned reputation for best in class customer service. However, faced with changes brought on by rapid growth, they experienced increased inventory management costs and a negative impact on invoicing as a result of delays associated with rentals placed in Off-Hire status but not yet returned to them.”

Given the changes and increased volume of demand, the supply chain became disrupted which then created a domino effect. Inventory management costs began to rise while invoicing suffered because the supply chain stuttered. As a result, a company who typically excels in customer service started lacking which hurt the business as a result.

Through our four step transportation management process, the solution left the company in much better standing:

  • Discover – Research and analysis of current processes,
  • Engineer – Build the solution and plan for integration of process improvements,
  • Execute – Implement recommendations/support and finally
  • Perform – Measure, review and ongoing process improvement

Improved return rental cycle time by 7.3 days, reduced pickup information errors by over 95% and sped up invoicing of returned equipment by 80%.

With the solution in place, the company was able to improve their return rental cycle time by 7.3 days, reduce pickup information errors by over 95% and speed up invoicing of returned equipment by 80%. By making these improvements to the supply chain and making the process more efficient the level of customer satisfaction rose significantly.

This goes to show just how truly interconnected the supply chain is with good customer service. Customer service and the supply chain are the building blocks for any good business foundation. Handling them both properly is what separates a good business from a great business.

 

 

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Trucking is Still America’s Favorite Mode of Freight Transportation

The American Trucking Association recently released the latest edition of the ATA American Trucking Trends 2017 which serves as a compilation and benchmark of data for the trucking industry. Interestingly enough, despite the lull in trucking over the past few years, the ATA report shows the trucking industry’s revenues for 2016 to be upwards of $676.2 billion dollars for the year.

ATA report shows the trucking industry’s revenues for 2016 to be upwards of $676.2 billion dollars for the year.

“The information in Trends highlights exactly what I tell elected officials, regulators and key decision-makers every day: trucking is literally the driving force behind our great economy,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “Safe, reliable and efficient motor carriers enable businesses throughout the supply chain to maintain lean inventories, thereby saving the economy billions of dollars each year.”

Trends don’t just cover revenues either. Just about any data you could want or need about the trucking industry in the U.S. is at your fingertips. Here are some other interesting statistics uncovered by the ATA’s Trends

  • Trucks carried 70.6 percent of all freight moved in the U.S., about 10.42 billion tons.
  • In 2016, there were 33.8 million registered commercial trucks including 3.68 million class 8 trucks.
  • Combined they used 38.8 billion gallons of diesel, 15.5 billion gallons of gasoline and traveled a distance of 450.4 billion miles.
  • U.S. commercial trucks paid $41.3 billion in state and federal highway fees and taxes.

The trucking industry is one of the most resilient in the country

While it might seem like the U.S. trucking industry is on the ropes, the nation still depends on trucks to haul freight and keep the country moving. The Trends report just goes to show that the trucking industry is one of the most resilient in the country and will continue to be so for years to come.

Partner with BlueGrace Logistics

BlueGrace is an award-winning, full-service Third Party Logistics (3PL) provider that helps businesses manage their freight spend through industry leading technology with a large network of established carriers to customers across the country. Sure, lots of firms may claim that, but what really sets us apart is our passion to support your success in this complex $676.2 billion Billion U.S. trucking industry.

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Walmart OTIF Policy – What are the Challenges and Concerns?

Walmart’s new addendum to their Must Arrive By Date (MABD) provision is making some suppliers more than a little nervous. OTIF (On Time In Full) rule will begin to punish suppliers for late deliveries with a 3 percent charge back if they are not made in a timely fashion. While this extension of the MABD fits with Walmart’s ever growing expectations, it could create some significant challenges for the supply chain, particularly when fresh produce is involved as it narrows the delivery window from MABD significantly.

It could create some significant challenges for the supply chain, particularly when fresh produce is involved

While MABD isn’t anything new as other major retailers such as Target and Home Depot have been using the threat of the 3 percent charge back as a means of encouraging more timely deliveries from shippers, OTIF significantly narrows the grace period a shipper would have to make the delivery.  

“Walmart is going to require its suppliers (shippers) to meet a two-day shipping window instead of its previous four-day window, as well as up its required compliance rate from 90 percent to 95 percent,” says Logistics Management.

Tightening Expectations

Under the MABD guidelines, suppliers had a four-day window to ensure that product was delivered to it’s intended destination. Under the OITF policy, that window will narrow significantly, only allowing a one day window for produce and perishables and a two-day window for other general goods. Suppliers will be hit with the 3 percent chargeback penalty if goods arrive late, incomplete, or even early. Additionally, if Walmart decides the supplier is, in any way, responsible for a variance in the delivery, they’ll receive a chargeback, end of story.

Under the OITF policy, that window will narrow significantly.

Good For The Customers But Tough For The Suppliers

Walmart’s plan does make a lot of sense when you consider they are working with JIT (Just in Time) principles. They don’t want excessive inventory sitting in stockrooms or in trailers behind the store, and they expect their suppliers to help make that a reality.

They don’t want excessive inventory sitting in stockrooms or in trailers behind the store

“The impetus for these types of changes over the years, according to Walmart, is part of an effort to ‘streamline its supply chain and cut costs,’ adding that ‘stores are no longer acting as warehouses, with too much inventory in back stock rooms or in trailers behind stores. Walmart wants merchandise to arrive in stores just in time to restock shelves and serve customers,’ ” Logistics Management adds.  

