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FMCSA Helping to Ease Regulations on Truckers During COVID-19

Posted by Land Link on Mar 24, 2020 3:39:30 PM

The FMCSA is showing a united front with the White House’s emergency declaration regarding Coronavirus. The declaration will cease enforcement of some HOS rules and ease enforcement on others for truckers. FMCSA officials said that this marks the first time the organization has issued nationwide HOS relief. There are many first-time events happening during COVID-19 and these efforts are clearly necessary to keep food and critical supplies moving.

“Because of the decisive leadership of President Trump and Secretary Chao, this declaration will help America’s commercial drivers get these critical goods to impacted areas faster and more efficiently,” said FMCSA Acting Administrator Jim Mullen in a statement. “FMCSA is continuing to closely monitor the coronavirus outbreak and stands ready to use its authority to protect the health and safety of the American people.”

FMCSA officials said that this declaration provides for regulatory relief for commercial motor vehicle operations providing direct assistance supporting emergency relief efforts intended to meet immediate needs for:

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Topics: Logistics Business, Shipping News, Logistics News

Develop a Strategy to Combat Dimensional Pricing

Posted by Land Link on Mar 11, 2020 10:00:00 AM

The debate over whether density-based pricing will succeed in toppling the traditional National Motor Freight Classification’s (NMFC) based pricing in the LTL industry is an ongoing debate. Carriers are pushing for dimensional pricing to combat the profitability of lightweight shipments. This is the basis of the argument. Under the NMFC classification density was taken into consideration as was packaging and commodity but it was largely based upon weight. Back in the day, carriers in a battle over business after deregulation, were offering FAK (Freight All Kinds ) tariffs to get the business. This strategy ultimately led to unprofitable operation ratios, subpar delivery performance and ultimately the bankruptcy of some major carriers. Jevic Transportation of Delanco, NJ is the first one that comes to my mind. Interestingly New Century transport, which was founded by Jevic‘s founder, adopted a similar strategy ending in the exact same fate. Considering this history and the recent high-profile bankruptcies of other major national freight carriers in recent years, one would have to conclude the days of beating up the carrier on rates is over. Unlike in the past, the LTL industry today has a massive volume of smaller shipments. There is also the challenge of completing same-day deliveries or time definite deliveries. Likewise, these shipments are not always of consistent size and density, making it difficult for LTL shippers to sustain profitability.

Today, if you want dependable service, you’re going to have to pay for it. Let’s see if we can help you avoid some of the pitfalls to come.

Dimensional Pricing

There is no secret to dimensional pricing. It’s really a simple equation; L x W x H / 139. It could be argued that the ecommerce boom started all this controversy overweight vs size. Ecommerce shippers have millions of items in inventory and a finite amount of box sizes. I’ve been personally amazed at the box size of some items I’ve received. It didn’t take long for the parcel carriers to figure that their trucks were dimming out before weighing out. This may have been the catalyst for dimensional pricing. It wasn’t long before the LTL carriers arrived at the same conclusion. They were charging by pound through diluted tariffs, not by the room the pallet actually occupied.

FedEx Freight, XPO Logistics, and other LTL carriers have been installing equipment that can scan a palletized shipment and, combined with scales, provide the cubic dimensions and weight needed to check the shipment classification. The consensus among LTL industry executives is that the current classification system is on its way out. The reality is that LTL carriers sell space in a trailer. Using the dimensions of a pallet identifies precisely how much space that shipment will require, thereby providing accurate real estate pricing.

Shippers Prepare

Many shippers believe dimensional pricing amounts to a rate increase, and the number of shipments, they say, are re-billed once they go through a dimensioner, supporting their contention. It can also be argued the shippers are finally being charged an accurate rate. Shippers who are not prepared to invest in equipment to measure their shipments’ dimensional weight will have to adopt strict packaging protocols to package their freight in a uniform method as to avoid a dimensional pricing situation.

The ability to double stack pallets is a prime example. Under dimensional pricing a pallet that cannot be double stacked will be billed at 2 pallet spaces since the pallet will essentially occupy the air above it. To date, much of the use of dimensional pricing has been limited to W & I procedures at truck terminals. However, by capturing more and more dimensional shipment data, LTL carriers are laying the data foundation needed for the expanded use of dimensional pricing.

