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Change Is Coming For The Trucking Industry

Disruptive technologies will often alter the form and function of an industry, at least to some degree. The changes brought about by these new disruptions are subtle, making the sector more efficient (production is a good example of this) but change little else. The transportation industry, however, is standing at the precipice of total revolution. These new, disruptive advancements won’t affect it in small ways, but rather change it altogether, making the industry something completely different from what we’ve seen over the past several decades.   

There are some big questions to answer when contemplating how these new developments will alter and impact the industry.

There are some big questions to answer when contemplating how these new developments will alter and impact the industry. IHS Markit’s latest study “Reinventing the Truck” is taking a closer look at how new power-train and autonomous trucking will affect logistics, trucking, and the energy industry.  

New Changes for the Trucking Industry  

Of these new changes, the first one to consider is that we’re beginning to see new patterns of both distribution and consumption across consumer markets. Typically speaking, a growth in trade reflects economic activity, but that relationship might change due to changes in manufacturing and distribution practices. 3D printing, for example, means that certain consumer goods could be manufactured on site, rather than being transported from a manufacturing facility and then being hauled to a DC before reaching its final destination. Local production of consumer goods could reduce supply chains and lower demand for freight carriers, negating shipping costs entirely in some instances.  

New Technology in the Industry 

Technology will also be a driving factor. According to Markit’s study, there are three key areas in the industry that will be impacted. The first of these is through increased data access. As the IoT and expanded sensor banks allow logistics companies to gain access to more data throughout the supply chain, networks and best practices will see optimization and increased efficiency.   

Electric vehicles are becoming more sophisticated and developing a longer delivery range, making them ideal for urban settings.

Other advancements to be aware of will change fuel consumption patterns throughout the industry. Electric vehicles are becoming more sophisticated and developing a longer delivery range, making them ideal for urban settings. As electric drive trains are quieter, hours of operation can be extended, allowing carriers to operate throughout the night when traffic is reduced, which will change deployment patterns as well as fuel consumption.  

The Role of Automation 

Increased levels of automation within the industry itself will also play a large role in the transformation of the transportation industry. Warehouses are employing more robots for picking and packing of orders. Automated loading and unloading systems can reduce truck detention times, allowing a driver to get back on the road quicker.

Automation will greatly reduce costs by increasing efficiency which will be enhanced as connectivity and communication levels increase.  

Self-driving vehicles are also on the horizon which will allow for a greater traveling distance and might be enticing for new, younger drivers, as a reason to get behind the wheel. Automation will greatly reduce costs by increasing efficiency which will be enhanced as connectivity and communication levels increase.  

New Regulations will Change the Supply Chain 

Lastly, there is the change in trucking regulation to consider, which will have the most immediate impact on the industry. These new regulations are taking place on a local, state, and national level. These policies have a wide range of goals, anywhere from reducing CO2 emissions and improving (reducing) fuel consumption, to addressing longstanding labor issues. Regardless of their intention, these new regulations all share one factor in common, the will to alter the established patterns and practices of the trucking industry. Germany, for example, has allowed individual cities to ban diesel trucks. That alone will significantly change the transportation industry, bringing a new level of complexity for fleet operators that work in and around urban areas as it can vary from city to city.  

Change to Affect More than Just Transportation 

Considering that these changes have a far-reaching impact, not just on the transportation industry, the Markit study also looked at how other industries will be affected. With supply chains being shortened or even negated in some instances as well as new regulations and standards being put into effect, oil refineries and the petrochemical industry will begin to see a diminished demand from their biggest customer. 

Given that the transportation industry plays a considerable role in the global economy, many industries will be affected and will undergo their own set of changes in order to keep pace.  

In short, these new changes will push our understanding of disruptive technologies to a new level as the transportation industry will begin to undergo a metamorphosis. Given that the transportation industry plays a considerable role in the global economy, many industries will be affected and will undergo their own set of changes in order to keep pace.  

Ready for the Change? 

At BlueGrace, we work with you every step of the way. We’re here to help you understand your current freight issues and make sure your supply chain is ready for any changes in the industry without ever missing a beat. For more information on how we can help you simplify your supply chain and achieve your goals without labor or technology investments, contact us today using the form below: 

Attracting the Next Generation of Truckers

As time changes, the views and opinions of the generations that follow will also change. As the baby boomers are beginning to approach the golden age of retirement, new generations are starting to step up to the plate. This is creating a shakeup for the global economy as a whole. We’re seeing a change in aspirations as well as life goals in those that are entering the workforce. For some industries, it has created a renaissance of new ideas, innovations, leaders, and visionaries.

Simply put, the U.S trucking industry is facing a driver shortage of which it has never seen before.

Other sectors, like the trucking industry, might have a harder time attracting new prospects. Simply put, the U.S trucking industry is facing a driver shortage of which it has never seen before. As manufacturing and retail sales continue to increase, shippers and carriers alike are scrambling to find the capacity to keep freight moving, resulting in many shipments being up-charged or left behind. “A 2017 report by the American Trucking Association noted that the industry needs to hire almost 900,000 more drivers to meet rising demand, while the latest jobs report noted that 185,000 jobs have been added over the past four months alone,” according to a recent article from MSNBC 

 “The shipping infrastructure is facing a tight capacity crunch this year, and the small to mid-sized business shipper will feel the upward pressure in raised rates due to the lack of drivers and trucks available,” said Tim Story, EVP of freight operations at Unishippers. “The new mandate could result in a 4-8 percent loss in capacity (available trucks on the road).” 

