Browse Tag

trucking

The Future of the Highway Steering Towards Platooning

03 SARTRE-700x467

Volvo is leading the way for advancements in connectivity in the United States. Goran Nyberg, President of Volvo, states connectivity is “changing the industry and the way we work and the way we communicate.”

“Platooning” is the term applied to a convoy of trucks electronically linked to a lead truck with an active driver. Testing in Europe since 2009, Volvo has found the trucks boost fuel economy by reducing wind drag and lessening the workload for drivers.

“How many people question who is running a big aircraft today? It’s fully computerized, and a pilot is governing the environment,” Nyberg said.

A predictive cruise system that can conduct a 360 scan of the surrounding area is also under development. In a video simulation, a cyclist was spared because the truck took over emergency control to avoid an accident.

If legislation is approved, platooning in the U.S. could be a reality in five years.

The Silver-Lining of Superstorm Sandy

With initial estimates of economic losses due to Sandy reaching into the $30-$50 billion range, it’s strange to think that there could actually be a silver-lining to such a detrimental cloud. And in fact, the trucking industry alone suffered around a whopping $140 million per day loss. This number is based on 20% of the industry not moving freight because of Sandy’s aftermath. However, with these dismal numbers at the forefront of everyone’s mind, it’s wise to note that some trucking companies do actually benefit from natural disasters.

The clean-up and rebuilding phase following the super storm is what gives the transportation industry its light at the end of the tunnel. Fleets are expected to see an increase in activity in the coming months with demand on the rise. Construction companies and the flatbed carriers that haul their materials will experience quite the surge.

Flatbed carriers aren’t the only ones to have a boost in freight, however. Dry van carriers will also see a boom in business with retailers needing to replenish depleted goods on store shelves. Though many will experience a loss initially, the storm’s resulting damage will create new demand later. The immediate need for restocking, for example, is one that only the time-sensitive characteristic of trucking can provide. Not only is it excess work because everything is rushed, it’s also out of normal route, and people are willing to pay more. All of this in turn, leads to a faster recovery for the industry. FTR (Freight Transportation Research Association) Senior Consultant Noel Perry predicts that the losses caused by the storm, will ultimately be recovered due to resupply and rebuilding truck freight needs. Perry predicts the storm will generate $15 billion in additional revenue for trucking over the next three or four quarters.

Sandy’s disruption to replenishing food, gas and other goods serves as a glaring reminder that freight transportation is the backbone that supports our everyday life.  Whether a storm for you causes a loss or a sudden boom in business, you still need to have a plan for whatever comes next. Though you cannot predict, you can prepare. Check out the checklist we developed to help prepare your supply chain for natural disasters!

Have your own tips or precautions that you take in preparation for the unpredictable? Fill us in here so we can all benefit!

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Lesson for Heavy Weight Shippers

Overloaded Dry Van
This is a caution to heavy weight shippers! You cannot overload a trailer in the middle of the van.

Now this is something you don’t expect to see on your way home from work…

One of our team members captured this scene of a dry van that caved in, and as you can imagine – causing major delays during 5 o’clock rush hour on northbound I-75.

This is a caution to heavy weight shippers! You cannot overload a trailer in the middle of the van. Instead, the weight (under 45,000 lbs) must be evenly distributed throughout the trailer. Perhaps this shipment was best fit for a flatbed. Flatbeds have reinforced steel beams underneath that are designed to support heavy loads compared to a dry van.

For more information on flatbed versus dry van shipping or to book an LTL or truckload shipment with a top rated carrier contact us today.

Our team of logistics experts is happy to assist you – and fellow commuters will thank you!

Logistics in the U.S. – Facts at a Glance

Logistics in the U.S. - Facts at a Glance Every facet of American life is touched by transportation. With freight being the economic staple that it is, every haul is a piece of a complex logistical puzzle that powers our nation. We’ve dug up some interesting factoids to help shed some light on just how large of a role transportation plays!