Compliance for shippers and suppliers is a going to be much tougher

While this is a sound decision from the retailer standpoint, compliance for shippers and suppliers is going to be much tougher, especially when you consider the nature of the produce industry.

“We predict in advance when the crop is going to come off, but weather can change that. Are we going to be held accountable for that? That’s going to cause a problem,” says one Walmart produce supplier.

Walmart produce executive, Bruce Peterson of Peterson Insights Inc says “The fresh produce industry is different and there should be ‘at least some degree of tolerance.’ From his more than 20 years of experience as the top produce executive at Walmart, he noted that almost all of the violations of the OTIF policy are at the beginning or the end of a season when weather and timing do play an out-sized role.”

The fresh produce industry is different and there should be ‘at least some degree of tolerance.’

The Blame Game

Obviously, no one wants to take the financial hit for falling out of grounds on compliance. So the question being asked is if there is a violation, who’s at fault, the supplier or the carrier?

Who’s at fault, the supplier or the carrier?

Take a look at the industry wide issue of assessing a fee or a fine on someone involved in the logistics of the supply chain. Holding the supplier of the transportation financially responsible is problematic when factoring in the risk-reward nature of the total transaction.

For example — A supplier could have a load of product with a value of tens of thousands of dollars. A trucker may only be getting $3,000 for the delivery of that load. Assessing the trucker a fee, which could easily be 30 percent of his take, for a delivery out of compliance seems unreasonable.

It doesn’t seem right to punish a good shipper in the off chance that they’ve had a late delivery due to weather or some other unforeseen circumstance. Rather, if there’s a serious problem with the shippers, then it’s time to find a better shipper.

The Solution

Proper lead time is crucial for suppliers and manufacturers that work with larger retailers like Walmart. One way to increase your chances of success is to partner with a third party logistics provider (3PL).

The new OITF mandate is going to have an impact on supplier ratings,

The new OITF mandate is going to have an impact on supplier ratings, so finding a 3PL who is both consistent and reliable is critical for navigating these new changes successfully. A good 3PL partner can examine your supply chain from start to finish and help to strengthen weak spots that might create issues in the future, reducing the chances of chargebacks and other issues that might be caused by OITF.

A good 3PL partner can examine your supply chain from start to finish and help to strengthen weak spots

BlueGrace can work with suppliers on freight consolidation, chargeback auditing, and management as well as load planning and optimization. We look at every aspect of the shipment and find the appropriate fix for the shipments to reach the shelves on time and in-full. Combine this with our proprietary technology BlueShip™ and your chances for success during these mandates/compliance regulation changes will undoubtedly increase!

 

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Tampa Manufacturing and Logistics – A Perfect Marriage.

Manufacturing in Florida, is the backbone of the state’s economy.

Florida has nearly 18,000 manufacturers in all types of industries ranging from traditional such as plastics and printing to breakthrough technologies like aerospace and medical devices.

Tampa Bay knows a thing or two about manufacturing and economic development, as it is home to 19 corporate headquarters with over $1 billion in annual revenue, eight of which are Fortune 1000 companies.

The depth and diversity the city provides for its economy makes for the perfect marriage of logistics and businesses, especially manufacturers.

Manufacturing Growth Perfect for 3PLs

While the manufacturing businesses in the region are continuing to see a huge amount of growth, the infrastructure that Tampa Bay provides, is allowing modern logistics and Third Party Logistics (3PL) providers to grow and adapt alongside the companies they ship for.

Florida is second in the nation for transportation infrastructure with our ports, airports, rail and roadways.

Logistics and 3PLs providers are always looking for ways to improve these modes to help businesses move raw materials, components and finished products. With these options, logistics and 3PL providers have the ability to provide customized transportation programs that help grow local manufacturing.

E-Commerce Puts Pressure on Logistics

Both regionally and nationally based manufacturers are seeing a demand to keep up with e-commerce giants like Amazon, which means that their logistics provider needs to stay one step ahead to provide efficient and cost effective transportation management. Much like consumers, big box retailers and mom and pop shops now demand the product to be on their shelves at a quicker pace. This “just-in-time” mentality is what puts a strain on manufacturers who rely on an in-house transportation department. Business intelligence and carrier advocacy are critical to these companies in order to keep up with the changing market.

The Value of Business Intelligence

Of all the resources that a logistics or 3PL providers delivers to its customers, the most underrated yet most valuable is business intelligence. A 3PL has the ability to take a company’s current freight data and see where opportunities are being missed, find ways to shave costs and offer an efficient transportation program that ultimately mirrors their business model and will push for more growth.

This valuable data, when run through the right engineering platforms, can help decide the best modes, which carriers to use and even help pinpoint where the best location for a new distribution center would be, based solely on past data and performance.

By partnering with logistics or 3PL providers that have access to multiple modes of transportation, large carrier networks and the ability to review current freight data, solutions can be provided that better fit the company’s business model. Manufacturers can adjust rapidly to the increased supply chain demands, without expensive increases to the head count of their transportation department.

Job Opportunities for the Future Generations

While the logistics and 3PL providers continue the push to deliver customized and adaptable transportation programs for manufacturers, the state of Florida is also striving to increase job opportunities to fulfill logistics and distribution demands. Currently the logistics and transportation industry employs more than half a million Floridians. 85,500 of these employees are working at companies that specifically provide logistics and distribution services. The future is also bright as Florida has ten public high school career academies offering training in Global Logistics and Supply Chain Technology.