Our supply chain managers at Land Link Traffic Services can help with packaging strategies, supply chain management techniques to maximize lane and weight balancing strategies and overall shipment planning protocols to maximize your freight spend in this more expensive environment. Finally, the Coronavirus will certainly cause some challenging strain on the supply chain. Don’t wander through this uncharted territory alone. Contact us today for a supply chain consultation.  

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Topics: Transportation News, Logistics Business, Shipping News, Logistics News, Industry Trends, Technology

Leveraging Your Transportation Provider Relationship To Gain Market Share

Posted by Land Link on Feb 26, 2020 9:00:41 AM


It’s no secret, in any business relationship, that the easier the relationship between customer and provider the more smoothly things run. In a shipper/provider relationship this is particularly important. The intricacies of logistics can be very challenging given the nature of all the moving parts; desirability of lanes, pickup and delivery restrictions, equipment availability and all the issues that can happen on the way to a 1000 mile delivery.  We have discussed the importance of becoming a preferred shipper in previous blogs. The impact of carrier relations on your supply chain is more important now than ever. Several factors are putting pressure on carrier/shipper relationships and performance. Fluctuating fuel costs, capacity issues, driver shortages, and carriers that abruptly go out of business can all take a toll on a shipper’s ability to get the right products to the right customer within the right time frame. Take the time to make some manageable changes to your supply chain protocols to improve operations, moral and overall supply chain efficiency.

Some Easy Fixes

There needs to be a culture shift in vendor relations, particularly when it comes to carriers. Historically, truckers have been treated as second-class citizens when it comes to, for example, driver accommodation and respect for one’s time. A reasonably comfortable waiting area for the driver is an inexpensive and easily implemented enhancement to the driver experience. Minimizing loading time is also an easy, low cost, improvement to loading and unloading dock protocol. 

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Topics: Supply Chain Management, Logistics Business, Shipping News, Logistics News, Industry Trends

Trucking Regulation Tweaks for 2020

Posted by Land Link on Feb 18, 2020 11:03:27 AM


The federal government has proposed long-awaited changes to the hours-of-service rules that would increase truck drivers’ flexibility while on duty.
FMCSA’s newly proposed HOS rule offers five main revisions to the existing HOS rules, which are based on extensive public comments shared with the agency since last year. The adjustments would happen in five areas:

1. Flexibility for the 30-minute break rule by tying the break requirement to eight hours of driving time without interruption for at least 30 minutes; and allowing the break to be satisfied by a driver using on-duty, not-driving status, rather than off-duty.

2. Modifying the sleeper-berth exception to allow drivers to split their required 10 hours off duty into two periods: one period of at least seven consecutive hours in the sleeper berth and the other period of at least two consecutive hours either off duty or in the sleeper berth. Neither period would count against the driver’s 14‑hour driving window.

3. Allowing one off-duty break of at least 30 minutes but not more than three hours that would pause a truck driver’s 14-hour driving window, provided the driver takes 10 consecutive hours off-duty at the end of the work shift.

4. Modifying the adverse driving conditions exception by extending by two hours the maximum window during which driving is permitted.

5. Changing to the short-haul exception available to certain commercial drivers by lengthening the drivers’ maximum on‑duty period from 12 to 14 hours and extending the distance limit within which the driver may operate from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.

The proposed rule would not increase driving time and would continue to prevent commercial operators from driving for more than eight consecutive hours without at least a 30-minute change in duty status.

Safety Remains The Driving Force For Both Sides

Most in the logistics industry consider trucking deregulated. While this perspective is accurate in a financial sense, the truth is trucking is among the most regulated industries in the country. It is important to understand government regulations add significantly to the cost of operations which, of course, is reflected in the rates. Most carrier executives question the depth and breadth of the regulations and how the federal regulators iron out their final rulemaking is critical to fleets’ efficiency and legal use of time. For example, a truck driver has 660 minutes (11 hours) of legal driving time during his or her 14-hour “on duty” time. How those minutes are divvied up not only matters to safety, but it’s a huge factor in both the driver’s compensation and the carrier’s financial wellbeing.  Among the challenges of drafting regulations for the trucking industry is the myriad of equipment types and services offered. Dry van, refrigerated, bulk carriers and other specialty carriers have present different safety concerns. Add to that mix carriers who transport more dangerous commodities such as hazardous materials like chemicals and munitions, fuel and over-dimensional loads and you end up with multiple regulations to cover all possibilities.