  • The US is comprised of 566 railroads (138,623 railroad miles).
  • Total 2011 U.S. logistics spend was estimated at $1.28 trillion up 6.6% over 2010.
  • According to the 2012 3PL Study, shippers who partner with third-party logistics providers report an average cost reduction of 13% and nearly two-thirds (64%) of survey respondents reported an increase in their use of outsourced logistics services.
  • 3.5 Million: The approximate number of truck drivers moving America’s freight. To put this in perspective, 1 in every 15 people working in the U.S. is employed in the trucking industry.
  • The transportation and warehousing sector totaled 4.292 million people in 2011. You can be an addition to this number, check out a career with BlueGrace Logistics!
  • Fact: Trucking is the dominate mode of transportation for our nation’s freight movement by approximately 71%.
  • 1.2 Million: The number of trucking companies operating in the U.S.
  • The highest-valued imported products in the U.S. include: agricultural products 4.9%, industrial supplies 32.9% (crude oil 8.2%), capital goods 30.4% (computers, telecommunications equipment, motor vehicle parts, office machines, electric power machinery), consumer goods 31.8% (automobiles, clothing, medicines, furniture, toys).
  • There are 149 ports located in the U.S.  South Louisiana, Houston, New York/New Jersey, and Long Beach often hitting the top of the list when ranked by tonnage or TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units).
  • American businesses transported over 19 billion tons of raw materials and finished goods in 2002, valued at $13 trillion (including domestic commodity movements and domestic transportation of exports and imports).
  • More than $1 out of every $10 produced in the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) is related to transportation activity.

After exposing your brain to all of this info, the importance of transportation should be crystal clear. You can see how each load is merely a link to an ever-globalizing supply chain. There’s never been a better time to get involved in this industry!

Any of these numbers surprise you? Share your logistics facts and figures with us!

Let us know what you think!

Are You Prepared if a Natural Disaster Disrupts Your Supply Chain?

Although the Weather Channel forecasts a below-average hurricane season in 2012 – there is still uncertainty and history says you can never be too prepared. As Senior Meteorologist Stu Ostro instructs,

“people in hurricane-prone areas should be equally prepared every year regardless of seasonal outlooks.”

So what can your business do to prepare this hurricane season? Our team has outlined a few simple procedures to integrate throughout your entire supply chain to help you be proactive and prevent potential loss.

Flooded city hurricane aftermath
Flooded street in the Soho area of Manhattan from last year’s Hurricane Irene. Source: http://bit.ly/LhejIK
  1. Team: Are you prepared if your team is short-handed? Remember that cell phones, email, land lines, etc may become unavailable, which can cause great confusion. To avoid this stress, be sure to have multiple channels to communicate important messages and announcements to your staff. Satellite telephone systems offer a reliable form of communication for your immediate staff members.
  2. Customers: If/when your business is notified of a potential storm, let your customers know immediately so that they can plan ahead and adjust their inventories. Are there any products or materials that will be high in demand before or in the aftermath? The key is to remain flexible.
  3. Supply Chain: Daily operations and supply chain processes can be complicated very easily in the presence of severe weather. An easy way to prepare is to run through best and worst case scenarios with your team so that everyone is aware of their responsibilities and how to respond quickly and effectively.
  4. Suppliers: Do you work directly with a single supplier? Is the business located in a hurricane prone area? If so, plan ahead with the supplier and ask how they have prepared to provide services or products in times of disaster. It’s also a good idea to maintain good relationships with multiple suppliers especially if you find yourself in a pinch.
  5. Freight: Be prepared to make special arrangements for your shipments. If the roads are dangerous, truck drivers will be pulled off for safety. An easy proactive measure is to schedule your freight shipments earlier or work with a logistics provider to see if there are any alternative routes. Keep in mind port availability. In the case of heavy rain and flooding, your freight may not be able to move. Consider all modes of transportation.
  6. Insurance Provider: Be sure to have a copy of your policy and get any questions answered from your provider so you’re not left wondering.
  7. Data: Backing up your data is critical. In today’s global economy, businesses function on computer systems and databases. Be sure that your business documents, records, etc are stored at an off-site location.
  8. Community: Once your business has a backup plan, reach out to others in your community and share your tips and advice on how you prepared your business for a natural disaster. Hint: You can start by sharing this information!