Optimization and Forward Thinking Manufacturers

Today’s technology and service that a logistics or 3PL providers utilizes, paired with a forward thinking manufacturer looking to optimize their supply chain, will prove to be a successful marriage for growth. This growth is what will help bring even more success and jobs to Florida for both the manufacturing and logistics sectors.

Contact the experts at BlueGrace Logistics Today

To find out more about BlueGrace Logistics and how we help all types of industries streamline their freight, click here or contact a Transportation Management expert today using the form below.

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Is Intermodal on the Rise with ELD, Driver Shortage and Tightening Capacity?

A recent Cowen & Co survey discovered that 65 percent of shippers didn’t move their freight from road to rail during the second quarter. This result was also backed by a survey from Morgan Stanley, which had 59 percent of respondents indicating the same. However, while few shippers decide to make the switch, that could be changing this December. Why would shippers decided to hop the rails instead of utilizing trucks? Because of the Electronic Logging Device mandate which will be going into effect at the end of the year.

65 percent of shippers didn’t move their freight from road to rail during the second quarter.

The Reluctance to Shift

While rails are touted as a way to save money, more than a few shippers are reluctant to shift away from using trucks to haul their freight. Ideally, railroads as an intermodal service can offer a lower price at the expense of some speed. When it comes to inbound costs, it can be a way for some shippers to cut down on expenses in order to remain competitive. Or at least, that is the reasoning being sold to them.

Railroads as an intermodal service can offer a lower price at the expense of some speed

According to the Cowen survey, nearly half of the shippers surveyed stated that intermodal options only saved them upwards of five percent. A quarter of the respondents said that truck prices were lower than intermodal options. It’s that tight gap that might be responsible for making the reluctance to shift from road to rail. As there isn’t a huge cost advantage for sacrificing speed, most shippers prefer to stick with trucks as they don’t believe that rail can keep up with the speed of inventory turnover.

They don’t believe that rail can keep up with the speed of inventory turnover

Rails Starting to See Growth

Whatever reservations shippers might hold for rail and intermodal options will soon be falling to the wayside. For shippers that already made the switch, they noted not only better intermodal service but also the tightening of truckload capacity as their main reasons why.

Tightening of truckload capacity is a BIG concern

“Morgan Stanley asked shippers to rank truckload capacity in six months based on a scale where one equals abundant, five is balanced, and 10 is very tight. Shippers put the current market at 6.3 and projected 6.8 in six months. One year ago, the number was 4.9,” according to Transport Topics.

Executives believe that many truckers will leave the industry rather than deal with the ELD mandate

Another factor to consider is the potential spike in truck rates as truckload executives believe that many truckers will leave the industry rather than deal with the ELD mandate. Which, in turn, could cause a modest 3 percent increase in intermodal rates over the next six months due to a rise in demand.

“Overall, we view the results of this survey as positive for the railroads,” says Jason Seidl, a Cowen & Co analyst. “The 3.0% price increase expectation leaves additional breathing room from the all-important 2% rate, which is important because rail-cost inflation typically hovers in that area, and pricing will need to remain above that level in order for the railroads to improve their operating ratios.”

We view the results of this survey as positive for the railroads

The ELD mandate, the tightening of capacity, and the driver shortage could all be contributing factors to shippers taking a more favorable look at intermodal and rail options. In any case, 72 percent of respondents for the Morgan Stanley survey indicated that they would be increasing their rail spending in the next six months. However, in order to close the gap between either mode of pricing to err on the side of rails, there would have to be a serious shift in the trucking industry.

 

 

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BlueGrace Awarded Top 100 3PL By Inbound Logistics

Over the last nine years, BlueGrace Logistics has been awarded Inc. 500, Best Places to Work, Top Minority Owned Business, Happiest Company Award, Inc. Hire Power Award, and many more. As one of the fastest growing leaders of transportation management services in North America, BlueGrace is now being awarded the Top 100 3PL prize from industry publication, Inbound Logistics.

Inbound Logistics editors selected this year’s class of Top 100 3PLs from a pool of more than 300 companies.

“Today’s leading companies are struggling to balance the need for advance planning against the demands for supply chain agility, low-inventory schemes, and complex omni-channel and e-commerce distribution regimes.  BlueGrace Logistics continues to provide solutions to help companies meet those challenges, and that’s why Inbound Logistics editors have recognized BlueGrace Logistics as one of 2017’s Top 100 3PL Providers.” said Felecia Stratton, Editor at Inbound Logistics.

Top 100 Selection Methodology

Inbound Logistics’ Top 100 3PL Provider’s list serves as a qualitative assessment of service providers they feel are best equipped to meet and surpass readers’ evolving outsourcing needs. Distilling the Top 100 is never an easy task, and the process becomes increasingly difficult as more 3PLs enter the market and service providers from other functional areas develop value-added logistics capabilities.

Distilling the Top 100 is never an easy task

Each year, Inbound Logistics editors select the best logistics solutions providers by carefully evaluating submitted information, conducting personal interviews and online research, and comparing that data to our readers’ burgeoning global supply chain and logistics challenges.

“The service providers we selected are companies that, in the opinion of Inbound Logistics editors, offer the diverse operational capabilities and experience to meet readers’ unique supply chain and logistics needs.” said Stratton.

