Browse Tag


Choosing the Right 3PL to Align with Your Business Strategy

Most shippers don’t spend much time worrying about who is driving the trucks carrying their goods, but choosing a 3PL with the right carrier network makes all the difference when your business is expanding. B2B and B2C networks are increasingly determined by where the customer is, rather than a companies’ geographical location. With more business moving to online, you need to be prepared to meet your customers where they are. 

When your customers need change, you want to be able to say “yes.” But logistics is a complicated business and when you are examining your choices, there are some factors to consider.

The first step is to understand your internal requirements – consider what your specific needs are before looking for a 3PL. Questions to ask include, what modes of transportation and what services you will need? What volumes do you plan to ship and where? Do you have specific security or visibility requirements? Are your shipments time-sensitive? The list goes on… Despite their expertise, 3PLs are only as useful as their knowledge of your business and customer requirements. 

The right 3PL will also have a network density that connects you with the right carrier, at the right location and with the right capacity and expertise.

Start with Carrier Partnerships

Whether you are shipping intra-warehouse or last-mile, it’s important that your 3PL  has the capabilities to make it happen. Two considerations are technology and partnerships.  

Shippers should look for a partner that allows them to quote, track and control invoicing for their LTL and FTL shipments, across a nationwide carrier network. Because your shipping partner is responsible for integrating different shipments, they are responsible for implementing technology that provides visibility to your shipment across their network of trucks and more. 

The right 3PL will also have a network density that connects you with the right carrier, at the right location and with the right capacity and expertise. With capacity being tight these days, partnering with the right 3PL will increases the chances that your time-critical shipments will be delivered on time and at a competitive price. That means, if you have warehousing and delivery needs in Houston, your 3PL  should have vehicles available to accommodate those needs, and quickly. 

Door to Door deliveries

Not all trucking companies handle door-to-door deliveries and some don’t have to. What matters is that your 3PL is partnered with carriers that offer fleet capabilities that meet your needs. For your urban customers, the trucking company might need to deploy a fleet of smaller trucks or even vans. If your requirements are FTL B2B shipments, you need a trucking company with that sort of capacity. For many shippers, their requirements fall in-between, or into the ‘all-of-the-above category.’ In those cases, your 3PL needs to have a range of carriers available to facilitate your business. 

Experience matters

Shippers should ask themselves if their 3PL understands their business and customer base. For example, a company shipping high-value electronics, will want to check with their 3PL about security protocols. Are trucks secured? Is there a system in place to alert management when drivers divert course? Proactive 3PLs will have systems in place so that your customers can rely on you in turn.  

Shipping disruption is an unfortunate reality in the business, ranging from weather disruptions to dock strikes. The right 3PL will have a plan in place to make sure that you are taken care of. 

Do the services match the requirements?

Some 3PLs specialize in specific modes of transportation, commodities, dealing with regulations and origin/destinations. Others are generalists. Make sure that you ask potential 3PLs if they have experience handling the cargo that your business will be shipping. The right partner for your business will be able to walk you through the different steps required, allowing all parties to agree on the correct protocols and procedures.  Reviewing a 3PLs Case Study library can help you better understand their expertise.

How many modes?

There are four common modes – ocean road, air, and rail. Many 3PLs will offer “intermodal” services, but if they don’t have the size and experience to properly manage that freight in-transit, they are essentially handing off responsibility to another party. 

To avoid this uncertainty, make sure your 3PL works with established rail and intermodal carriers. That way, you get the most options. Offering a variety of modes that let shippers choose slower transit times when possible, which lowers costs. On the flip side, if you need something shipped fast, having a 3PL with a dedicated expedite team will help to ensures that your shipment gets where it’s going, in the time it needs to be there.

How’s their customer service? 

This might seem too obvious to print, but it’s important to distinguish between friendly phone conversations and 3PLs that can get you the information you need when you need it. If there’s a disruption or other events along the shipment chain, you need a 3PL that can reach out proactively to help you make the necessary adjustments on your end. There will always be disruptions, but that doesn’t mean they need to put you on your back heels. 