No matter how many hurricanes, tropical storms, or natural disasters occur – it only takes one to impact our communities and cause major disruption. Get a plan started today and re-evaluate periodically, especially if severe weather is on the way.

We hope that these hurricane preparedness tips and reminders are helpful to your business. Of course, it is our hope that you will never have to put your plan into action. If you would like more information on how to formulate your own plan, build a kit and get involved, check out this natural disaster preparedness resource from FEMA.

 

Poll: How much do you know about LTL Shipping?

As part of BlueGrace Logistics’ mission to enhance our customers experience with freight shipping and logistics services, we just posted a poll on LinkedIn about freight shipping!

How much do you know about LTL shipping?
Select the appropriate answer that best fits your knowledge of LTL. Don’t worry – There’s no right or wrong answer!

 

-Samantha Hill, Community Manager
Twitter: SamHill_BG

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Mother’s Day!

-Jennifer Masters, Business Information Analyst
Twitter: @BG_JennyD

 

Partnership Reduces Costs and Transit Time… Creating Benefits for All

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

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

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

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

 

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

It’s a Man’s World

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Behind the Wheel of a Big Rig

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

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

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

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

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

Truck vs. Rail, Betting Against Warren…Buffett

warren buffet | rail shipping | truck shippingI put the last name Buffett out there, detached from the remainder of the title for good reason; it’s a very special last name.  Buffett is arguably the greatest investor the world has ever seen. I’m not the guy who’d like to bet the future of rail isn’t brighter than trucking in the first place but I must admit, I’m among the masses that would have a really tough time trying to take an opposite stance against Buffett’s gamble. With the sustained and unprecedented success of Berkshire Hathaway, one may even want to reconsider calling any decision he makes a “gamble”. As a note of interest, $1 invested in Berkshire Hathaway in 1965 is now worth $400,863, the S&P a mere $6,840. 

When Warren Buffett bought out BNSF at a premium, he sent the world a very strong message, one of conviction.  It is considered his biggest investment ever. He told the world he’s bullish on the growth of rail, not just due to an economic recovery, but also as a means of replacing some of tonnage that now moves on trucks. He’s a believer that freight will be moving from the highway to the railway. Some of his reasoning:

  • Fuel prices continue to soar and the volatility is expected infinitely
  • Rail moves a ton of cargo 500 miles on 1 gallon of diesel; a truck is well over 3 times that and climbing.
  • 1 railcar can hold 100 tons, it takes 5 trucks/trailers to move the same
  • Rail is already built out completely, no more tracks are being added while highways are crumbling and need constant improvements.
  • With the fuel savings one must note the “green effect”. The carbon emissions that are being eliminated make the rails extremely attractive.

There’s a myriad of other reasons BNSF was purchased for a total of $44 billion, but what the purchase said is that transportation may be undergoing radical changes. The part of rail that has made it less than attractive for logisticians is the lack of traceability and flexibility. It has always been supported by inferior technology and has been less easy to deal with considering the equipment needed to handle railcars. The advantages that are now benefiting rail over truck are undoubtedly going to make investments in rail resources a sure thing. These are investments that will push rail into new areas such as LTL (less-than-truckload) and new commodities that weren’t as prevalent in the past. Technology will be pacing this expected surge of growth in rail. 

The ATA believes truck and rail is only competitive in about 8% of tonnage, maybe so, but not stating the future expectancies is one that I feel shows a tremendous opportunity to provide a valuable forecast. Virtually every economist and analyst will agree that rail will grow quicker than truck over the next few years, recovery or not. In my opinion, I simply cannot see why the buzz isn’t greater, added resources for rail are a sure thing and there’s little doubt in my mind that they will take freight off the highway when the resources are developed, refined and put in place. My bet is that Warren Buffett didn’t make the biggest investment of his life for a mediocre return, I’m betting strongly that he’s right on track! 

Bobby Harris, President and CEO

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