I’m Different

Starting a benchmarking service is hard. It would be almost impossible without the strong history, and foundation of the Best Practice Groups (BPG). Recently, I was asked what the most common objection to getting involved in benchmarking was. I didn’t have to think twice. The most common objection/phrase I hear (almost daily) is “I’m Different”. Since I’m polite by nature, my typical response is “Interesting, tell me more…”. However, in the back of my head I‘m saying “I’m sure you are” – with heavy sarcasm.

Although this perception is a psychological barrier for some, the contrarian approach (and proper one in my opinion) is to embrace the attributes that make a company different. The Best Practice Groups are Operating Mode specific, but beyond that, if you look at the members within (as an outsider looking in), you’ll immediately see big differences in size, location, and more importantly those unique operating attributes that make them ‘different’.

As a group facilitator, I’m primary concerned with three things: 1) Personality compatibility with other group members, 2) Level of engagement, and 3) Unique perspectives/Contrarian opinions/Problem solving ability. If the combination is right, it not only provides an energetic atmosphere for group meetings, it also provides an endless inventory of new ideas for each member to take back to their respective businesses (and profit from). An outsider would expect that the biggest carriers would have the best ideas, the freshest perspectives and ultimately best long-term performance. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, some of the best performing trucking companies in the Best Practice Groups are under 100 trucks.

It should be noted, differences in operating models do affect the comparative results, but those differences are typically isolated in secondary KPI categories (Average Length of Haul, Loaded %, etc). When it comes down to the primary KPIs (Gross Margin, Gross Margin per load, per driver, per non-driver, Admin % of Gross Margin etc), that is where excuses about differences float away. It also highlights those companies that have out-performed their peers. Those situations start the conversations, and those rabbit holes are what I live for.

I could sit and listen to a member talk about their strategies and tactics all day long, and coincidentally, that is a common trait of BPG members. They are fans of business, and the Best Practice Groups are like a continuous March Madness.

Yes, you’re different, and that’s why benchmarking is for you and your company.

Embrace it.

Get Involved.

Get Better.

Repeat.

Adding by Subtraction: Say What??

Every business leader with a pulse is intrigued by new products, services and strategies which promise a ROI. Regardless of the size and scope of these new equipment offerings, devices or services, it will undoubtedly require resources – both direct investment, plus a diversion of existing human resources to implement, maintain and leverage. In some cases, it may require more people, and added physical infrastructure. The point is, everything comes with a price, both direct and indirect.

To stay on point with the title and purpose of this article, we will focus only on the labor (human) part of the equation. When I first published the article “The 9 Traits of High-Performing Trucking Companies (and their Leaders)”, we received multiple emails and calls about #1, which was “Adding by Subtraction”. In the article, I reinforced a common tactic among the best leaders was to clear the deck of unneeded and redundant tasks, products and services to make way for the new – like how a forest revitalizes itself with fires (but maybe not as dramatic). Understanding that time (human time) must be freed up to make way for the new service is the first step. Likewise, the best leaders know that implementation is only part of the equation, ongoing maintenance/monitoring and continuing education are all factors which need to be considered.

To relate this concept back to trucking, although I don’t have empirical data – just anecdotes, many have relayed their estimation that most trucking companies are only utilizing 10-15% of the capability of their TMS platform. This same utilization factor seems to fit with almost all common software services (e.g. Excel, Powerpoint, G Suite etc). Further, if scientists are right, we have approximately the same utilization factor for our brain, but that’s another story. The whole point of a suitable TMS platform is to allow companies to do more with lessnot the same with more. So instead of just budgeting for the install and implementation of the TMS, you should also budget for the indirect and direct expense of educating your team (to various degrees, relative to their ultimate reliance on the TMS) on all parts/modules, and time to stay up-to-date on new features, integrations etc. At this point, many readers will have stopped, and are asking: “Ok, but after implementation, I don’t have anything left over in the budget to train my team”. My first response is that will change in coming years. The upfront cost of a properly spec’d TMS will drop in the coming years due to the increased popularity of cloud-based or ‘hosted’ solutions – which will drive down much of the upfront hardware and customization expense. Also, the new breed of TMS services will have a rich library of user-driven knowledge (just like Google / Microsoft etc.), and updated company driven knowledge for users to consume. My second response is that the more you invest in the knowledge base of your key personnel, the better. Not only will you benefit from better TMS utilization, you will also empower those people – thereby reducing turnover.