To make matters worse, the average age of truck drivers on the road today is 55, which means many will be considering retirement in the near future. As qualified drivers begin to leave the field, there is a concern that there won’t be enough new drivers to replace them. In order to attract fresh blood and new talent for the industry, trucking companies are focusing their efforts on the newest generation of up and coming young adults: the self-oriented Millennials, who are in their twenties and thirties.  

Trucking is a Hard Sell  

While there is plenty of talent to choose from in the millennial pool, trucking is a hard sell when it comes to attracting new drivers. Truck driving doesn’t necessarily carry the glamorous reputation that some industries might have. Long hours and time spent away from home seem to be a deterrent for many who would consider getting behind the wheel.

While some trucking companies are willing to foot the bill for the education, that’s not a universal standard – at least not yet.  

Additionally, there’s the need for a CDL commercial driver’s license which is required to operate any combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 or more pounds. It takes both time and money to obtain. While some trucking companies are willing to foot the bill for the education, that’s not a universal standard – at least not yet.  

With that being said, it’s still a considerable commitment for someone fresh out of school who is trying to decide what to do with their life. Younger drivers will also be facing an age barrier as well as you need to be 21 and over to be able to cross state lines. Even if trucking companies were able to recruit younger drivers, there’s still going to be a time restraint before a young aspirant can become a full-fledged trucker.  That timing can make a big difference too. A millennial fresh out of high school isn’t able to enter into the field, which means by the time they can they’ve likely moved on to a different career field. Recruitment is also proving to be a challenge for the trucking industry as well.

Until a recruitment solution is identified, it will continue to be a problem.

While many trucking companies are starting to pay for ad space on social media sites in an attempt to find new drivers, the cost vs. yield is out of balance. “Carriers are having to spend more money on advertising to get people to apply, but only getting one to two drivers out of each 100 applications they receive,” said Story. “Between the training required, predominantly male-dominated field, age hurdles and more, carriers are having to pay drivers higher rates that will continue to increase. Right now, there aren’t enough qualified drivers in the applicant pool to satisfy the needs of the industry. Until a recruitment solution is identified, it will continue to be a problem.”  

Changing the Demographic  

Another issue for the trucking industry is that it is predominately male. According to Ellen Voie the president and CEO of the Women In Trucking (WIT) Association, only about seven percent of the entire trucking fleet in the U.S is made up of women. While this made sense for the physical requirements necessary twenty years ago, that’s no longer the case. “There’s very little physical exertion anymore,” says Voie “Even the hood releases and the dollies are hydraulic. You just push a button. WIT’s mission is to work with truck manufacturers and trucking companies alike to promote women in the industry and to help reduce the obstacles faced by women in the trucking industry. By making the industry more accessible for women, it will help to ease the driver shortage by increasing the available pool of drivers to get behind the wheel.   

Autonomous Trucks Will be Good for the Industry  

Conventional wisdom believes that automated trucking will simply remove the need for human drivers, but that isn’t the case, or at least it won’t be for quite some time. However, the trucking industry does stand to gain from the addition of autonomous trucking.

While Millennials might hold the keys to the future, reaching out to them will be the challenge.  

Autonomous trucks will still need a human driver to navigate urban settings as well as handling the more intricate aspects of entering and exiting highways. The technological aspect alone can help to attract younger drivers, while the added safety features might make the field more accessible to younger drivers and women alike while reducing the amount of training necessary to get them on the road. In any event, the trucking industry has its work cut out for it, especially as the driver shortage problem continues to worsen. While Millennials might hold the keys to the future, reaching out to them will be the challenge.  

Ready to Launch A Career in the Logistics Industry?

BlueGrace partners with the industry’s best in class LTL, Truckload and Expedited carriers. If you are ready to learn the in’s and out’s of the transportation industry, CLICK HERE to launch your logistics career and see all the positions available throughout the country at BlueGrace. We are constantly awarded a best place to work and love to see our employees succeed!

How To Label Your Freight Correctly, The First Time

While it sounds like a no-brainer, a lot of cargo damage happens due to incorrect labeling of the packages that are being transported. Labeling is an integral part of cargo packaging and is an essential aspect to ensure that your goods reach the correct destination at the required time. Correct and proper labeling including package handling instructions is critical to ensure that your goods are delivered safely and efficiently.

Labeling is also important to facilitate real-time tracking of your package as it moves through your trucker’s network and your country’s road network.

For example, if you are shipping liquid cargo or any other cargo that needs to be kept upright, it is important to label it correctly so the cargo handlers know which way to carry it. Similarly, if the cargo is hazardous, then it is important to label it appropriately. You should use the required hazardous labels so safety precautions can be taken. Not just for handling and safety, labeling is also important to facilitate real-time tracking of your package as it moves through your trucker’s network and your country’s road network.

Your cargo label should have a few mandatory components which are crucial to ensure prompt delivery.

  1. Clearly marked pick up or senders address. This is crucial because, in case of any returns or non-delivery, the cargo can be returned safely to the sender.
  2. Sender’s reference number. In order to identify the package, as the same sender could be sending various parcels to the same receiver but with different items.
  3. Clearly marked delivery address. This should have the full style address including the zip/postal code to ensure that it gets to the right area as there could be cities and streets with the same name in different parts of the country, but zip/postal codes are unique.
  4. Receiver’s reference number. The receiver may be receiving parcels from same, or various senders and they can identify the contents/order quickly with the reference number.
  5. If goods are hazardous, then the relevant hazardous labels must be affixed to the box.
  6. If the goods are Fragile, it must be labeled with Fragile stickers or tape.
  7. The label should have be clearly visible and have a big enough barcode for quick and reliable scanning.
  8. The label should be at least A5 size or larger to accommodate all the above information.