A Look Ahead

BlueGrace Logistics will continue its quest to be the best 3PL, by offering its freight customers the ability to ‘Simplify their Freight’ by providing customized transportation management through their proprietary technology, BlueShip™. By developing tighter integrations with BlueShip™ and major ERPs such as SAP and NetSuite, the transportation management team can offer more tools to help consolidate, streamline and predict future freight issues and opportunities. The BlueGrace team of transportation management experts have already helped many companies reduce their over freight spend through a tight combination of data engineering, carrier relationships and excellent customer support.

The transportation management team can offer more tools to help consolidate, streamline and predict future freight issues and opportunities

About Inbound Logistics

Inbound Logistics is the leading trade publication targeted toward business logistics and supply chain managers. Inbound Logistics’ mission is to help companies of all sizes better manage corporate resources by speeding and reducing inventory and supporting infrastructure, and better matching demand signals to supply lines. More information is available at www.inboundlogistics.com.

 

 

 

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The Battle for The e-Commerce Market Continues on The Logistics Front

The battle for the e-commerce market continues between Walmart and Amazon. As both are vying for every customer they can get, Walmart has decided to take a new strategy against the e-commerce giant. A warning to Walmart carriers has been issued. Do business with Amazon, and you may not be doing business with us in the future.

So the question is, is this simply a threat to divert carriers away from Amazon, or is there something else to it?

The Peak (Season) Concern

There certainly is a sense of pragmatism behind this threat. If carriers are hauling for both companies, then Walmart could lose out, specifically during peak seasons when freight volumes tend to spike.

Satish Jindel, head of SJ Consulting out of Pittsburgh says one of Walmart’s chief concerns is freight cyclicality and securing trucking capacity to move during busy seasons. “The genuine concern is that when [Walmart] needs 30 trucks from a company, that they get those 30 trucks instead of losing out because they are [working] for Amazon,” he says. The company is “protecting its ability to get capacity when they need it,” he says.

The company is ‘protecting its ability to get capacity when they need it’

This practice doesn’t stop with just Walmart’s carriers, either. The company has issued a similar warning to other suppliers. Typically those that make use of Amazon’s cloud storage capabilities.

The Possible Storm Among the Cloud

Why would Walmart be concerned with suppliers using the Amazon cloud? Well, would you feel comfortable storing data in a competitor’s server? In the cases of a supplier, having proprietary information in the digital hands of a competitor can be more than a little discomforting. To that end, Walmart warning stands: Use this service, lose our business.

In the cases of a supplier, having proprietary information in the digital hands of a competitor can be more than a little discomforting.

It’s not just the proprietary information that makes Walmart execs a little uneasy. In the wake of the Petya cyber attack in June, there are a number of companies who are getting more than a little uncomfortable with the idea of all their precious information being vulnerable. But just how vulnerable is the cloud? Based on the service interruption that happened only a few months ago, it might be more vulnerable than you would expect.

But just how vulnerable is the cloud?

“Amazon Web Services, by far the world’s largest provider of internet-based computing services, suffered an unspecified breakdown in its eastern U.S. region starting about midday Tuesday. The result: unprecedented and widespread performance problems for thousands of websites and apps,” says a article from Georgia based Newspaper.

While there was no reported leak of information from this outage, consider again the recent wave of cyberattacks. The Petya ransomware virus all but decimated the shipping industry including ocean carrier giant, Maersk Line. Given the amount of information that’s stored in the cloud, it’s reasonable to expect that a competitor might consider a use of the service to be a potential breach of trust.

Is Walmart being reasonable with their concerns

At the end of the day, the question is this: Is Walmart being reasonable with their concerns, or are they simply trying to put pressure on their carriers to steer them away from Amazon? While both sides of the argument can be made, the answer likely lies somewhere in the middle.

 

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Understanding and Managing Your Hazardous Materials Supply Chain (hazmat)

Shipping Hazardous Materials

Any company that ships hazmat knows that every piece of the puzzle needs to be perfect before the freight gets moving. Between surcharges, accessorial fees, packing groups and hazmat classes, every aspect of each shipment needs to be in its place or else someone gets fined.

With the government mandates and regulations so heavily involved in every aspect of the transportation industry, it is imperative for a logistics coordinator or a third-party logistics (3PL) provider to be knowledgeable and current with industry and carrier regulations. Here is where it can get sticky for some providers who may not have excellent carrier relationships.

Our relationship with our carriers is different.

Our relationship with our carriers is different. They are as important to us as our customers, so it is to our benefit to work with them to stay up to date on industry and carrier regulations. We are constantly training our transportation and freight representatives as well as communicating weekly with our ‘Carrier Update’ that goes out to our entire company, not just sales!

How BlueGrace is Different

BlueGrace is different than other 3PLs for several reasons, but one that sticks out above the rest; Business Intelligence and Transparency.

Business Intelligence and Transparency

A massive agriculture chemicals manufacturer in the United States was with another large 3PL when an opportunity came across for BlueGrace to do a consultative review. Upon conducting the review and data engineering screening, this company felt that BlueGrace offered greater transparency and pricing structure than their current provider and ultimately made the switch.

See How BlueGrace Helped an Agriculture Chemicals Manufacturer Realize a Cost Savings of 14% YOY

Download Case Study

Use a Proven 3PL for Your Hazmat

 

 

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Shedding Some Light on Dimensional Pricing

As more carriers are beginning to make a move to dimensional (DIM) pricing, it’s important that we take a moment to understand what this means exactly. Just like any change that happens in the shipping industry, being aware of it before it becomes the norm is the best way to stay ahead of the curve and to mitigate any unwelcome surprises in the form of higher shipping rates.