Customer service is also about finding a 3PL that’s willing to take the time to help you set up the right solution. If your business is experiencing sudden growth, you might not have all the answers.

Is your 3PL BlueGrace?

At BlueGrace, our freight specialists work with you every step of the way to understand your requirements and set up a solution that’s tailored to your needs. BlueGrace provides scalability for growing companies to achieve their goals without labor or technology investments. With a fully built-out national network and global partners, BlueGrace makes it easier than ever to reach your markets in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Our expertise and processes provide clients with the bandwidth to operate efficiently and drive direct cost reduction, backed by procurement and dedicated management. For more information on how we can help you analyze your current freight issues and simplify your supply chain, contact us using the form below: 

Rising Costs and Lower Capacity in the Domestic Truckload Market

2018 is off to a strong start for the economy and manufacturing, but there is a shortage of available truckload capacity on the spot market. The Purchasing Managers Index has not dropped below 50 since August of 2016. This time frame almost exactly correlates with the last low point in the Dow Jones Industrial index. (October 2016, 18142.42) In August of 2016, the dry van spot market rate was roughly $1.65 per mile, today that number is $2.30 per mile. As already discussed, that number is coming along with a driver shortage and carriers not wanting to adhere to the ELD mandate.

More Freight, Less Capacity

Currently there are 5.5 available loads for every available truck in the United States. Carriers can pick and choose the freight they want, at the rate they want, going where they want.

On the heels of the new Tax Plan, businesses like Boeing, AT&T, AAON, AccuWeather, Southwest Airlines, American Airlines and many others have given out employee bonuses and increased charitable donations to show good faith in the plan. This leads many to believe economic growth is not slowing down in 2018 which then leads to more manufacturing and more freight shipments.

How Can BlueGrace Help?

Transportation Management providers like BlueGrace Logistics will consult with your business and provide a solution that can help insulate your company from the chaos in the spot market. Here’s how:

  • Current State Analysis, inefficacy identification
  • Future State Vision and growth plan
  • Benchmark Current Rates, identify lanes and current carrier mix
  • Load Planning and Consolidation Scope and Strategy
  • Network Optimization
  • Dedicated resources

BlueGrace can start this process with an initial consultation and discovery call. Do not let the constraint and capacity of 2018 ruin your budget before it even gets started. Fill out the form below to schedule your free assessment today!

#BGInvestigates: How Regulations Affect the Transportation Industry

The transportation industry is no exception when it comes to government regulations. In the coming year, many regulations will be enforcing drastic changes in the transportation industry. These changes will impact the bottom line of truck drivers, carriers, shippers, consignees and even consumers. As regulations increase, trucking companies are forced to increase shipping costs, in turn, driving the cost of products in the market to rise. BG Investigates points out why it’s important to be aware of new industry laws and regulations.

Many transportation regulations are highly controversial in regard to their costs and effectiveness. Specifically, the CSA 2010 law was passed in December of 2010 and remains a top concern. According to the FMCSA, a part of the US Department of Transportation, the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) initiative is a regulation that is working to further reduce commercial motor vehicle crashes, fatalities and injuries on our nation’s highways. The trucking industry (including common carriers) feel the impact of this regulation as drivers are taken off the road due to safety concerns. Although this helps to increase safety, the loss of truck drivers due to CSA regulations has caused driver and capacity shortages.

“We are really starting to see the impact (of CSA 2010) in the industry right now. Every day we are seeing carriers that are being rated down to conditional and last week we saw five carriers shut down by the DOT for unsafe ratings. Obviously that increases the capacity constraints we have in the market by reducing the amount of drivers on the road and causes an increase in rates,” says Chris Reeves, Director of Specialized Services.