You have to ensure that only the relevant markings are present on the outside of the package

If there are markings on the label or box that are irrelevant to the shipment, that must be removed as it may cause confusion with regard to the delivery. The labels used must be hardy and be able to withstand the elements as in sun, rain, snow or any other conditions they may be exposed to during the journey although it is unlikely that the goods can get wet during road transport. If you have more than one item in a consignment to the same receiver, it would be good to affix the labels in the same place on each item as it makes it easier for the goods to be scanned and sorted.

There are standard labels for package handling instructions which clearly indicate the nature of the contents of the packages so that everyone in the transportation chain knows what handling methods to be used like whether the package is sensitive to heat or moisture or which side is up and where the loading hooks may be used etc.

The symbols on the labels are based on an international standard ISO R/780 (International Organization for Standardization).

Source: Transport Information Service

Do You Need Help With Understanding Your Freight?

Whether you are managing your own processes or you are using the logistics services of BlueGrace, proper preparation is one way to help prevent delays or additional charges. If you have questions about how you can better prevent freight issues, or just how to simplify your current transportation program, contact us via phone at 800.MY.SHIPPING or using the form below, we are here to help!

Why e-Commerce is now “Talking Shop”

Retail has undergone a radical evolution over the past few decades. When Amazon first appeared online, it was little more than an online bookstore which then piggy-backed toys for now extinct Toys-R-Us.

As e-Commerce began to gain ground, sites like Amazon were a good place to shop for a wide assortment of things you might need around your house. As the e-Commerce disruption to the brick and mortar store continued, you could launch Amazon from your phone, to shop or compare prices on the go. Now, e-Commerce goes a step further with voice-driven shopping, otherwise known as conversational commerce.

“The past year has been a decisive year for voice-driven Conversational Commerce – consumer purchase of products and services via voice assistants such as Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri. While earlier restricted to chatbots accessed via messaging apps for shopping, the definition of Conversational Commerce has significantly expanded with the arrival of voice-based personal assistants, presenting brands with an opportunity to build greater intimacy with their customers,” according to an article from Capgemini.

The Growth of Conversational Commerce

Being able to shop from the comfort of your home on a computer or a smartphone is certainly a convenience. Being able to build a shopping list just by talking is even easier. That’s probably why Capgemini’s survey concluded that 40 percent of consumers would likely be using a voice shopping method over visiting a website or using an app within the next three years. Additionally, 31 percent will likely choose to use a voice assistant over physically visiting a shop or a bank branch.

When you consider the wide array of functionality, it makes sense that we’ll be seeing an uptick in voice assistant.

As the system is fairly intuitive, simply speaking what you want added to your shopping list. Given the ease of use, it’s no surprise that 51 percent of consumers are also voice assistant users for things such as purchasing. A voice assistant can also perform a wide array of other functions such as calling for a ride on Uber, making payments or sending money, or even ordering takeout for dinner. When you consider the wide array of functionality, it makes sense that we’ll be seeing an uptick in voice assistant.

A Personalized Customer Service

Typically, having to interact with a robot when you’re calling customer support can be an irritating process at the best of times. Interestingly enough, 1 in 3 respondents of the Capgemini survey said they’d be willing to replace customer support or in-store shop sales support with a personalized voice assistant to enhance their in-store shopping experience. While that might seem like a negative aspect for retail stores, it’s shown to actually increase brand loyalty as well as average spending by an additional 8 percent per order.

With this new wave of technology, retail stores are being presented with a truly unique means of increasing both their customer service and customer satisfaction. Companies that can create a dynamic and positive voice shopping assistant experience will be better able to serve their customers while increasing business at the same time. That’s not to say that human-based customer service will be completely phased out in the near future.

While a personalized voice assistant might be great for helping a customer look for specific items, they will perpetually fall short of the mark when empathy is required, specifically when things go wrong.

While a voice assistant is nice, it’s human empathy that can really make a person feel at ease when they have a problem. Many retailers are focusing on customer service as a means of increasing their business. This becomes increasingly important as many industries are turning towards automation to boost efficiency. While a personalized voice assistant might be great for helping a customer look for specific items, they will perpetually fall short of the mark when empathy is required, specifically when things go wrong.

This will certainly be something to keep an eye on as time and technology progress.

Logistics is a perfect example of this. When a shipper is having an issue trying to find a shipment, an automated call menu might be the last thing they want to hear. Having a human operator or customer service representative close at hand to help troubleshoot issues has always been vital, perhaps even more so now with the abundance of new technology. Because of this, retailers will have to learn to navigate the line between multi-platform digital solutions and good-old-fashioned human interaction. Voice assistants will be able to bring a lot to the table, connecting both companies to other companies and consumers to everything in new and exciting ways. This will certainly be something to keep an eye on as time and technology progress.

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Why Is The Supply Chain Industry The Source of So Much Innovation? 

