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We have been hearing about the possibility of a trucking capacity shortage for several years. While there have been sporadic shortages in specific geographic areas, for particular modes, the predicted massive shortage never materialized. This year may be different.

Two major hurricanes caused major damage to homes and infrastructure in Texas, Florida and adjoining areas. Drivers and trucks are required in these areas to transport building materials, appliances, electric grids, and other needed supplies. Some drivers will likely take construction jobs to aid with the rebuilding effort and increase their earnings.

The economies of Canada and the United States are in good shape with historically low unemployment and solid GDP growth. Then there is the Electronic Logging (ELD) Device mandate that will restrict the utilization of some trucks and push some drivers out of the industry. This unique confluence of variables is likely to make an already tight capacity situation even tighter.

What can shippers do to secure the capacity they need to keep their supply chains flowing and serve their customers? Here are two suggestions.

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The Basics

Freight Transportation is typically the single largest cost component of Supply Chain Management. Data from Logistics Management’s Annual Study of Logistics and Transportation Trends highlights that an average transportation spend is in the range of 10 to 11 percent of revenue for companies with less than $250 million in Sales and it is in the range of 2 to 3 percent for companies with revenues in excess of $9 billion. As a result, my colleagues and I are often amazed that freight expenses are undermanaged in so many companies.

Freight Expenses are Controllable, Manageable and Negotiable Costs

Regardless of mode, freight costs are typically comprised of three elements

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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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Much of the work we do at Dan Goodwill & Associates starts with a phone call or e-mail from a President, CFO or Vice President of Logistics or Transportation. One of the first questions that we are asked is can your firm help us reduce our freight costs.

The answer is usually yes. Unfortunately, we are not able to wave a magic wand. Effective freight cost management comes from taking some concrete steps. Here they are.

Centralized Command and Control

Many of our clients have grown through acquisition and/or organically. They have manufacturing and distribution facilities in multiple locations. These sites are often managed individually by local logistics managers who each use a set of preferred carriers. By not consolidating shipments, by moving LTL freight daily and by using a variety of carriers, they sub-optimize on freight cost management.

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The subject of online freight bids and internet freight auctions came up a few times at the Surface Transportation Summit that took place in Toronto on October 13. The carriers that raised this topic spoke of the high volume and poor quality of bids that have been hitting the transportation industry this year. One carrier was so fed up with the internet auctions in which they were participating that they made a decision to opt out of them.

It is clear that where there is a market opportunity, there are a multitude of companies that are seeking to meet the needs of unsuspecting shippers. It was apparent from the carrier comments that there are a number of unqualified or underqualified, unprofessional providers, some with very limited expertise, who are providing an unsatisfactory service to their customers and a disservice to the industry. These are some of the issues that were brought to light.

There are bids on the market where the carrier is being asked to quote on 6000 lanes of traffic, a massive undertaking. In one case, the carrier was provided with shipment data that stated that there are 1600 truckloads of freight that move on a particular lane each year. The carrier that is the incumbent, looked at their data and noticed that they move only 160 LTL shipments on the particular lane each year.

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On September 23rd, Logistics Management hosted a webinar at which time the co-authors of the annual Masters in Logistics study presented their major findings. For 25 years, this study has been gathering data from a large sample of shippers and carriers across various levels of spend and size. The three presenters, Karl B. Manrodt, Ph. D., Professor, Georgia College, Mary Holcomb, Ph. D., Professor, University of Tennessee and Tommy Barnes, President, Project 44, highlighted some major changes taking place in Freight Transportation.

E-Commerce is changing the Freight Spend Allocation across various Modes

In 2015, 21.9 percent of freight costs were spent on over the road truckload shipping while 21.7 percent were spent on LTL shipping. In 2016, these percentages declined to 17.8 percent for truckload and 15.0 percent LTL freight. Surface Parcel (i.e. FedEx Ground, UPS) increased year/year from 6.1 percent to 11.5 percent. Small parcel freight volumes increased by one percent. In another area of the study, the researchers revealed that 10 percent of freight shipments move from a DC direct to consumer while 21 percent now moves direct from a plant direct to consumer. This further reinforces the impact that E-Commerce and omni-channel marketing are having on freight activity.