So what is dimensional pricing?

So what is dimensional pricing? Simply put, DIM pricing is a way for carriers more accurately price packages that take up more space rather than simply basing it on weight. A blog released earlier this year from EasyPost sums it up like this.

“Dimensional pricing (or dimensional weight) is a pricing technique for carriers to better reflect the cost of carrying bigger packages, regardless of their weight. Traditionally, carriers have used weight as the major determinant in rates. But by charging only by weight, carriers lose money when carrying bulky and lightweight packages that take up valuable space. Space can be just as important to a carrier as weight since bulky packages limit the amount of total packages the carrier’s vehicle can carry,” says EasyPost.

While the calculations might vary from carrier to carrier, there is a basic formula used by most.

Some carriers, like USPS, offer a DIM weight calculator so you can plug in your dimensions and see what your dimensional factor would be before you take your package to be shipped.

Understanding What this Means For Your Business

Once a carrier has their DIM factor, they can determine the rate to ship the package. However, here’s the catch. A carrier will also determine the weight rate as well and likely charge you the higher of the two. Understanding how your carrier will use dimensional pricing, as well as what the rates are will give you some insight as to how to move forward.

Understanding how your carrier will use dimensional pricing, as well as what the rates are will give you some insight as to how to move forward.

If their dimensional pricing is higher than their weight pricing, it might be time to rethink your packaging process, breaking items down into smaller packages or changing your packing material and box sizes for example.

LTL Shippers Might Get Hit Harder Than Most

The thought behind DIM weight pricing was born from both necessity and technology. Given the boom in e-commerce, many carriers realize that they’re maxed out on space, rather than weight, making their trips less than efficient. Given that we have the technology to accurately measure the dimensions of packages, this move is the next logical step for the LTL sector.

The thought behind DIM weight pricing was born from both necessity and technology.

‘The (LTL) industry in the last three or four years has rapidly embraced dimensioning (measuring) machines,” said Satish Jindel, principal of SJ Consulting, which closely tracks trends in the LTL sector. “It works, and it’s cost effective—the payback comes in just a few months,’ according to an article from Logistics Management.

How BlueGrace Can Help

While LTL carriers have been slow to react in comparison to parcel carriers, Dimensional Pricing is a reality in the future of our business. The DIM weight trend is beginning to grow, quickly. With the increased usage of dimensioners, carriers can more accurately capture cost data and ensure that price is compensatory with the cost to move it. The ultimate laggards here will be big shippers migrating off of the conventional class based system. Dimensional pricing is prevalent throughout the world, now the U.S. based shippers will have to play catch up. Not only will it apply to boxed parcels, but to palletized freight as well. Shippers will feel the sting of excessive packaging quickly if they don’t start making changes now.

Shippers will feel the sting of excessive packaging quickly if they don’t start making changes now.

Dimensional shipping might seem like a quick grab for a few extra bucks on shipping rates, but it’s actually a more accurate and fair way of doing business for all parties involved. Still, it can be a bit confusing at first, especially when dealing with other changes at the same time. At BlueGrace, we make it our mission to not only keep pace with these changes but to help you do the same. Whether it’s getting a better handle on dim weight, or finding carriers at the best rates to help you keep your supply chain moving, we’re here to help.

 

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What Happens If Freight Economy Rises?

 

A market that is already beleaguered by a significant shortage in workforce is seeing a disturbing trend in the form of an uptick in turnover rates.

“The slight uptick in turnover, despite weak freight volumes in the first quarter, may be indicative of a tightening in the driver market,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “The situation bears watching because if the freight economy picks up significantly, turnover will surely accelerate – as will concerns about the driver shortage.”

Turnover will surely accelerate – as will concerns about the driver shortage

Within the first few months of 2017, the annualized rate of turnover for large TL (truckload) fleets, rose three percent, up to 74 percent. While it’s somewhat heartening to know that this is still down 15 points from what it was last year, a 74 percent turnover rate is nothing to be ignored. For small TL fleets, the increase was a bit smaller, two points, bringing the turnover rate to 66 percent.

Fixing a Growing Problem

When you consider the importance of trucking to the United States, the shortage in drivers is becoming a serious issue. Add in the fact that a large portion of the active drivers on the road are just about at retirement age and you have a full-blown crisis for the industry.

The shortage in drivers is becoming a serious issue.

So what is being done to fix or, at the very least, soften the blow of the driver shortage? Well, for starters, many trucking companies are taking steps to recruit more women into what is typically considered a predominately male industry. Anything from offering better maternity leaves to other incentives. At this point, anything that can draw in more personnel and drivers is considered a win.

Many trucking companies are taking steps to recruit more women

‘The American Trucking Associations, declared in a recent report that the industry needs to add almost 1 million new drivers by 2024 to replace retired drivers and keep up with demand. Some companies have added 401(k) and tuition reimbursement programs. Others have hired “female driver liaisons” and started support groups called “Highway Diamonds,” said Ellen Voie, president of the Women in Trucking Association,’ in a quote taken from the Washington Post.

The industry needs to add almost 1 million new drivers by 2024 to replace retired drivers and keep up with demand.

“In 2015, her organization created a Girl Scout badge to teach girls that trucking isn’t just for men,”  WP added.

Women in Trucking

Carriers are really pushing for more female drivers, according to Voie. “They’re facing the retirement issue, yes, but they also know that women tend to be more risk averse, which is extremely important.”