Trucking is arguably one of the most vital jobs in the United States. When you consider that 70 percent of the freight that moves through the country is transported by trucks, the trucking industry is the backbone that holds the U.S. upright. As important as trucking is, however, it would be nothing without a strong running supply chain. Manufacturers need a constant stream of materials and resources to produce goods and retailers and other companies need a constant stream of deliveries in order for their business to operate. 

“The U.S. supply chain economy is large and distinct. It represents the industries that sell to businesses and the government, as opposed to business-to-consumer (B2C) industries that sell for personal consumption,” the Harvard Business Review says. Much the same way that the trucking industry keeps many U.S. citizens employed, the U.S. supply chain industry accounts for 37 percent of all jobs in the country, employing approximately 44 million people. Interestingly enough, these jobs also pay significantly more than a number of professions and are largely responsible for bursts of innovation within the economy.   

“The intensity of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) jobs, a proxy for innovation potential, is almost five times higher in the supply chain economy than in the B2C economy. Patenting is also highly concentrated in supply chain industries,” HBR adds. 

It’s the supply chain that links so many different industries and companies together.  

So what is it that makes the supply chain industry pay so well and be responsible for such innovation? It might just be the fact that it’s the supply chain that links so many different industries and companies together.  

The Importance of Supply Chain Services 

As we mentioned above, the trucking, manufacturing and retail industries rely heavily on supply chain services to function and survive in today’s economy. With a heavy focus on lean manufacturing, many companies simply can’t afford to have extra products or parts lying around – there needs to be a constant influx, giving these companies what they need precisely when they need it. But it doesn’t explain why it stands out from other sources of employment. To that, Mercedes Delgado, a research director and scientist of MIT and Karen Mills, senior fellow of Harvard Business School, have taken a look at the categorization of employment and made an interesting discovery when it comes to the supply chain. “Only 10% of employment in the economy is in manufacturing, and 90% is in services. It is commonly thought that most of those service jobs are low-wage occupations at restaurants or retail stores, while the manufacturing jobs have higher wages. But not all services are the same.” – Delgado and Mills stated in the recent HBR article. “With our new categorization, we can separate supply chain service jobs – which are higher-paying – from the Main Street service jobs that tend to be lower paying. These supply chain service jobs include many different labor occupations, from operation managers to computer programmers, to truck drivers. They comprise about 80% of supply chain employment, with an average annual wage of $63,000, and are growing rapidly,” they added.  

On average, these jobs pay about three times more and have 18x the STEM intensity over Main Street services, and the job market is growing fast.  

Through their work, they’ve also uncovered a subcategory of the supply chain industry which is traded services. These services are traded and sold across many different fields such as engineering, design, software publishing, logistics services and many others. This subcategory, in particular, showed some of the highest wages and STEM concentration of the entire economy. On average, these jobs pay about three times more and have 18x the STEM intensity over Main Street services, and the job market is growing fast.  

“Our supply chain economy framework leads to a more optimistic view of the economy. If we were to focus on supporting supply chain services, particularly those in traded industries, the result might be more innovation and more well-paying jobs in the United States.”  

How Does this New Category Affect Policy? 

While it might not seem like an important find, this new categorization is actually very important, especially when it relates to U.S. economic policies. For starters, there needs to be a heavier investment in skilled labor. While the supply chain industry has the majority of STEM workers already on the payroll, there is a shortage in America in general. This makes it hard for both sides to continue the level of growth and innovation. Many companies already have a hard time finding the necessary talent to keep them moving forward.

Supply chain industries are even more at risk since continuous innovation not only needs new talent but the ability to retain existing talent. 

Supply chain industries are even more at risk since continuous innovation not only needs new talent but the ability to retain existing talent. The second point from Delgado and Mills is that we need to support regional industry clusters. “Suppliers produce inputs for businesses, and therefore, they particularly benefit from being co-located with their buyers in industry clusters. Catalyzing and strengthening organizations that support regional clusters is one way to promote buyer-supplier collaboration.” 

Finally, it’s a matter of making sure that supply chain service providers have access to the necessary funds to continue their work. Many of the products and services that they create are things that can’t be patented which makes it difficult, if not impossible, to continue generating the necessary capital. Having government policies in place that would guarantee loans or credit support for suppliers would go a long way to ensuring stability and funding for these service providers to start and grow.  

 The supply chain is a very large industry within the United States and one with the potential for some dynamic growth. Supply chain service providers play a crucial role in not only ensuring that other industries are able to function but also provide the necessary access to these resources that will help this new category of the industry to grow and the American economy as a whole.

Are you part of the supply chain talent pool?

Are you eager to work with a company that helps simplify businesses across the USA? Do you feel a sense of accomplishment when you can cut costs for a customer? If so CLICK HERE to see all the positions available throughout the country at BlueGrace. We are constantly awarded a best place to work and love to see our employees succeed!

The Long Bumpy Road to Blockchain in Trucking

With rapid advancements in interconnectivity, such as the Internet of Things and the added advantage of instant data streaming, the freight industry has been devouring data technology as a whole and is getting a much-needed overhaul. Yet, the picture is incomplete. There are still some serious gaps, tracking being a great example of this. While shippers may have a general idea of where the freight is during its transit, often it is difficult or impossible to pinpoint the exact location and the estimated time of delivery.

Let’s face it, trucking is the life force of this country.