Getting back to adding by subtraction, to free up time (reminder that the whole point is to do more with same or less), your team must stop doing the things that a system or service will do for them. Further, they must simply stop doing things that are redundant or irrelevant. This is one of the most difficult things in business: 1) Deciding which tasks, functions and processes are no longer needed, 2) Getting people to stop doing them (the hardest of them all). Humans don’t like change in general. This is further exacerbated when your company has become stale, and the concept of change and flexibility has been removed from your mission and strategic plan. Businesses can get in a rut, just like humans.

In summary bullet-point form, here is how your company can get out of a rut, and start adding by subtraction:

  • Survey your team – ask them to provide a list of three tasks or functions – daily, weekly or monthly, that are either redundant, or the value is consistently questionable.
  • Meet with your team (using a defined agenda and time limit). In the meeting, list all the identified tasks and functions from the survey.
  • For each, list all departments, and other processes and customers that are dependent on these tasks and functions.
  • Prioritize this list, moving those tasks and functions that can be immediately stopped or reduced.
  • For the remaining tasks and functions, identify whether you can automate, either with an existing or new service.
  • Finally, quantify the number of labor hours you will have saved by eliminating or reducing these tasks and functions. This is the amount of time you can re-purpose for a new service or product – which should, in turn, result in more automation.
  • Rinse and repeat.

You’ve just Added by Subtraction, if you are confused, simply watch this video from my mentor Mr. Michael Scott.

Automating Data Capture for Truckmate Customers

We have built a SQL statement that Truckmate customers can use to capture many of the operational stats that we require from participants.  This statement can be used in conjunction with “the Dawg” for automatic execution each month or directly in the SQL execute utility for those without “the Dawg”.  A video tutorial is available to allow non-technical users to implement this in a matter of minutes.  If you are a TruckMate client please let us know if you would like to use this functionality to help you gather the required data each month.

New Features That Are Now Live On inGauge

New features that are now live on inGauge.

  • Private Group Composite – using the same framework as the Best Practice Group online composite, companies with multiple divisions or profit/loss centers can now build their historical results in both table and visual fashion.  As an added benefit, the TPP 20 Index results are included by default in this too!  A new tutorial for this feature will be launched shortly.  For large enterprises that are encountering difficulty in collecting, standardizing and reporting data, this is the perfect solution at no additional cost!
  • 2 Factor Authentication –  as an added layer of security, you will have the option of enabling 2 factor authenitication for your inGauge profile.  For the enxt twelve months this will be optional.  After that 2-factor authentication will be required for all users.  You will have the ability to receive your security token via SMS or email.
  • New Date Formats for Imports – based on your feedback you will now be able to use seven other date formats for the inport of your data.  This will also apply to those using our secure API to submit your monthly results.  A new tutorial for this is coming soon.

Trucking in the Cloud: Part I

Giving up control is hard for everyone. Being the guinea pig also can cause some digestion. These two ideas have been, in my opinion, the biggest obstacles to the adoption of cloud-based software and services. In reality, these worries were well-founded – in 2002!

Over the past four years, I have been continually bewildered by the slow adoption of cloud-based tools, that may help companies work more effectively, and reduce risk. In an industry with historically low margins, I would have thought that trucking companies would be the first adopters of tools to reduce capital investment and improve efficiency. It is now irrefutable, you need to stop replacing those aging servers, and putting band aids on legacy infrastructure.

In the early 2000’s, in would be common for companies to discuss (with pride) their large server rooms, and physical technology infrastructure. Usually this physical infrastructure was supported by specialized hardware administrators – many that also carried ‘specialized’ salaries. Around that time, Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo leveraged the public’s desire to connect into some of the first set cloud-based eco-systems, and this world showed promise for the eventual migration into the business world. Google, via Gmail laid the foundation for a cloud-based working environment via the combination of Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, Chat (Hangouts) and Drive. This combination is now know simply as G Suite. G Suite provides different levels of service which can be customized to the unique needs of every business. Further, building on it’s open-source platform, there are literally thousands of time-saving ‘plug-ins’ and ‘extensions’ for each of their various tools to improve the efficiency of every business (editor’s note – l am a long-time G Suite customer).