Organization Structures are adapting to Market Dynamics

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The first blog in this series looked at the money saving opportunities for organizations that take control of Inbound Transportation. This blog will outline a series of steps that need to be taken to make this happen.

A Commitment to Act

In the last blog, it was highlighted that some vendors place a mark-up on their outbound freight costs (viz. your company’s inbound freight expenses) and pass it on to their customers. It is important for every company that receives inbound freight to understand the following.

A trucking company adds a mark-up to their costs in order to come up with their freight rates. A freight broker and/or logistics service provider will take the carrier’s rate and add another mark-up. In other words, by the time you receive shipments from your vendors, they may have from two to four mark-ups added to the basic cost.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_dreamstime_xl_9421932.jpgManaging Inbound Freight is often overlooked or not optimally managed as an opportunity for cost savings in many companies. This is a conclusion we have come to after working with a range of companies and industries over the past 13 years. When we are invited to meet with a manufacturer or distributor of freight, the priority is usually finding cost savings on outbound freight, not inbound freight. This seems to be the result of several factors.

First, many companies are not able to determine how much they are paying for inbound freight. Freight costs are often embedded in the “landed cost” of the products; the actual freight cost component is not identified. Many companies have poor visibility into their inbound freight activity.

Second, some companies don’t care about their inbound freight costs. They take the landed cost of their inbound shipments and add a markup. They are satisfied with this approach.

Third, some companies are concerned about upsetting their vendors by asking them what they pay for freight. These companies may be very dependent on certain vendors for specific products and have a perception that by engaging in a dialogue on freight costs, an area that the vendor has historically managed on their own, this may encourage the vendor to give priority to other customers. In some situations there is the perception that because the vendor is a large company, they are able to negotiate better rates than the manufacturer receiving the goods.

Fourth, companies often have a Transportation or Logistics Manager who is responsible for outbound freight; inbound freight is managed, unmanaged or mismanaged separately by the purchasing/procurement department. Shippers who take charge of Inbound Freight Transportation can achieve savings in a number of areas.

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In my last blog, I provided an overview of Canada’s economy and demographics. In this blog, I will outline the importance of trade to Canada, and the United States, and then touch on some of the key variables that facilitate the trading process.

Canada has been a major trading nation for many years. Well before NAFTA was signed in 1994, Canada and the United States were major trading partners. As pointed out in the last blog, Canada possesses many raw materials that are in high demand throughout the world. With such a small population, Canada is not able to consume many of the raw materials that it produces. As a result, 58% of Canada’s exports consist of pulp and paper products, energy supplies (i.e. oil, coal and gas), minerals, food products, fish, seafood and fertilizers. By contrast, 38% of Canada’s exports are manufactured goods, primarily machinery, automotive parts, aerospace and aviation products, equipment, chemicals, plastics and information technology. Ontario and Quebec contain the largest centers for manufactured goods. Western Canada is a key producer of coal, grain, oil, natural gas and potash.

Canada – U.S. Trade

NAFTA has just entered its 23rd year. It was designed to expedite the trading process between Canada, the United States and Mexico. There are $750 billion in goods and services traded annually between Canada and the U.S. Exports represent 30% of Canada’s GDP. The United States is Canada’s largest trading partner; it receives 73% of Canada’s exports and 63% of its imports. Canada receives 23% of U.S. exports and 17% of its imports. Canada is largest export market for 35 of the 50 US states.

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Freight costs represent between two and five percent of revenue in many manufacturers and distributors. They are typically the single largest supply chain expense. When transportation costs begin to escalate, the Transportation department and the Transportation leader can become the “whipping boys” for senior management.