Communication within the industry also leaves a lot to be desired. Throughout the industry, many companies are using different systems for recording freight which allows some data to be lost in translation. That might be the reason why there is some considerable hype being built around blockchain technology. In fact, this hype is gaining some serious momentum when you consider there is a new faction, the Blockchain in Transportation Alliance (BiTA) that is working to find blockchain solutions for some of the most common trucking problems. Let’s face it, trucking is the life force of this country. Trucks are moving approximately 70 percent of the nation’s freight. As a whole, it represents over 80 percent of the nation’s freight bill. That being said, they could use all the help they can get to make the process more efficient.

Privatized Blockchain for the Industry

There is a considerable amount of potential within blockchain technology. As a data service, it can track and categorize every transaction through a products life-cycle.

For a logistics decision maker, the ability to pinpoint the location of various assets, both tangible and intangible, is invaluable.

For a logistics decision maker, the ability to pinpoint the location of various assets, both tangible and intangible, is invaluable. Within every step of the shipping process, blockchain can track the data and provide analyzable and actionable information which allows for more accurate and efficient decision making. As it’s a shared platform, the necessity for a privatized blockchain for the U.S. becomes apparent. Of course, that privatization isn’t necessarily exclusive, but rather separate from other blockchains used just for the industry. This would give shippers, carriers, freight brokers, 3PLs and anyone else in the BiTA consortium who needs to be in the know, access to a transaction ledger. BiTA’s goal, as a standards organization, is to develop a common framework to encourage the development of blockchain applications for asset tracking, transaction process and overall logistics management. All of which is geared at turning the trucking industry into something more intelligent and efficient.

…and The Seemingly Never-Ending Capacity Issue

Think about some of the most common issues within the industry. Manufacturers and shippers have a hard time finding available capacity. Putting aside the driver shortage for a moment, it makes no sense that it’s so difficult to find capacity when there’s an average of 29 billion empty or partially loaded miles per year. It also helps to understand that the trucking industry itself is incredibly fragmented in the United States. There are over 1.5 million trucking companies fielding close to 3.5 million drivers. While that might seem like a lot, 90 percent of those companies have access to six trucks or less. That makes it even more difficult for shippers to match up with carriers, both of whom need each other.

Matching a shipper’s demand to a carrier’s supply is just one of the many ailments within the industry that can be alleviated by blockchain technology.

Matching a shipper’s demand to a carrier’s supply is just one of the many ailments within the industry that can be alleviated by blockchain technology. There are many in the industry, both startups and legacy companies alike that believe that blockchain technology can make routing more efficient, cutting down on fuel costs and increasing productivity.

 

Source: Next Autonomous

In reality, blockchain has a near limitless amount of potential, if it can get off the ground that is.

Considering how varied the industry is with so many different players in the game, it can help to unify the trucking industry to help it become more efficient as a whole. Logistics planners can see the “whole picture” rather than just pieces of it at a time. With real-time data, they can make better decisions to make the industry leaner and smoother overall. In reality, blockchain has a near limitless amount of potential, if it can get off the ground that is.

The Blockchain Obstacles  

As with any new technology, there will be some hurdles and obstacles that need to be cleared in order for it to become successful. The first issue is that everyone needs to trust in the technology and believe it to be the sole source of truth for the industry. While most people will believe in the system they are working with, it’s a little more complicated with blockchain. As a crypto-technology, it is incredibly secure and the data is locked. That being said, nothing can be changed, altered, or corrupted. It becomes carved in a digital stone, for lack of a better term. Because the technology is distributed, there isn’t a sole governing authority for the data either. In short, it’s a double-edged sword. Data can’t be lost or tampered with, but it also can’t be altered. This means that there needs to be absolute faith that the data within is a genuine accounting of transactions.

If there is any hope of uniting the industry and reducing the inefficiencies of fragmentation, everyone will have to play the game.

Secondly, blockchain will need total participation from smaller companies, both shippers and carriers. If there is any hope of uniting the industry and reducing the inefficiencies of fragmentation, everyone will have to play the game. Much the same as trust. The problem here is that smaller companies often have a hard time drumming up the necessary capital to invest in new technology. The electronic logging device (ELD) mandate is a perfect example of this. Larger companies had no problem, and many were prepared well before the deadline. Smaller companies, on the other hand, watched the deadline come and go with only 37 percent of 1,600 fleets in compliance with the ruling prior to the deadline. Trying to get that many smaller companies on board with the same, or at least compatible software will definitely be an uphill battle. However, once that’s done, you’ll have an entire industry, shippers, carriers and brokers alike completely connected and collaborating on a frictionless network.

Simply put, there is some tremendous potential for blockchain and it could very well revolutionize the industry.

Lastly, the industry as a whole needs to accept data standardization. Everyone does things a little differently, which might work in the fragmented mess that it is now, but in order for blockchain to not become a convoluted jungle of indecipherable data strings, it all needs to be standardized. This is something that BiTA is trying to spearhead by working on standardization from the outset. If the history of the trucking industry has taught us anything, it’s that incorporating blockchain technology universally across the sector is another obstacle that won’t be so easy to get around. A difference in programs could mean a time-intensive process for integration to simply make the program work with the blockchain, nevermind the data entry in itself. Simply put, there is some tremendous potential for blockchain and it could very well revolutionize the industry. However, it’s going to be a long and bumpy road before we get to the smooth workings and benefit from what blockchain could provide.

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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: 

The Digital Pathway to the Logistics Industry’s Future 

Make no mistake, digitalization is merely the pathway to the future of the industry. For an industry so vital to the entire world, the freight industry has been rather stubborn to change its ways. Sticking by the tried and true, fax machines whir and phones ring off the hook as shippers try to connect to carriers, book freight and make sure their goods get from A to B in good condition. For the last several decades, that has been the industry standard, until recently that is.  