The drive for more women drivers is starting to pay off, however, there was a slight increase in female drivers over the course of the past year, rising from 6 to 7 percent.

There was a slight increase in female drivers over the course of the past year

Even as we see some slight improvements, it’s almost impossible to believe that one of the most predominate fields of employment in the United States might be on the verge of extinction, or at the very least is in danger of heading that way.

Is the Trucker the Only One at Risk?

A recent post from Bloomberg has a rather interesting interactive chart that shows whether or not your job might disappear in the future. For the trucking industry, it’s not just the drivers who might be dusting off their resume, but even shipping clerks and freight agents might soon be out of a job as the industry continues to change and evolve through new technology.

Even shipping clerks and freight agents might soon be out of a job

Most of what the chart predicts is that low skill, low paying jobs, will eventually be phased out by computerization and automation. For example, Shipping, Receiving and Traffic clerks have a 98% probability of having their position becoming computerized in the future. However, as we’ve learned from history, the evolutionary path of technology isn’t always the easiest to predict. While it’s true some jobs might become obsolete, there are a number of jobs that will simply become augmented with technology, still maintaining the need for the human element.

 

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Do you have the right TMS for your business?

 

Transportation Management Systems on the Rise

Whether you’re shipping domestically or internationally, keeping everything running smoothly can be a big job to say the least. It requires a careful orchestration of a potentially vast number of moving parts. The smoother these parts operate in conjunction with one another, the better your operation will be. For that reason, transportation management is essential for domestic and global shippers.

Transportation management is essential for domestic and global shippers.

If we consider the way things have been done in the past in comparison to the new technological advancements that are being developed at an ever-increasing pace, the old school, manual system just isn’t going to cut it any more. Phone calls, faxes, emails, and spreadsheets might have been enough to keep a trucking company running a few decades ago, but now companies who can’t keep pace with the time and technology, will run the risk of being outmoded and left behind.

Companies who can’t keep pace with the time and technology, will run the risk of being outmoded and left behind.

Advancements in Technology

Transportation management technology has come quite some way from what it once was. The myriad of options available for both shippers and 3PLs to choose from for planning and executing systems is massive compared to that of the past. Not only are there more options to choose from, but the speed, cost, and modes that these management systems can be obtained, implemented, and used have also improved.

American Shipper TMS Benchmark

Transportation management systems (TMS) will vary from company to company, depending on what the shippers needs are. A recent benchmark report from American shipper highlights some of the key developments in TMS, including how shippers see the market, the technology they currently use, how they connect with other carriers, and how new transportation technology interacts with the inventory variance created by omnichannel marketing. In short, the nature of shipping and transportation is changing, and shippers will need a different approach to adapt to this market evolution.

When you consider that omnichannel retailing is on the rise, this will make things more difficult for trucking companies as it will require increased flexibility in their supply chain. In fact, only 20 percent of shippers and 30 percent of 3PLs feel that their TMS system can support an omnichannel strategy.

Only 20 percent of shippers and 30 percent of 3PLs feel that their TMS system can support an omnichannel strategy.

The report also highlighted some of the challenges involved with TMS. One of the biggest challenges, according to the respondents revolves around connectivity to outside partners and compatibility with other systems. While having a good TMS is useful, it doesn’t make too much of a difference if it’s only capable of working “in house.”

A Growing Need for TMS

Another startling discovery made by the report is that 40 percent of the respondents aren’t using a TMS or a 3PL to manage their logistics. However, given the coming shift in the market, there is a considerable uptick, 55 percent, in the amount of trucking companies who are beginning to utilize management systems when compared to last year. This is becoming increasingly important as trucking companies begin to shift gears for omnichannel demands which require higher data volumes and increased workload for transportation departments.

40 percent of the study’s respondents, aren’t using a TMS or a 3PL to manage their logistics.

An Industry Leading TMS Is Available For Free

While it’s encouraging to see that the number of companies who are open to using a TMS is on the rise, it’s still worrisome that there are many who don’t. TMS systems are not only improving in ease and speed of implementation, but the cost is also dropping. In fact, there’s even a free transportation management system that’s available to shippers. That’s right, free.

Whether you’re a one-time shipper or ship 7-days a week, the cost is zero to you!

Our proprietary transportation management system, BlueShip, is free! Whether you’re a one-time shipper or ship 7-days a week, the cost is zero to you! Whereas other 3PLs charge anywhere from $3-10K for the use of their TMS. Our system is cloud based, which offers ease of implementation and utilization from system to system and partner to partner. We’re always fine-tuning our system to offer you the best in both reporting and live tracking.

BlueShip Is Free For All BlueGrace Customers

 

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Amazon’s Logistics Just Got A Whole (Foods) Lot Bigger

As companies go, there are few that have the prowess to grow and advance quite like Amazon. With a unique talent for turning a company-based product into a full-fledged service for customers, i.e. Amazon Cloud; the e-commerce giant continues to make a colossal shadow for other companies to try and follow. So what’s the newest thing to peek out of Amazon’s growing bag of tricks? How about buying out the organic grocery chain: Whole Foods.

An Eating of Words

Looking back through history, there have been a number of times where a CEO of a company simply brushed off their competition. A recent article from Stratechery has an amusing little anecdote to highlight just such an occasion.

