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The freight brokerage industry has been near and dear to my heart for many years. Earlier in my career, I had the privilege of running one of Canada’s largest 3PL operations. My current company has had the distinct pleasure of consulting with some of North America’s finest freight brokers. Periodically I like to look at the changes that are taking place in this industry. In previous years, I have published blogs (http://www.dantranscon.com/index.php/blog/entry/technology-comes-to-the-freight-brokerage-industry-in-2016 ) on the impact on technology in the freight brokerage industry. Times have changed.

Technology is no longer a driving force in this industry. It is THE DRIVING FORCE. This year we are witnessing the application of technology to every facet of the business. This industry has been discovered by venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, truckers, software, and hardware providers. Software innovations are entering the industry at a very rapid pace. This blog will feature a range of companies that are at the forefront of transforming the industry.

Find an App

Posting a shipment has never been easier. Friendshippr.com (http://friendshippr.com/) turns your Facebook friends into a shipping network. The Friendshippr app, available on Google Play, or from Apple store, is a simple tool to move goods between your Facebook friends.

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This is the fourth in a series of blogs on Technology in Transportation. The three previous articles appeared in 2013 (http://www.dantranscon.com/index.php/blog/entry/quotemytruckloadcom-and-freightopolis-enter-the-automated-freight-brokeragefreight-portal-space, http://www.dantranscon.com/index.php/blog/entry/innovation-and-technology-come-to-the-freight-brokerage-industry, http://www.dantranscon.com/index.php/blog/entry/freightsnap--an-exciting-new-visual-tool-to-verify-the-density-of-ltl-freight) and featured 5 interesting companies, FreightSnap, Freightopolis, QuoteMyTruckload, BuyTruckload and Post.Bid.Ship. In this piece, I will examine two other innovative freight transportation companies, Zipments (https://www.zipments.com/) and DashHaul (https://www.dashhaul.com/) that are using technology to transform their segments of the freight industry.

Walmart, Amazon, and Google, among others, are piloting same-day delivery projects in select locations around the country that have enough density and demand to drive the value proposition. However, obstacles persist, and success is contingent on critical mass. Expedited transportation is costly, and last-mile capacity is likely to become even more constrained as e-commerce grows. Moving small volumes over short distances at high speed is a significant challenge.

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Zipments aggregates courier capacity—whether it's a truck, van, or bicycle messenger—in effect, creating capacity that didn't exist before, especially in urban areas. This New York City-based technology company has evolved into a “virtual freight broker for local and regional courier services”. The company serves four types of customers: retail, professional services, consumers, and restaurants. Many startups in the same-day delivery space are searching for capacity to provide consumers with the fastest delivery possible. That's not the case for Zipments that is focused on tapping into latent capacity. So whether it's auto part milk runs, florist delivery vans, or bicycle messengers, there's a huge nationwide fleet of available but untapped capacity. Zipments tries to work with fleet managers to help them better utilize their assets and serve other sectors.

The business is segmented both in terms of the markets it serves and the modes of transportation. Metro delivery is anything less than 10 miles, local deliveries extend out to 20 miles, suburban deliveries reach 30 to 50 miles and regional deliveries would represent going from New York City to Philadelphia or Montreal to Toronto. Zipments doesn’t do many regional deliveries yet, but as their network grows, they expect that segment to expand. There is capacity for regional deliveries; people are passing through these corridors every day.

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Two developments over the past five years have reshaped the Canadian Freight Industry. The Great Recession in the late 2000s caused many Canadian trucking companies to shrink in size or leave the freight industry. During the past couple of years, there has been considerable consolidation in the small parcel, domestic LTL over the road and Intermodal segments of the Canadian freight industry. Shippers looking for a national courier or LTL carrier now see many familiar brands in the hands of a small group of companies.

Shippers worrying about whether there will full and fair competition in the Canadian freight industry in the years ahead can take solace from what is happening south of the border. Our American friends experienced the same economic downturn in 2007. Some experts believe that as much as fifteen percent of the freight capacity in the United States left the market during the Great Recession.

The good news is that as this capacity left the market, several emerging trends suggest that new strategies and business models are providing increased competition in the LTL sector.

Build a Carrier Partnership Network

Some significant carrier partnerships and alliances have been formed to provide more competition on the national and regional level. In an effort to compete with the national LTL players (e.g. YRCW, FedEx Freight, Old Dominion etc.), The Reliance Network was formed. It brings together:

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One of the distinguishing features of 2013 was the number and range of crises that took place in many parts of the world.  We witnessed the terrible collapse of a building in India that was filled with garment workers, the typhoon in the Philippines, car bombings in the Middle East, the flood in Calgary, tornadoes in the United States and Mexico, the rail car disaster in Lac Megantic, Quebec and many others too numerous to mention.  Even here in Toronto we had a flood in July and the ice storm just before Christmas, both of which took direct aim at our home.