We are witnessing a technological revolution as the freight industry finally moves to the present age. Digital services are changing the game, increasing mobility, visibility and information alike. While this change might be coming in with fits and starts, make no mistake, it is coming, and the world is changing as a result.  

Digitalization is Reshaping the Industry 

We are already beginning to see the emergence of highly automated vehicles in many applications, paving the way for those that will be fully autonomous. Warehouses are beginning to incorporate robotics and automation, reinforcing the efforts of human labor and expediting what is typically the most time-consuming process of the freight industry. Blockchain is producing some prodigious effects in terms of information technology and logistics planning. Even e-Commerce is an industry that is picking up speed and outmoding the standbys of brick and mortar stores.  

All of these changes, advancements, and innovations are being brought about by digitalization. 

It’s the capacity of both the storage and the ability to share data that will be the driving force behind the revolution of the transportation industry. That capacity will mean that there is never an empty or impartial load; the most optimal route will always be chosen, and a number of other variables will be predetermined before the order is even sent.  

Digitalization will be what drives innovations in a number of integral supply chain functions while adding new ones such as platooning, load matching and eco-driving. All of these innovations will focus on increasing efficiency without the need to reduce capacity. This means that even as demand rises, the supply chain will be ready to carry the load.   

The Effects of Digitalization on Legislation 

Of course, digitalization can do more than simply make the supply chain more efficient. There is also an enhanced regulatory effect that can be gained from it. While regulations are typically viewed with a negative connotation, such as the Electronic Logging Device mandate, there are some upsides to it as well.  

Digital documentation can help streamline the process in a number of different areas. Compliance with federal regulations like the Hours of Service ruling can be easily done through the ELD. As the mandate was originally designed to make roads safer by removing fatigued drivers, an ELD can be a quick and easy way to show compliance while providing other useful information to both the carrier and the shipper.  

Reduction of physical paperwork can also expedite customs processes, which are notoriously tedious and can drastically slow down the transportation process. With less back and forth on the phone and easy access via a digital platform, the necessary information can be shared quickly and easily, reducing the time and potentially costly penalties for non-compliance. This is just one of the many potential applications for digitalization of the industry.  

A Digital Infrastructure for an Automated Future 

When considering the potential scope of digitalization in the freight industry, it is necessary to understand that it’s not just a handful of companies or even countries that are participating in the technological revolution. It is the industry, as a whole, worldwide. While these little nuances and conveniences might seem novel now, they will inevitably become the industry standard in the near future.  

Digitalization, however, is only the beginning. It is establishing the framework and infrastructure for which all other innovations are being built on. For any of this to work and succeed, it is going to be a continued collaborative effort as an industry to both embrace and adapt to the new way of doing things. — Digitalization is merely the pathway to the future of the industry.  

Working With a 3PL Like BlueGrace

As the digital infrastructure continues to optimize freight, BlueGrace has been at the forefront, simplifying our customers businesses. BlueGrace makes it easier than ever to reduce the amount of physical paperwork with our FREE proprietary software, BlueShip®. BlueShip is user-friendly,  completely customizable and has real-time updates, giving you a single source tool for tracking, addressing, and product listing. Fill out the form below to request a free demo today:

The End of NAFTA Could Be a Nightmare for Truckers 

Recent actions from the U.S. President, Donald Trump, have truckers more than a little concerned. During his time on the campaign trail Trump has made his opinion on foreign industries, Mexico in particular, very clear. Touting his “America First” slogan, Trump promised the American people that he would focus on bringing jobs back to the United States and would renegotiate trade agreements to put the U.S. in a better position.  

While that sounds all well and good, the actual ramifications of Trump’s trade tinkering could be disastrous.

While that sounds all well and good, the actual ramifications of Trump’s trade tinkering could be disastrous. He’s already threatened higher tariffs on trade with Mexico and now the president has his sights set on another target, solar energy. His most recent legislative move would place a 30 percent tariff on any solar equipment that is manufactured outside the United States.  

According to Bloomberg, the 28 billion dollar solar industry is heavily reliant on these outsourced parts. In fact, 80 percent of its supply chain is centered around the acquisition of them. Bloomberg also says that this doesn’t just affect the renewable energy industry, driving it to the point of being cost prohibitive, but it could also cause 23,000 Americans to lose their jobs. The tariff would not only target solar panels, but a number of consumer electronics and the steel industry. It’s highly likely that these tariffs could create restriction on US-made goods in other countries.

Truckers Fear of NAFTA Ending 

The North American Free Trade Agreement has been a crucial element for the U.S. economy since its implementation back in 1994. The agreement was aimed at reducing or eliminating tariffs and other trade restrictions between partnering countries; Mexico, Canada, and the United States. As partner countries are attempting to work together to renegotiate the deal, the process is being dragged down with “contentious negotiations” and threats of an all-out withdrawal by the United States.  

While many in the industry will agree that the trade agreement is due for some updates and renegotiating, it is Trump’s critical attitude toward these trade agreements that have the freight transportation industry concerned.  