Over the years, we have observed that the companies that are most successful in managing freight costs tend to have a collaborative work environment. They understand that successful freight cost management is most effective in companies where all of the key operating departments - - - Sales, Purchasing, Production, Warehouse and Inventory Management, Customer Service, Transportation and the Customer work together. In other words, freight management is a team sport.

When we visit a new shipper client, there are four things that we typically look for at the outset. They are a:

• 12 month Freight Budget

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b2ap3_thumbnail_dreamstime_xl_24936632.jpgOnce you gather the necessary data outlined in the previous blog (http://www.dantranscon.com/index.php/blog?view=entry&id=229 ), it is time to take action. Here is a set of steps to follow to save money on accessorial charges.

Set up a cross-functional team

As you will realize when you review your research notes, it will often take a number of parties (sales, production, and warehouse management) plus the customer in many cases and your carriers to address how to reduce accessorial charges. Once you assemble your cross-functional team, have a meeting to share and discuss your findings and create cost saving targets, action plans, persons accountable and timelines.

Create a report to track success on a monthly basis. Share the report with key stakeholders and follow up with any stakeholder who does not fulfill his/her responsibilities.

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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog about the new pricing processes that LTL (and small parcel) carriers are employing to improve the profitability of their operations. I noted that freight carriers are emulating some of the activities that have been undertaken by the airlines such as dynamic pricing (i.e. adjusting rates based on time of day and day of the week) to increase yields on their freight activities.

Similar to the airlines, in recent years, LTL carriers have become more focused and aggressive in seeking payment for additional services (that have distinctive cost elements) that have been offered at no charge or at less than full cost recovery in the past. Many carriers have been focusing on inefficient shipper practices or administratively costly tasks that drive up their costs. They have been turning to their customers to compensate them.

In this blog, I will provide a set of questions that shippers should ask themselves and their customers to understand the current shipping processes that are precipitating accessorial charges and the costs that are being incurred. In the next blog, I will provide some general practices that shippers can employ to mitigate these costs.

Why do Accessorial Charges Exist?

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The essence of successful freight rate negotiations is an honest exchange of information. Carriers count on shippers to supply them with complete and accurate information on shipment weights, dimensions, volumes by lane, seasonal spikes and any special service (i.e. job site deliveries, weekend pickups etc.) requirements. Shippers expect carriers to be able to supply them with the correct types of equipment to pick up their freight at the designated time, to provide adequate amounts of equipment at the right time to move their loads, to meet their designated transit times over 95% of the time and to provide good customer service and quality information as they outlined in their submission and interview.

While this all seems so straight-forward and reasonable, there are a host of challenges that get in the way of committed shipper-carrier relationships. Here are a few to consider.

Changes in Shipment Volumes

Business conditions are constantly changing. There are ebbs and flows in the general economy that can impact on many industries, including both shippers and carriers. There is ongoing competition in the market where shippers win or lose customers every day. Then there are mergers and acquisitions and new product launches (or old product cancellations) that can lead to rationalization of locations for factories or distribution facilities. The net impact of these changes is that the shipment volumes discussed in an RFP may not come to pass or the actual volumes by lane may vary over time.

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The first part of this blog focused on the operational, service and equipment issues that constitute a strong shipper-carrier freight agreement. This blog will address the financial and business issues that need to carefully captured in detail.

6. Rates and Service Charges

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b2ap3_thumbnail_dreamstime_l_19275327.jpgFurther to the last blog, a well written motor carrier agreement can be a powerful tool in promoting partnerships between shippers and freight companies. Listed below are some of the major components of a comprehensive contract.