The two Toronto natural disasters provided me with ample opportunity to observe, first hand, the crisis management responses of some of Canada’s largest companies.  In fairness to these companies, there were hundreds of thousands of homes that were affected by these storms.  It takes time to restore essential services to that many homes and offices within a reasonable time frame.  Heat and power were restored within 3 days after the onset of the ice storm; telephone, cable TV and internet service took more than a week.

One of the most important elements of any company’s disaster recovery plan is the way it communicates with its customers.  While recorded announcements are helpful, it is important to be able to access a live person.  With one of our major service providers, this never happened.  Their phone rang but it was never answered.  When I passed one of their service personnel in the street, he supplied with a Twitter hashtag where I could keep abreast of developments.  My question to him was, what do you do when you have no electricity, no telephone service and no internet service? 

Another large provider did answer their phones but their people were trained to not provide direct answers.  They simply stated that they would be repairing our service the next day.  For three consecutive days they provided the same answer but did not follow through.  This was very annoying.  A third large supplier did answer their telephones and did come by at their designated time.  However their exterior technicians would not fix an internal problem and passed it off to an internal technician.  This resulted in an even longer delay.

When I think back to the ice storm in Montreal about a decade ago, I recall that our freight brokerage business was able to support our Montreal based clients by using our Toronto customer service department as a back-up.  In a crisis, whether natural or man-made, there are a range of problems that a freight company or shipper can face.  In addition to essential services, trucks and rail cars can be destroyed, cargo and buildings can be damaged and people can be injured or killed. 

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As the year 2013 winds down, it is time to reflect on the major transportation trends of the past year.  While I saw and read about a wide range of developments, these are the ones that resonated most with me.

1.Technology Comes to Freight Transportation

Last year I predicted that we would see a flurry of new technologies come to freight transportation.  They did and I wrote about some of these new companies on several occasions during the year.  Technology was successfully applied to the freight brokerage business, freight portals, LTL density calculations and to other segments of the industry.  Buytruckload.com, PostBidShip, Freightopolis, QuoteMyTruckload,  and Freightsnap were featured in various blogs during the year.  They are changing the way business is done in freight transportation.  Watch for more of these companies to surface in 2014.

2013 has been called the Year of the Network by numerous supply chain and transportation industry thought leaders.  Companies that built a successful supply chain trading partner network focused on three elements:

Connectivity— unite disparate systems and trading partners

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At the end of each year, I like to take stock of the major freight transportation stories of the past twelve months and look ahead to the trends that will drive the industry in the coming year.  The two blogs that I write are prepared from my perspective as a consultant to shippers and carriers.

This year I would like to hear from you.  Those of you who follow this blog observe trends in your segment of the industry.  Please take a minute to share them with me.  Please post them on this blog or send a private e mail to dan@dantranscon.com

Please feel free to select any major trend or trends that are having or will have a major impact on our industry, whether regulatory, economic, technological, demographic, consumer behavior, environmental, modal shifts or business strategy.

To broaden the range of inputs and perspectives, I will also post this request on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.  In the coming weeks I will be preparing my two lists.  The lists will include a blend of my observations and yours.  Look for these two blogs in mid-December.  Thank you to those of you who take the time to share your observations with me.

 

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Transportation Trends in 2013

Posted by on in 2013 Economic Forecast

The New Year will be an exciting one that will likely be shaped by the financial talks currently taking place in Washington.  Here are some of the key trends to watch for in the coming year.

1. The “Fiscal Cliff” Crisis may determine the level of the Economic Recovery in 2013

As the year comes to a close, America is facing a number of economic headwinds (e.g. high unemployment and underemployment, mismatch between job skills required/positions available) and tailwinds (e.g. possible rebound in the housing sector, potential revival of domestic manufacturing, boom in energy production, improving household balance sheets). Senior government leaders in Washington are trying to solve America’s so-called “fiscal cliff” that is casting a dark shadow over the economy. The resolution of this crisis may go down to the wire and will likely set the tone for the economic recovery, or lack thereof, in 2013.  Should America’s leadership come to a good understanding on tax increases and spending cuts, this will place the United States and probably Canada on a more solid path to an economic recovery, even if 2013 is not expected to be a year of robust growth. This will help shippers and carriers in all sectors of the economy.  A failure to reach an agreement, a weak agreement or an agreement to push the problem down the road, will put a damper on discretionary spending, consumer confidence and possibly shove North America and much of the world into recession.

2. America’s Energy Renaissance/ Fracking comes to the USA

America is going through an energy renaissance.  Induced hydraulic fracturing or hydrofracking, commonly known as fracking, is a technique used to release petroleum, natural gas (including shale gas, tight gas, and coal seam gas), or other substances for extraction.  Fracking is allowing America to produce increasing supplies of energy just as the Middle East, the world’s leading source for petroleum, has become increasingly volatile. 

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