Seeing the future, Microsoft launched the beta version of Office 365 in 2010 after witnessing the growth and success of G Suite (formerly Google Apps for Work). Office 365 has seen rapid adoption from those companies which were born and raised on Word, Outlook and Excel. The combination of both cloud-based and desktop applications is hard to compete with.

The massive adoption of Office 365 and G Suite should be the indicator to all businesses that it simply does not make since to be hardware maintainers anymore. But how do you know what service is right for your business? Instead of trying to put together my own comparison of these packages, this blog post provides an excellent (third-party) review of G Suite vs Office 365.

In my previous career, I faced continued resistance from our IT staff about the adoption of cloud-based tools. Instead of taking this resistance as a set of well-founded facts, I should have done more research to understand that this resistance was the result of two factors: 1) Job security; and 2) Skill Gap. Moving to the cloud is not only a capital-saving exercise, it will also reveal and attract better talent, which will better position your company for the long term. Moving to the cloud will cause turmoil, and some of your IT staff will resist (some may not be there when you complete the process). However, instead of making a trucking company stay up to date on security and technology infrastructure best practices, you can leverage Microsoft, Google, Dropbox, and others and instead deploy the same or new human assets on building applications in those cloud environments to improve your profitability – or save your bacon!

In the next post, we will continue our exploration of other cloud-based tools, including the evolution of the TMS.

 

Keystone Habits: What are yours?

Four years ago, I read a book entitled The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. I have since re-read this powerful book four times, and purchased a couple of the books cited by Duhigg in the book itself. It introduces the reader to the concept of Keystone Habits. Keystone Habits can be defined as foundational habits which have the power to transform nearly every facet of your business (and perhaps your life).

As an example of a corporate Keystone Habit, Duhigg details the tenure of Paul O’Neill at the helm of Alcoa (the world’s third largest producer of Aluminum at the time). When Mr. O’Neil joined Alcoa in 1987, the company had suffered through a long period of stagnation, and appeared to be on the patch to succumb to the increasing pressures of global market place. Obviously, this put O’Neill under immense pressure to deliver results.

However, Mr. O’Neill quickly figured out that in order to stimulate growth, profits, and employee morale, he had to find a way to motivate the entire company aside from typical financial incentives. In his first public analyst meeting, instead of focusing on the regular ratios, projections and competitive discussions, Mr. O’Neill decided to focus on something which can now be described as a ‘Keystone Habit’, and that was Worker Safety. He told the group of analysts that instead of focusing his attention on margins, input hedging (and stock price), he intended to transform the company into one of the safest companies in America. The goal – Zero Injuries.

Obviously, the analysts in attendance were skeptical (and puzzled), as was most of Wall Street. In hindsight, many didn’t realize that this focus, had the effect of uniting everyone from the Boardroom to the Factory Floor. The results? During his tenure from 1987 to 1999, Alcoa’s market value rose from $3 billion to $27 billion, while net income rose from $200 million to $1.84 billion. Better yet, Mr. O’Neill successfully transformed the company into one of the safest industrial organizations in the world!

What can we learn from this? When companies go through the process of developing its Mission, Vision, and Values, typically at least one important stakeholder group is left out of the mix (either directly or indirectly). Customers, Employees and Shareholders should all be ‘captured’ in corporate goals and missions. Further, the majority of corporate mission statements are excruciatingly vague, in essence they become placeholder text (in fact, if you google some of them – they are placeholder text). What if your company decided to scrap that vague mission statement and focus on something that is not only going to drive profits, but also employee purpose and customer satisfaction?

In trucking, here are some examples of mission statements from some leading North American Trucking operations:

  • “You’re Safe With Me”
  • “Safety: An Obligation Without Compromise”
  • “Work Safe = Home Safe”
  • “We own it. Every mile. Every job. Every day.”
  • “Delivering On Our Promises”

These are just a few examples I could find. Does your mission need updating? Are your daily, weekly and monthly habits in need of retooling? The start of a brand new year is a great opportunity for that.