“NAFTA has been a major point of contention since it was first implemented over two decades ago. Critics have argued the trade deal has benefited large corporations or foreign workers at the expense of domestic workers. But to industry groups, the trade deal has been vastly more beneficial than not,” says an article from Transport Topics 

The trade agreement has been very helpful in opening up the markets between the three participating countries and has been a driving force in the success of the trucking industry. With over $6.5 billion in annual revenue for the industry, NAFTA is responsible for creating jobs for over 46,000 people; 31,000 of which are U.S. truck drivers.  

Restricting foreign trade in certain circumstances could hurt both domestic companies and consumers by limiting the flow of goods they might rely on

“President Trump hopes to use trade and other reforms to encourage domestic production – which could result in more jobs. But some domestic production faces barriers that other countries don’t have. Restricting foreign trade in certain circumstances could hurt both domestic companies and consumers by limiting the flow of goods they might rely on,” Transport Topics adds.  

The Fallout from the Death of NAFTA  

So what would happen if the United States were to withdraw completely from the free trade agreement? Most agree that the results would be disastrous.  

The disagreements and heated rhetoric have fueled concern throughout the economy. Many businesses rely on the massive trade deal, which could make them vulnerable depending on how the negotiations end and create uncertainty in the process. Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers Federal Affairs Vice President Jennifer Thomas notes that there are two bad outcomes that could potentially come from these talks. The first of these scenarios is that NAFTA becomes unworkable and useless due to unrealistic expectations. The second, and potentially most frightening, is we simply lose NAFTA altogether because the U.S. has pulled out entirely.  

The trucking industry could stand to suffer the most, as transportation from the U.S. to either Canada or Mexico is predominantly done by trucking.  

It’s more than just the threat of higher tariffs that would hurt American consumers, who would end up taking the brunt of the increased costs. There are a significant amount of jobs at stake, all of which are heavily reliant on NAFTA. The trucking industry could stand to suffer the most, as transportation from the U.S. to either Canada or Mexico is predominantly done by trucking.  

According to a report released last December by The American Action Forum, a center-right nonprofit, pulling out of NAFTA would increase consumer costs by at least $7 billion and businesses would be hit with $15.5 billion in new tariffs.  

As NAFTA negotiations are still ongoing there is hope that the trade agreement will make it through. However, with the Trump administration avidly arguing against it, there’s really no telling what form the trade agreement will take in the end.

How Can A 3PL Help?  

While we can’t control national policy, we can help our customers navigate through it. When retail stores added ‘Must Arrive By’ Dates, we were able to offer solutions. When Walmart went a step further and tightened their delivery rules with OTIF (On Time In Full), we successfully assisted many of our retail customers. With the ELD mandate in full effect, we’re actively helping our customers navigate issues that cause capacity and expensive penalty problems. No matter the situation, we are the experts here to simplify your freight needs. If you have any questions about how a 3PL like BlueGrace can assist, feel free to fill out the form below:

 

ELDs Are Coming Fast! Some Facts & Predictions – Infographic

Countdown to the ELD Mandate – December 16th 2017

It is time to plan for the ELD Mandate as a freight shipper, if you haven’t already. When the electronic logging device mandate takes place, many shippers will be caught off guard with shipments taking longer than expected due to the restrictions put in place on drivers.

We thought it would be beneficial to show some fast facts and predictions about ELDs that we originally published in 2016. What do you think about the new requirements? Are you ready? If you have any questions feel free to contact your BlueGrace Representative today.

Click the image below for a larger version or download the PDF version here and feel free to share.

Identity Theft is On the Rise, and Cargo Theft Might Not Be Far Behind

Identity theft is among the most insidious forms of crime. Not only can it mean a person loses their livelihood, but for an enterprising criminal it could just be a stepping stone for an even bigger target. What sort of targets would criminals be aiming for after stealing an identity? How about truckloads of cargo.

When you consider the amount of information people post digitally, there is a lot of sensitive data out there, just waiting to be taken. This is especially true when you consider the number of cyber attacks that have happened this year alone. The Equifax leak, for example, can be ruinous when you consider what can be done with a little credit information.  In fact, no one really knows just how extensive the security leak really is nor will we know just how many people have been affected by it. However, for freight companies, any form of identity theft could be catastrophic.

Identity theft is on the rise and cargo theft could see a drastic increase as well.

How Identity Theft Could Mean Cargo Theft

When someone takes control of your identity, they can wreak all sorts of havoc.

It seems like a bit of a leap to go from identity theft to cargo theft. After all, when someone steals your identity, that just means they tap your bank accounts and maybe open a credit line, right? Not exactly. When someone takes control of your identity, they can wreak all sorts of havoc. In terms of cargo theft, the scheme, as laid out by The Associated Press,  goes like this:

Thieves assume the identity of a trucking company, often by reactivating a dormant Department of Transportation carrier number from a government website for as little as $300. That lets them pretend to be a long-established firm with a seemingly good safety record. The fraud often includes paperwork such as insurance policies, fake driver’s licenses, and other documents.

Then the con artists offer low bids to freight brokers who handle shipping for numerous companies. When the truckers show up at a company, everything seems legitimate. But once driven away, the goods are never seen again.

And just like that, cargo is picked up and gone for good.

And just like that, cargo is picked up and gone for good. Here are some other interesting facts pointed out by Adrian Gonzales of Talking Logistics.