“Back in 2006, when the iPhone was a mere rumor, Palm CEO Ed Colligan was asked if he was worried: ‘We’ve learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone,’ he said. ‘PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in.’ What if Steve Jobs’ company did bring an iPod phone to market? Well, it would probably use WiFi technology and could be distributed through the Apple stores and not the carriers like Verizon or Cingular, Colligan theorized.”

Oddly enough, the CEO of Whole Foods, John Mackey, said something very similar pertaining to Amazon’s ability to fine tune their logistics capabilities to groceries only two years ago. So what changed that has now put the entirety of Whole Foods under Amazon’s control?

It’s because they misunderstood their competitions motives and goals.

The Evolution of Amazon

When Amazon first started back in 1997, their mission statement was simple: “Amazon.com’s objective is to be the leading online retailer of information-based products and services, with an initial focus on books.”

Which then grew into:

“Our vision is to be earth’s most customer centric-company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”

While their initial mission statement seemed rather unambitious, what their current goal is now is certainly a lot grander. So what does that have to do with them buying Whole Foods, other than it gives them another product to offer online? Simple. A chance, to flex their logistics muscles.

Amazon Brand Logistics

Given the massive size and scope of Amazon’s delivery radius, it only makes sense that they would develop a logistics network. After all, that’s pretty much how their cloud computing service started, as an in-house function which eventually became sophisticated enough to market out to their competitors. While having a logistics network is all well and good, being able to deliver groceries and other perishables in a timely manner is something entirely different. Fortunately, Amazon’s logistics capabilities have grown to the point that they are now ranked the second largest logistics company in the world. Not only do they have the assets in place to handle groceries, but with Whole Foods under their wing, Amazon has set the stage to be the household provider of… well… everything.

Amazon has set the stage to be the household provider of… well… everything.

The Whole Foods Overlay

So how effectively can Amazon get into grocery logistics? Books and home goods don’t have an expiration date the way that groceries do, so making the switch seems like a colossal undertaking, right? Well, not exactly. The truth behind the trick is that Amazon isn’t necessarily buying a food retail outlet, but rather they have purchased their very own best customer. In much the same way that Amazon built their web service as “in house” Amazon Fresh will be similar. Turning their logistics structure into supplying Whole Foods will create the architecture necessary to branch out into other markets including restaurants.

Amazon has purchased their very own best customer

“In the long run, physical grocery stores will be only one of the Amazon Grocery Services’ customers: obviously a home delivery service will be another, and it will be far more efficient than a company like Instacart trying to layer on top of Whole Foods’ current integrated model,” says Ben Thompson from Stratechery.

“I suspect Amazon’s ambitions stretch further, though: Amazon Grocery Services will be well-placed to start supplying restaurants too, gaining Amazon access to another big cut of economic activity. It is the AWS model, which is to say it is the Amazon model, but like AWS, the key to profitability is having a first-and-best customer able to utilize the massive investment necessary to build the service out in the first place,” he added.

At the end of the day, we have to realize that Amazon is simply a service provider.

At the end of the day, we have to realize that Amazon is simply a service provider. Even their grocery services are simply another service offering that is built on and therefore protected by the scale of it. Purchasing Whole Foods has given Amazon a wide enough landing pad to pull off grocery chain logistics because of the size of their primary customer.

Grocery Chain Logistics

Are you a company that ships products to grocery chains? Do you find yourself with costly carrier invoices or freight reclassification? BlueGrace recently partnered with a company that specializes in creating healthy, protein-rich treats and was having these exact issues, and many more.

After partnering with BlueGrace, they saw a 14% reduction in transportation costs, an annual savings of $225,000

We saw several opportunities to cut their costs and improve their bottom line. Find out how this company was able to find over 14% reduction in transportation costs, an annual savings of $225,000, when they allowed BlueGrace to optimize their supply chain.

 

How a Grocery shipper saw a 14% reduction in transportation costs

 

 

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Do You Have The Right Technology To Dissect Big Data?

 

For what was once a stagnant industry for best practices, the freight industry is now being bombarded with new disruptive technology on a near constant basis. Dealing with one issue means that another takes its place. Begin to understand and utilize new technology, and it becomes quickly outmoded, or there’s another system to learn. Even the roster of companies is constantly changing, old players, leaving and new ones rushing in to fill the void.

Dealing with one issue means that another takes its place.

With such a constant back and forth, it would be all too easy to simply stick to what you know and call it a day, especially from a technological perspective. However, those old ways, comfortable though they may be, are a road to ruin. Companies who embrace innovation and new technology will part ways with companies that rely on “traditional” methods.

Additionally, these “pioneering spirits” for the industry are providing new options for customers that simply can’t be matched by the old school. The industry is evolving, which means shippers and carriers need to be on board or be left behind.

The Keys to the Data Stream

Big data is a term that gets thrown around a lot, especially now with the changes in industry technology. Now more than ever, the supply chain can provide more data and insight into the process than ever before. More ways of tracking data can show where weak points are within the supply chain. Whether it be driver, loading or unloading, traffic issues, road conditions or damaged shipments, everything is being monitored for efficiency. Whenever a change in address comes in from head office, it can be pushed to the driver or captain in real-time. The system automatically calculates and optimizes the ideal and cheapest new routing to the new destination.

More ways of tracking data can show where weak points are within the process

Part of adapting to the changes that are happening within the transportation industry is to know which data is useful and which data isn’t. While collecting data is all well and good, there is such a thing as too much data (TMD), which can be overwhelming when trying to decipher it all.