The Nine Traits of High-Performing Trucking Companies (and their Leaders)

Over the past few years, I have had the privilege and honor of being an active observer of over 100 trucking companies throughout North America. This observation has not been done in a vacuum. Via watching, questioning and learning from the members of inGauge, as well as the Best Practice Groups (the foundation of the TCA Profitability Program), this process has been the equivalent of an education that should have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars – however, this is my job. To state that I’m grateful for this opportunity, and the friendships I’ve made along the way is the understatement of the century. From countless conversations (both one-on-one, and group discussions) with CEOs, CFOs, VPs, Operations Managers and Frontline people, I have recognized and distilled some of the common denominators of those companies (and their leaders) who continually out-perform the rest. My gauge of performance is primarily Gross Margin (Revenue minus Variable Expenses). Those that continually outperform on this measure, not surprisingly, have strong bottom-lines. In addition, I look at those companies who may have some temporary issues with their gross margin and overall performance – but all as a result of a change in strategic direction (e.g. changing operating mode, re-engineering their freight network , re-investing for the long term). Here are the nine common traits of High Performing Trucking Companies (and their Leaders). Please note, ‘Leader’ does not equal executive. A leader can be anyone from the driver seat, right up to the c-suite.

  1. Top Performers Add by Subtraction – Everyone wants to use the latest tools, execute on the latest plans, and automate processes to improve long-term performance. However, the top performers understand that the capacity of their human assets has a terminal velocity. To act on new ideas, opportunities and business plans, a company must first eliminate redundant or non-vital tasks and processes to clear the path for reinvention and sustainability. Further, the very act of identifying the things that “we are not going to do anymore” can be as beneficial as taking on a new project or seizing a new opportunity. Add the phrase “Add by Subtraction” to your daily mantra.
  2. Top Performers Invest in both Tangible and Intangible Assets – when I speak to those in the industry, one of the common phrases I hear is “this is a simple industry, we get paid to deliver X from A to B – end of story”. As soon as I hear this statement (or a derivation of it), I immediately turn off my active listening ears. There are very few industries with as many variables as trucking – it is extremely complicated. Where there are many variables, there are many opportunities. The top performing companies know that simply investing in more trucks isn’t going to cause a net gain in gross margin and ROI. More and more, the top performers are looking at intangible assets (e.g. proprietary software, specialized complimentary services, highly skilled labor, and vertical integration) as the logical step to gain an advantage. Further, they also understand that building intellectual property can be very expensive endeavor – but via incremental development and iteration (starting with building a M.V.P. – Minimum Viable Product), they can reduce the potential capital cost and expedite ROI. Want to build a smart capacity network using the latest Blockchain technologies? Why not build your own? Maybe commercialize it? Companies with strong Balance Sheets and both Tangible and Intangible Assets don’t go looking for a buyer – the buyers are lined up in the parking lot (with a big check).
  3. Top Performers Build a Skilled Workforce – a common trait of all the top performing companies in the TCA Profitability Program is that their leaders, and as a by-product, their team members are hungry for knowledge. Learning from a strategic point of view does not have to be formal – reading books, listening to podcasts and participation in Best Practice Groups, and Industry events are all great ways to refine focus and get ahead of the competition. From a tactical point of view, more focus and discipline is required. Some of these companies have very formal systems and processes in place for ensuring that both their drivers and non-drivers continue to develop themselves. This results in a workforce with a purpose. For industry-specific training, there are companies offering customized and semi-customized platforms for knowledge delivery (e.g. Carriers Edge, JJ Keller, Pro-tread). For other skills (in some cases very specialized), there are other avenues available, at a very low cost and high ROI. Instead of looking via traditional routes, checkout one of the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) providers such as Udemy, Cousera, Khan Academy and edX. Want to develop group of Data Analysts? There is a course for that. Want to help your operations team learn finance? There is a course for that as well. Want to become an excel ninja? Start here. In summary, top performers stay curious and keep learning. You want to build a top-performing trucking company – you must first start with the stuff between the ears.
  4. Top Performers Get Out of the Whirlwind – How can you get better if you’re stuck in the daily chaos of the trucking industry. Putting out fires, responding to customers and retaining your drivers are all some of the required, and time-consuming exercises you must do most days. However, the top performers understand that improvement requires contemplation – and contemplation can’t happen with the phone ringing and a thousand unanswered emails staring at you in the face. Getting out of the daily whirlwind can simply mean going for a walk (in solitude). It worked for Tesla, Hemingway, Darwin, Dickens and Ben Franklin – it might work for you! Other alternatives are participation in a Best Practice Group, local networking and investment clubs, and industry sponsored events. Whatever you choose – make a commitment to it.
  5. Top Performers Embrace the Concept of an Idea Meritocracy – Although many top performing trucking companies have formal organizational structures, all of them embrace the concept (formally or informally) of an Idea Meritocracy. You can learn more about Idea Meritocracy here. Good ideas sometime result from exposure to, and experience within a industry, market, or skill set. However, some of the best ideas can come from those with fresh eyes and inexperience. Either providing a contrarian approach or a pivot. Suppressing ideas is easy – reinforce the chain of command and simply outlaw discussion above or throughout the chain (resulting in what is commonly referred to as ‘knowledge silos’). The most negative connotation associated with the word ‘bureaucracy’ is status quo, and the suppression of good ideas. If you don’t provide a way for the frontline (drivers and non-drivers) to suggest new ideas, and a way to actively contemplate and test these ideas – the sustainability of your business, in the long term, is questionable. Get rid of the barriers, add new blood (interns etc), question the status quo, embrace change, get better.
  6. Top Performers Spend 95% of Their Time Listening – After participating in over 20 Best Practice Group meetings over the past couple of years, one common thing I notice is that the top performers always listen (way) more than they speak. However, when they speak, the room goes quiet and the rest of the group starts writing. Having something useful to say takes understanding and contemplation. Most people can’t do that while talking at the same time. The top performers aren’t in love with the sound of their own voice, nor do the ever speak of themselves in the Third-Person (instant credibility erosion).
  7. Top Performers Understand the Value of Time – Although meetings can serve as a great way for ideas to percolate, they can also be massive time sucks. Top performers understand the value of meetings (and the labor expense associated with those meetings), but also establish clear rules for making sure any meeting or activity is efficient and has an internal ROI. During 2017, there were five separate Best Idea Presentations from Best Practice Group members with respect to running effective meetings – each of these companies are in the TPP Top Performers Index – coincidence? I don’t think so.
  8. The Top Performers Understand that Discipline Equals Freedom – ‘Discipline Equals Freedom’ is a phrase that has been popularized by former Navy Seal Commander Jocko Willink over the last year. These three words capture the essence of the top performing companies and their leaders. It is one thing to think (and talk) about action, it is another to execute – every day. Doing so, as a by-product, will present many obstacles (physical, intellectual, and technological), but applying daily discipline will remove those barriers. Conversely, the daily discipline of execution will help identify better ways of ‘doing’, and as result, improving.
  9. Top Performers Want to Get 1% Better Everyday – It’s easy, but also daunting to establish a Wildly Important Goal (WIG). Top performers understand that once the horizon has been established, the best way to move towards accomplishing that goal is daily and consistent improvement everyday. Doing so provides forward momentum, and if your mix of team members is right – an intrinsic reward (see ‘purpose’ above).