  • The average value of cargos stolen by fictitious pickup was $203,744 vs. $174,380 per incident for cargo thefts overall during the study period, a 17 percent differential.
  • The commodities most frequently targeted for fictitious pick-ups are foods and beverages, electronics products and metals.
  • Over half of fictitious pickups occur at the end of a week, on Thursdays and Fridays when the main concern of shippers and brokers is in meeting a delivery date and satisfying the customer.
  • Fifty-five percent of all reported fictitious pick-ups from 2011 through 2013 occurred in California. Significant fictitious pick-up activity has also been reported in Florida, Texas and New Jersey.

Cargo Theft Rates are Falling, but the Cost is Rising

While cargo theft rates have been falling from 2016 to 2017, the value of goods being stolen has been steadily increasing.  Cargo thefts fell for the third consecutive year in terms of reported incidents, but the value of the stolen goods rose 13.3% to $114 million, according to 2016 data from CargoNet.

“There were 1,614 incidents in the United States, including cargo theft, heavy commercial vehicle theft, and supply chain fraud. Thieves stole cargo in 836 cases with an average value of the contents at about $207,000, based on the 554 thefts with an assigned value. It represented a 7.7% decline in cases year-over-year and a 10% drop since 2014. The other 282 cases didn’t include a value for the cargo,” says an article from Transport Topics.

“However, the total value of the stolen cargo, $114 million, is greater than the $100.5 million in 2015 and $94 million in 2014,” they added.

What Happens to Cargo Theft Rates when Identity Theft Rises?

For freight companies, this means there’s going to be a need for even more vigilance than before.

As it stands, we’re still unsure as to how extensive the fallout from the increasing rates of identity theft will be. While cargo thefts have been in decline over the past few years, we might see a rise thanks to the number of vulnerable identities. For freight companies, this means there’s going to be a need for even more vigilance than before.

“Law enforcement has done an outstanding job responding to strategic cargo theft. But it’s like playing whack-a-mole. Not only will the groups pop up in different areas, but cargo thieves will bob and weave away from where the attention is from the police and private industry,” said Scott Cornell, second vice president and crime and theft specialist for Travelers’ Transportation business.

there’s no such thing as being “too careful”.

With the wave of cyber attacks, and now the rise of identity theft, there’s no such thing as being “too careful”. Know who you’re working with, and use a reputable broker to make sure your freight makes it to it’s intended destination.

 

 

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.

How Shippers Should Already Be Prepared For The Holiday Season

Do you smell the pumpkin spice in the air? If you close your eyes, do you hear the faint jingling of bells in the distance to be? That’s because the holiday season is approaching. And, it’s approaching fast.  The busiest time for all, logistics companies, retail stores as well as shippers.

This is the season that can make or break shippers.

This is the season that can make or break shippers. If they are properly prepared, they can take advantage of having their items on the shelves faster for consumers to buy and reap the financial benefits. However, if they aren’t prepared, they could find themselves in a world of stress trying to find carriers to move their freight. – So, what can shippers do to prepare?

Plan For Unexpected Events

Remember while planning for the holiday season that it’s an incredibly busy time filled with unforeseen events. More people will be on the roads to visit their friends and family, and with more people on the road, more wrecks occur. More wrecks, more traffic jams, may cause your freight to be delayed.

Also, the holiday season usually packs a cold punch with winter storms creating dangerous conditions for drivers that could even keep them off the road for a few days. Be sure to track the weather before scheduling shipments around winter storms.

Things get hectic around the holiday season, making it more necessary to keep your documents accurate.

Things get hectic around the holiday season, making it more necessary to keep your documents accurate. One common mistake we experience time over time is the misclassification of freight. Minimize these errors by using a density calculator.

Compete With Larger Shippers

WalMart and Amazon are two of the biggest powerhouses in the world during the holiday season and can make it difficult for smaller shippers to offer competitive rates. Often times carriers can be lured away to make deliveries for these larger shippers on a seasonal basis.

We’ve seen this way too often. To be able to compete with larger shippers and keep their products moving, small and medium-size companies will have to offer and pay higher rates for carriers. If this story rings a bell, consider partnering with a 3PL. More often than not, 3PLs can provide better service and competitive rates.

Carriers enjoy working with 3PLs because they consistently engage with them by offering year-round agreements to keep their trucks rolling.

They can do so as they have an extensive network of carriers. Carriers enjoy working with them because 3PLs consistently engage with them by offering year-round agreements to keep their trucks rolling. Plus, the fact that they move such a high volume of freight that gives them a stronger buying power, which results in highly competitive freight rates.

Reflect On The Past

Think back to last year. Did your entire operation run smoothly with only a few minor hiccups or were you pulling your hair out? Make changes to improve your business from the inside out by locating the problems and finding solutions for them.

Did you have enough manpower to handle packaging and loading extra freight? You may need to implement an all hands on deck policy for the holiday months or hire a few seasonal employees. The key here is to hire good employees to keep your operations running smoothly. Also, consider a preseason training program for new and veteran employees to boost efficiency and minimize mistakes.

Did you have enough office staff to handle all of your paperwork in a timely manner? If not, consider getting a few extra secretaries or finding a way to automate processing all of this information digitally to cut costs and save time. Programs like Quickbooks could really help you transform your office.

Also, check out our latest technologies to see how to improve tracking, addressing, and product listing. By automating your services to become more efficient, you will be able to cut down on document processing time, costly accounting mistakes, and build more productive relationships with carriers.

Are You Ready? The Holidays Are Coming

Prepare your business now for the holiday madness!

 

 

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.

 

 

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!

For more information on BlueGrace Logistics visit www.mybluegrace.com, or to request a quote, fill out the form below.

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.

 

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