Which data is useful and which data isn’t.

“Collecting too much data is a problem, because it forces a company to spend valuable resources gathering and understanding data, much of which is likely to not be impactful from a bottom line or service level perspective. It also creates a secondary problem that’s just as harmful—the valuable data can be lost in the avalanche of meaningless information,” according to American Shipper.

Having the Right System in Place

So what can you do to protect yourself from data overload? Well, it’s all about having the right system in place to make sure you’re collecting only the data that you’ll need and weeding out all the rest. Having access to the right data at the right time can prevent problems before they start and, more often than not, many of the issues for transportation come from poor planning.

It’s all about having the right system in place

One of the most instrumental uses for new technology is a transportation management system (TMS) which can give companies an edge when planning their logistics. Not only does this allow for a better insight into customer experiences and needs, but it also provides the necessary information to correct an issue before it becomes a more serious problem. Additionally, a good TMS can also help bridge the gap between shippers and carriers, saving both time and money when it comes to transportation.

American Shipper recently released a report about combating the volatility of transportation and part of their suggestion is the use of TMS.

“Shippers are realizing daily that transportation management systems (TMSs) are both more necessary and more affordable than ever before. Even the simplest of transportation networks could benefit from optimization and automation of data entry functions. But these TMSs are also becoming more hyper-reliant on outside sources of data to reach their peak usefulness. So a shipper can’t just simply plug a TMS in and let the magic happen. It has to actively feed that TMS with useful, forward-looking, and reliable data.”

All of this to say that armed with the right data and a strong TMS, a shipper can take their business much further.

BlueGrace Proprietary TMS – BlueShip®

The easiest way to get started utilizing your valuable shipping data is with a full featured TMS, such as BlueShip. BlueGrace’s proprietary technology is designed to put the power of easy supply chain management and optimization back in your hands. BlueShip® offers cutting-edge tools for strong reliability and quick performance. Our customers are especially impressed with the user experience, which is completely customizable and has real-time updates, giving them a single source tool for tracking, addressing, and product listing.

BlueShip Is Free For All BlueGrace Customers

 

 

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Automated Trucking is Poised to Play Huge Roll in Transportation Industry

Navigating the Transition to Driverless Trucking

Automated trucking is poised to play a huge roll in the transportation industry. Overall, the implications of driverless trucks have near limitless potential. Without the margin of human error, autonomous trucks are safer and more efficient. Working in tandem for one another, driverless trucks can capitalize on fuel efficiency while working around the clock bringing in more deliveries at a fraction of the labor cost.

Driverless trucks can capitalize on fuel efficiency while working around the clock

However, while the end goal of automated trucking in the freight industry has some incredible possibilities, it’s the transition to this point that has more than a few people worried. Given that driverless vehicles is something of a precedent, there’s a lot of obstacles to overcome before the idea becomes a reality.

The Un(der)employed 

Job loss is a very large possibility with automated trucking. As truck drivers make up 1% of the total U.S. labor force, the volume of displaced workers will be severe. Mitigating the job loss and the potential impact of unemployment rates will be a key element to the transition to automated trucking.

Truck drivers make up 1% of the total U.S. labor force

More often than not, whenever there is a potential for massive job displacement, the words to follow are “There are other jobs to be had.”  While this is true for some industries, it might not necessarily hold true for truck drivers. These, according to the International Transportation Forum’s report on the matter, are the possible obstacles to this “conventional wisdom.”

“The conventional argument is that displaced workers in any given industry will find alternative employment through the expansion of activity in new and existing industries. However, there are several reasons described below as to why this argument may not provide comfort for truck drivers and others in the high-automation scenarios.” 

  • The high costs associated with losing a job
  • The risk that this time is different, i.e. that a low employment future is possible, at least temporarily, because automation may occur in many sectors of the economy
  • The emerging economic context means that job losses may result in higher social costs than previously.

The cost of losing a job alone represents one of the biggest issues, both on a financial and physical scale. Displaced workers, on average, take a 20% drop in annual wages. Additionally, being displaced from a job is often a trigger for both anxiety and depression according to the ITF report.

The cost of losing a job alone represents one of the biggest issues

“The mental and physical impacts of job loss are estimated to have a greater combined impact on well-being than the financial costs from lost income. Helliwell and Huang (2014) estimate that such non-financial factors decrease the average person’s well-being two to seven times more than the does their lost income from losing their job.”

Infrastructure Challenges

In addition to the unemployment costs of automated trucking, there is some considerable concern about the infrastructure that will be required to support automated freight transportation.

“The infrastructure requirements for full automation of driving functions are not yet clear-cut (section “Towards driverless road freight”). The need for 5G mobile internet connectivity between vehicles along the full corridor is not yet certain. Further, specific applications such as platooning and remote control centre operations are also likely to have additional infrastructure requirements. For instance, platooning may require longer motorway entry and exit ramps than are currently in place (Janssen et al., 2015).”

A possible solution to this obstacle would be to roll out test corridors to slowly integrate autonomous trucks, which would significantly lower the upfront costs. However, as the technology grows in both sophistication and popularity, the overall costs will be both substantial and unmitigatable.

The Foreseeable Future

As it stands, the technology, policies, and regulations are not in place to fully support automated freight hauling. However, in the not-so-distant future, these questions and obstacles will need to be addressed in order for these driverless trucks to take the road. As with most disruptive technologies, it will be the transitional period that will be the hardest to accommodate.

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