It’s Time to Put New Labels on those Old Transportation Bottles
In the “good old days” of freight transportation, it was easy to stratify the industry into a few simple categories. There were LTL carriers, truckload carriers and freight brokers. In addition, there were some specialized segments that included refrigerated transport and heavy haul carriers.
In many trade publications and transport guides, you can still find lists of the top 100 for hire trucking companies, the top 100 private fleets, the top 100 freight forwarders and the top 100 logistics services providers. As you examine these lists, it is apparent that the labels used in the 80’s and 90’s don’t work very well in the year 2010.
Many LTL carriers have truckload and freight brokerage divisions. Some companies limit themselves to Canadian or U.S. operations while others provide coverage of North America. Some offer international services that are becoming increasingly important as businesses expand the geographical scope of their supply chains and customers.
Certain transportation service providers offer only over the road services while others have multi-modal (intermodal, truck and sometimes ship and air) capabilities. A large block of companies are asset-based (supply their own tractors and trailers) while others (non-asset based) utilize other companies truck and/or rail resources. Some companies provide strictly transportation services while others offer a more complete portfolio of logistics services (e.g. warehousing, inventory management, replenishment, fleet management).
There are specific companies that are or aspire to be truly national or international enterprises while others are happy to remain niche players, specializing in regional LTL markets, local drayage or particular segments of the industry where they are able to provide some differentiation and value.
This suggests that it is time for the leading freight transportation trade magazines to capture and present their profiles of the leading players in a more user friendly, focused and meaningful way. Here are some suggestions.
1. Complete Portfolio Transportation Service Providers
Full service companies offer at least North American transportation services – LTL and Truckload. They can serve all 48 states and provinces/territories of Canada with a credible LTL and truckload service. While their company-owned trucks may not go to every city and town, they can, through their logistics operations and partners, offer truly North American solutions.
They also offer multi modal services, at least truck and rail and possibly other modes. Some have small parcel operations or specialized hauling in addition to their LTL and regular over the road truckload businesses.
2. International Complete Portfolio Transportation Service Providers
The elite Complete Portfolio Service Providers also offer a range of international services. Again, through assets and partnerships they are able to link a North American pick up and delivery network with an array of internal markets. The top industry players are heading in this direction. They can provide truly one stop shopping. The remaining companies fall into several groups.
3. Geographic / Service Specific Specialists
These companies, through their regional terminal network and/or limited geographic range, can provide coverage of specific markets. These players can be segregated as follows:
Southeast USA Coverage
Northeast USA Coverage
Southwest USA Coverage
Northeast USA Coverage
Atlantic Canada Coverage
Western Canada Coverage
South America Coverage
Within each of these markets you find companies that have multiple or limited service portfolios. By utilizing a set of geographic and service categories, shippers seeking to conduct an RFP exercize or select new service providers, could easily locate a set of companies that can match up against their geographic and service requirements.
4. Shipping Lines and Marine Agents
These companies provide assets or can book space on assets to move freight destined for overseas markets. Again, they need to be organized on a geographical basis to allow for easy identification and selection.
5. Niche Players
Transportation Guides should allow shippers to quickly find the key players in various specific segments and niche markets, sorted by geographic coverage: These sectors include:
Local cartage/Local drayage
6. Logistics Service Providers
These companies need to be sorted on the basis of:
• The range of services they are able to offer,
• the industries they service,
• size and
• their technology.
Trade publications that contain similar classifications would save shippers time in having to Google for potential carriers. If these transportation guides can be made available in the suggested format online rather than as static paper documents, they would be much more useful, particularly if shippers can customize their searches with their own key words and parameters. This would allow for more productive and focused carrier procurement exercises.