In addition to my conversations with inGauge and Best Practice Group members, I have read, watched and listened to very valuable content over the past twelve months. Here are my favorites:

  • Seth Godin (daily blog) – the first thing I read in the morning. He posts everyday, and always has something fresh for readers to contemplate.
  • Principles by Ray Dalio (book) – some consider Dalio as the greatest investor over the past two decades. This book provides a framework for both life and business, distilled as ‘Principles’. The precursor to this book, a free PDF of the same title, introduced me to the term ‘Idea Meritocracy’ four years ago.
  • The Daily Stoic (Daily email newsletter) – each morning, I receive an very valuable email from the Daily Stoic. This daily email serves as a frequent reminder of important things in life.
  • How I Built This (Podcast) – as a frequent traveler, as soon as the wings are up, the headphones are on – and this podcast is one of my favorites. Has chronicled the careers of over 50 entrepreneurs – from Arthur Blank (Home Depot) to Sara Blakely (Spanx).
  • Theodore Roosevelt, A Strenuous Life (Book) – a fascinating read about one of great leaders of the last millennia – from birth, to death and everywhere in between.
  • ReWork (Book) – the founders of Basecamp, provide their opinion on re-imagining your next workplace and work force, including the benefits of remote workers. Although not for everyone and business, your ‘fishing net’ can expand substantially if you don’t have to worry about geography when recruiting. 75% of your workforce is already ‘remote’ why not 90%?
  • The Basics of Blockchain (Udemy Course) – if you’re going to ride the next wave, and one of the most important technological advances since the internet, you need to understand the basics – and build from there. Sign up for this course, sign your entire management team up for this.