The debate continues on many other government policies. The Hours of Service regulations published in December 2011 were enforced to control the amount of hours a driver can be in operation. The HOS rules cause changes in the current transit times for shipments, as drivers are not able to travel as long. There are severe penalties for both the driver and carrier for violations. Industry groups argue that these regulations should change before they officially go into effect July 1, 2013.

BG Investigates uncovered the following transportation industry regulations that all readers should be aware of for 2012 and beyond:

  • Stability Control Standards – Technology mandate controlling stability on heavy-duty tractors to preventing rollovers of trucks and trailers.
  • Mandatory Speed Limiters – Controlling the speed of trucks to prevent accidents.
  • Crashworthiness Standards – Standards, similar to automobiles, that help protect truck drivers involved in accidents
  • EOBR RegulationsElectronic on-board recorders tracking the time truck drivers are on the road.

The laws and regulations of the transportation industry are constantly changing. Whether you are a truck driver, carrier, shipper, consignee or consumer, you should consistently be informed to be compliant and understand the effects it may have on your business model.  BG Investigates will continue looking and reporting the status of new transportation laws and regulations that affect you, so keep an eye out for future articles. Contact one of our knowledgeable representatives at BlueGrace Logistics with any questions about industry regulations or call 800.MYSHIPPING.

– Ben Dundas, Sr. Marketing Analyst

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 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

More Trucks Means Better Prices…Hopefully

truck | freight | truckingAs many have noted, truckload capacity is a very interesting issue right now. The full truckload market is completely one-sided in favor of the driver and carrier. The economic downturn caused most trucking companies to cut down on their drivers and equipment with many even selling their trucks overseas. For those who like numbers, there is currently an average of 3.02 loads posted on DAT360 from Transcore for every one dry van truck available at any time. For flatbeds, the numbers get much worse with a current average of 23.95 loads posted for every one flatbed truck available.

As the economy has picked up, even though slightly, companies have started producing more. While this is great, it just adds to the existing capacity issues. The numbers above confirm the effect.These factors have caused truckload rates to reach all time highs. The increased demand combined with higher rates should incent companies to grow their fleets. According to a report from ACT Research, the orders for Class 8 commercial vehicles reached its highest point in June this year. Orders are up 93 percent over last year.  “Early second quarter reports from publicly traded truckload carriers confirm the improving freight transportation environment, as revenues and profits are up significantly from 2009,” said Steve Tam, vice president with ACT. “Overall orders are still below normal replacement levels, but momentum is building as trucker profitability improves,” added Tam.

Basic economics says that increased supply will help bring prices down in the near future. This is just another step in the right direction for all those working with full truckloads.  Those who have worked with BlueGrace Logistics on full truckloads have noticed that the pricing is at an all-time high and finding trucks has been extremely difficult. We have been working hard at finding trucks and developing relationships with many strong carriers, with nearly 100,000 trucks in our network. Through those relationships, we are starting to see that the capacity in a large group of our carrier network is opening up these past few weeks. Hopefully that trend will continue for our customers and us.

– Ben Dundas, Web Analyst
Follow me @ben37dBG

The Brutal Reality…Logistics, Capacity and where we are headed

I am a pessimist by nature. When I am in a big pot in Poker I am convinced the river will make my opponents hand. I am also not very bullish on the economy. Over the last 2 years members of both parties have thrown trillions of public dollars at the economy and it appears to have only stopped the bleeding. That doesn’t portend too well now that most people agree we are out of money to throw around. So how does this apply to our industry? The last 6 months we have all heard about capacity issues in Truckload and LTL. Freight is piling up on docks and loads are going unfilled. Rates are going up as trucking companies struggle to meet demand. But what is missing in this picture?

Well as I remember from high school when demand goes up two things are supposed to happen. First, prices go up as the Laws of Scarcity go into effect. We have all seen the prices of LTL freight going up this year. Secondly, supply is supposed to increase to meet the demand. I have not seen this happen, have you? But why is this not happening and what does it tell us about the near future?