1. Parties to the Agreement

The document must clearly identify the parties to the agreement, including the use of any third parties or sub-contractors. This is very important since it is critical that all transport companies that perform services for the shipper have the same licenses, insurance and service levels as the primary party to the agreement. In other words, they must be a replica of the primary party or any differences must be so stated. The agreement must also make clear that the parties to the agreement are independent contractors. Neither Shipper nor Carrier shall have the right to enter into contracts or pledge the credit of or incur expenses or liabilities on behalf of the other party.

2. Services

a) Types of services

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Motor carrier agreements or contracts are documents signed between shippers and carriers that set out the parameters and processes under which two or more companies work together to provide freight transportation services. These documents, often prepared by lawyers (with input from freight management professionals), set out a range of service expectations and freight rates that define the relationship between the parties. While freight agreements have come into widespread use, the question is if and when these documents are necessary?

One could argue that if two or more parties are operating in good faith, do they need a legal document to circumscribe the nature of their relationship? If shippers and carriers are supposed to work together as partners in an open and trusting manner, does a formal, written agreement get in the way of a business partnership arrangement? Does it inhibit open and honest communication?

Do motor carrier agreements create a rigid framework that reduces flexibility? Are they detrimental to the sometime unpredictable and fluid nature of freight transportation? Does a formal agreement make it more difficult for a shipper to obtain additional equipment or after hour’s service? Do they place carriers with a limited set of equipment into a straight-jacket? Does the fear of punishment or service failure force a carrier to provide equipment and service to one client (that has a contract) at the expense of another client (that doesn’t have one)?

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In my last blog, I outlined a set of tips to help carriers achieve greater success with Freight Bids. Here are a few more.

Put your best foot forward early in the process

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b2ap3_thumbnail_dreamstime_l_20588089.jpgIn the last blog, I highlighted some of the opportunities that shippers miss out on to save money on freight when they don’t manage their freight spend data effectively. What steps can a shipper take to correct this situation? Here is a partial list.

• Utilize a Transportation Management (TMS) System. TMS systems have changed significantly over the past ten years. Shippers can now buy or lease a TMS system at a reasonable rate. For companies that don’t wish to make this investment, they can reap many of the benefits without making a capital investment by working with a logistics service provider that has a leading edge system.

• Make sure the company’s or LSP’s TMS system is capturing the key data elements on a daily basis that are needed to monitor freight expenditures. This includes complete and accurate commodity descriptions, actual weights and billed weights, capturing the various cost elements of their shipments individually such as the freight rate, fuel surcharge, currency exchange, accessorial charges, carrier name, origin and destination cities, state/province and postal codes/zip codes, ship date and arrival date.

• Sort the data in the following ways to help identify opportunities for improvement:

             By carrier – to reduce the company’s dependency and vulnerability in case of a strike or business failure and to leverage shipping volumes

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A company’s freight costs often represents between two and ten percent of total revenues. For many companies in the manufacturing, distribution and retail sectors, their freight spend has a direct impact on their bottom lines. Nine years ago I wrote a blog with the title above. In that blog, I identified one of the consistent problems we encounter in working with shippers on a day to day basis, namely a lack of complete and accurate information on their freight transportation activities.

Nine years later, this problem persists and it is not limited to just small companies. In fact, many companies with freight expenditures of five to fifty million dollars or more face the same problem.

The challenge now is that freight companies have figured out that if they use their scales and dimensioning devices, they can weigh and measure the freight they move more accurately. If shippers have poor practices that hinder the flow of their assets, they can calculate the cost of these deficiencies. They are now charging more aggressively for these additional costs and for the precise cubic space occupied by the freight. As a result, carriers can and are securing revenue that they may have missed in the past.

What is interesting is that some of these shippers have high quality ERP and accounting systems. However, when you try to extract a year’s worth of freight transportation data, you receive a file that is riddled with errors and omissions.

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The 2015 Surface Transportation Summit (www.surfacetransportationsummit.com) will be held at the Mississauga Convention Centre on October 14. We are delighted to report that the event has a new partner, the Freight Management Association of Canada. Here is an overview of the day.

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