 

2017 Year in Review and Gratitude

As 2017 draws to a close, we put the ‘lid’ on a year that was. It is appropriate that we take some time to review our progress, and recognize those that were responsible for this progress.

We started 2017 with five Best Practice Groups and 52 total members. As of today, we have eight groups and 73 members. The growth of the Best Practice Groups are attributable to three key factors: 1) The efforts of existing members, 2) inGauge subscriber growth, and 3) The launch of the TCA Profitability Program (TPP). The most exciting thing is that this isn’t even the tip of the iceberg.

Launched officially in July 2017, TPP is the vision of John Lyboldt (TCA President), and built on the foundation of the Best Practice Groups, which has evolved and crafted over thirteen years by Jack Porter (TPP Managing Director).  The TPP vision for the future not only includes the growth of the Best Practice Group, but also the continual development of TCA inGauge  – TCA’s cloud-based Performance Improvement service. These core features are complemented by quarterly TPP Profitability seminars, and a re-imagined (and re-engineered) Truckload Academy, under the direction of Jim Schoonover, TCA’s Vice-President of Education and Operations. The future is bright for TPP!

Our progress over the past twelve months is due, in large part, to listening. Listening to members, and understanding how to build TPP to provide incremental profitability and ROI via participation. We can unequivocally state that this program has been Built by Members, For Members. Over the past year, I’ve been lucky to get to know these members – leaders of the Best Managed Trucking Companies in the World! We thank-you for your active feedback, and your commitment to the growth of TPP!

2017 provided many opportunities to visit trucking companies and cities/towns which I would not otherwise get to visit. One of the best parts for the Best Practice Group programs are periodic meetings, where groups get to visit the location of a specific member, and dive deep into their operations. These visits have been one of my favorite exercises in my entire working life. In 2017, I was able to visit Pottle’s Transportation in Bangor, Maine via TC07’s June meeting. This visit was a great exposure to the main-street of North American trucking. Not only was I impressed with the expertise and commitment from the Pottle’s team, I blown away by their hospitality. This included an authentic New England Lobster Bake (Barry’s uncle Cecil not only handled the bake, he also caught all the lobsters that same day!). Thanks again to the Team Pottles!

My second site visit was a trip to Duluth, Minnesota for a visit to Halvor Lines, via TC05’s September meeting. When I arrived at midnight, prior to the first day, I didn’t get to see much of the surrounding landscape. However, when I woke early the next morning, I was greeted by a scene that I describe as a “Mini Vancouver”. Duluth is a true hidden gem of a town. Situated on Lake Superior, Duluth was one of my biggest travel surprises in my career. Further, it is also the location of my new favorite hotel (and I’ve stayed in thousands) – The Pier B Resort. More impressive, was our visit with the crew at Halvor Lines. Halvor Lines is one of the larger employers in the Duluth area, and it was very apparent that the staff were very proud to work there. Halvor is consistent winner of the Best Idea Sessions, it is now obvious where all these great ideas come from! Thank-you Halvor Lines and Duluth!

2017 also represented the year I started facilitating my first Best Practice Group (via Jack Porter’s mentorship). This first group, now called TC04, includes a diverse group of companies and personalities. The discussions during our first two meetings felt natural and unfiltered (a very important part of successful groups). I want to thank the leaders from PTL, Big G, Convoy, Buchanan, RC Moore, Danny Herman, Duncan & Son, and AT for your commitment and participation (and patience)!

The transportation team at Katz, Sapper & Miller (KSM), specifically Tim Almack and David Roush, have been big supporters of TPP and TCA. We want to thank the KSM team for their efforts and friendship during 2017.

Henry Ford always stated that to build anything great, you need to surround yourself with people smarter, and more capable than you are. In keeping with this premise, it is important that we recognize those people behind the scenes who make our progress possible, including the entire TCA team – Kristen, Marli, Sean, Catherine, Miia, Tripp, Jamil, Patrick, David, Ron, Bill, Jim and John. Let’s also not forget Eddie Wayland and Mark Hunt, for their helpful advice for members and keeping us compliant with Antitrust and Competition Act requirements. The future is bright for TCA and TPP – all due to your efforts!