I think there are a few basic reasons supply is pretty static.  Barriers to entry are huge. New companies cannot be formed to handle excess LTL freight. Terminals are needed; trucks, trailers and people are very expensive. The timeline to form, open and staff a new trucking company is years. It is just not going to happen. And let’s not forget about government regulations. Jay Thompson of the Gerson Lehrman Group covers that in great detail here. “When it comes to regulation, it’s like a confluence of issues that results in carriers being hesitant to invest in much of anything – smartly so.”   The base of suppliers of LTL freight is not going to change any time in the near future. It might even contract with companies going out of business.

Cash is tight. LTL carriers have just suffered through a couple years of losses and are only now coming out of the doldrums. Even titans like FedEx are posting losses. YRC has seen it’s stock price fall to 15 cents. Other companies are also coming off bad years. They have retired older equipment without replacing. Drivers are let go or allowed to retire with no replacements hired. No one is buying new equipment. We have seen the unemployment numbers; no one is hiring new drivers.  No new companies plus no new equipment is not a recipe for increased supply. For these reasons, Moody’s is predicting that rail will outpace trucking in the near future. “We expect railroad sales growth to outpace growth for truckers into the second half of 2010,” the report said. “U.S. truckers were devastated by the recession, which constrained their ability to invest in new fleet and infrastructure. Consequently, their fleets may be less able to accommodate spikes in demand,” the report said. Railroads, meanwhile, maintained capital spending during the downturn and will be able to handle increased demand without the bottlenecks that accompanied previous recoveries, Moody’s said.

Lastly, (and this is where my pessimism comes in) I just do not think that LTL companies believe the hype. There are a lot of very smart people making buying decisions for LTL companies. Like me, they just do not think the economy has really turned. They are pretty sure that when the spending stops that demand is going to fall and no one wants to be left with a bloated supply chain.

Those of us in the 3PL and logistics world need to recognize how this affects us. In the short term, we will be dealing with higher prices but SO ARE OUR CUSTOMERS. Carriers are not raising rates on our segment because of any change in philosophy. Rates are going up for simple economic reasons; there is no supply. If the economy continues to grow, then trucking companies will start to expand their fleets. New companies will take a shot at the multiyear horizon and start to open. Increased supply plus new competition will of course bring the prices down again. It is simple Economics 101. But what if the economy double dips or just stays stagnant? Well all of a sudden, carriers will be cutting back again and looking for help to fill their trucks. Of course, we will be poised and ready to assist. If these times seem hectic and confusing to those of us who are considered professionals in our industry, imagine what it’s like for the customer. This is our time to shine. Anyone can keep a customer happy when saving him or her 20% on their freight needs. But the true professional can keep the customer happy when his costs are going up by 20%. We need to be explaining what is happening in the industry and why. They need to understand why a load that cost $500 in March now costs $750. They need us now more than ever.

– Randy Collack, VP of Administration
Follow me @schmengieBG

Forecast looks good while capacity issues remain

While I was looking through various news and updates in the industry, I found the new forecast for the transportation industry through 2021. The American Trucking Association produced the report and the outlook looks great for the transportation industry as a whole. Capacity however remains an issue that will escalate due to the new CSA 2010. One of the unintended consequences of the CSA 2010 is many drivers will not be able to comply with the new safety  regulations and many carriers will not be able to afford the qualified drivers.

The forecast shows projections for all modes of freight transportation. Railroads are expected to have a small drop in tonnage while Air Cargo tonnage is expected to increase. The trucking industry is expected to show steady growth over the next 11 years with tonnage moving from 68% to just under 71%. Last year trucks captured 81% of the freight revenue. While the recession has hit trucking very hard the last 2 years, this year is starting off very strong and the future looks bright. 

The ATA article, along with the link to the actual report can be found here:

The information on the new Comprehensive Safety Analysis (CSA) 2010 can be found at their website:

– Ben Dundas, Web Analyst
Follow me @ben37dBG