Happy New Year!

 

Blockchain: A Cure (in part) for Detention Woes?

Detention continues to be a major issue plaguing the trucking industry. Although some fleets report no problem securing accessorial revenue to offset their detention time, many (especially smaller fleets) have communicated challenges asking for (and collecting) detention revenue. For the smaller fleets, many feel they are at the mercy of the large shippers or 3PL’s. Sure, you can ask, but it’s going to delay the final payment of the freight bill (and that still won’t guarantee the detention revenue is fully collected).

Part of the issue, as I interpret it, is that many companies (on both sides) are operating with an incomplete set of data. The solution to this issue (in part) could be the introduction of Blockchain technologies into the supply chain. Blockchain is the technology which allows Bitcoin to exist, a ‘virtual ledger’ that clearly defines ownership and prevents fraud, while also eliminating the need for a trusted middleman (e.g. Bank, Trust Company, Custodian).
Blockchain is now being used to add transparency and insight into the global supply chain. As a perfect example of how Blockchain works, and the practical application in transportation, here is a short video by IBM:

At it’s core, Blockchain is a distributed ‘ledger’ in which history cannot be modified, but allows for chains of information to be added, included ownership. Parts, or all the information can be shared between many parties, without the need for a third-party intermediary.

Although this technology (as described in the video), will provide significant added value to the supply chain, the one specific item it will eliminate is the conflict between the trucking company and the shipper about detention revenue/time owed. If the contract clearly defines when, and how much detention revenue will be applied (communicated via the described Smart Contract), it eliminates the gray area that is currently driving down the margins of many trucking operators, who deserve this compensation in return for lost productivity.

Going forward, we will be providing focused updates on Blockchain, and its future in trucking, including areas which may potentially increase the potential liability for carriers.

Introducing the TCA Profitability Program

Truckload Carriers Association (Alexandria, VA)

On July 1, 2017, the Truckload Carriers Association will launch its “TCA Profitability Program (TPP),” a three-tiered system powered by the inGaugeTM online platform. It’s designed to provide truckload carriers with functional composites to increase their profitability and lower their risk profiles.

“The TPP is going to be the catalyst for truckload carriers who seek to be the very best,” said TCA President John Lyboldt. “The trucking industry is constantly changing, so the more certainty that carriers can maintain during times of major change, the easier it is for them not only to get through these times unscathed, but to remain highly profitable.”

The TPP’s three-tiered system allows carriers the flexibility to choose exactly how much time and resources they want to dedicate to the program, with plans ranging from simple snapshot composites to full online access and bi-annual meetings.

The program’s first tier, Digital Composite Lite, requires little from the carrier. By inputting only a small subset of information into the inGaugeTMplatform, carriers receive a limited snapshot of critical data points from other carriers in their segment of the industry to which they can compare themselves.

TPP’s second tier, FastStart, provides full access to the inGaugeTM platform. Carriers input their full revenue, expense, and operational lines, and the platform standardizes them and creates an action plan. Whereas the first tier provides only a snapshot of data, this second tier includes a full digital composite for the carrier’s segment of the industry.

The final tier is exclusively for those carriers who are committed to being top performers in the trucking industry. Best Practice Groups are the foundation on which the TPP was formed, with six groups and 60 carriers already active. This tier includes all of the features of inGaugeTM that the FastStart users can access, but with the additional benefit of peer-to-peer, bi-annual group meetings. These sessions provide opportunities for carriers to share ideas that make their businesses successful, thus learning from each other in a deeper way than simply comparing numbers from the office.

“We take back two or three things we’ve learned at each meeting, and just progressively have gotten better,” said Chairman of Hirschbach Motor Lines, Inc., Tom Grojean, Jr. “Trucking’s a penny business—there are no silver bullets—so in our mind, [we] just raise the needle a little bit here and there as we go along.”

If you would like more information on the TCA Profitability Program, including pricing and how to get involved, please contact Jack Porter by email at [email protected], or Chris Henry at [email protected] . Both can be reached, by phone, via 1-888-504-6428.