Manufacturers Look To Technology for Help

Technology is constantly evolving, particularly for motor vehicles. Self-automated technologies such as automatic braking systems have already appeared in passenger vehicles and are rapidly becoming available for large semi-trucks as well. Safety systems recommended by AAA researchers include:
  • Air disc brakes, which significantly reduce the distance a large truck needs to stop.
  • Automatic emergency braking systems, which engage the brakes if the system detects the truck is about to collide with another vehicle or object.
  • Lane departure warning systems, which detect when a truck drifts from its intended lane and may hit vehicles in neighboring lanes.
  • Onboard video monitoring systems, which monitor the road in front of a truck or the driver’s actions inside the cab to detect when unsafe practices occur.

Some of these systems not only help reduce the risks of truck accidents but may also aid injured victims recover legally afterward. For example, onboard systems can record if the lane departure warnings triggered before the accident, or whether the automatic braking engaged. This can provide evidence that a truck driver was distracted, fatigued, or otherwise impaired behind the wheel. Onboard video monitoring systems are pretty much common these days. They provide a solid picture of what transpired in any incident. They are a welcome e addition to most fleets since they reduce litigation costs and help drivers become more safety conscious. 

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Topics: Transportation News, Logistics Business, Shipping News, Logistics News, Industry Trends, Technology

Retailers Are Feeling The Pain In The Profit Line For Free Return Policy

Posted by Land Link on Jan 15, 2020 10:00:00 AM

Retailers are offering the most aggressive return policies in history but at what cost. Returns can be a disease,  aggressively attacking profit margins, gutting conversion rates, and ultimately threatening your business. In the U.S. alone, Statista estimates return deliveries will cost $550 billion by 2020, 75.2% more than four years prior. Worse, that number doesn’t include restocking expenses nor inventory losses. Nailing down exact numbers on return rates is notoriously difficult, but compiled data from separate sources paints a bleak portrait, especially for online retailers. The fierce competition among online retailers has forced the price margins so low that they cannot support the cost of these return policies.

In response, businesses are adding workers, increasing warehouse space, and establishing separate departments to handle reverse logistics. Returns are the new normal and central to customer experience but they don’t have to be a plague. In fact, how you deal with returns, before and after purchase, can differentiate your brand, create a competitive advantage and even make you more profitable.

Such generous return policies are an invitation for abuse. People are waiting months to return items rendering them useless to the retailer if the item is seasonal. Also, you have people using a particular product and carefully repackaging the item. The ends result is the same; the item is either not available to resell or it is not in sellable condition. Either way your looking at liquidation value for those items.

Some in the industry that created the monster are trying to put it back in its cage. They’re taking baby steps; not providing pre-paid mailing labels, requiring a receipt unless an unwanted item is carried to a store but also threatening to cut off serial returners, the most troublesome of the offenders.

These offenders are indeed a cause for concern among online retailers. Last year, $369 billion in merchandise, or 10% of total retail sales, was returned in the U.S., according to a study by research firm Appriss, up from $260 billion in previous years. The holiday season, of course, is the one to dread in the returns departments. United Parcel Service Inc. expected to handle more than 1 million such packages every day, reaching a peak of 1.9 million on Jan. 2, which would be a 26% increase from the 2019 high point.

How Retailers Are Dealing with Serial Returners

Habitual returners fall into two distinct types:

The Wardrober

People who buy items to wear once and have no intention of keeping them afterward. The Wardrober may not be able to afford the item or are taking advantage of overly lenient policies.

The Fitting Roomer

People who replicate the brick-and-mortar experience at home by purchasing different sizes and colors of the same item, pick their favorite, and return the rest.

In late 2018, The Wall Street Journal reported Amazon had begun banning shoppers — i.e., closing their accounts — who “made too many returns.” While extreme, such actions are often necessitated by the first type of habitual returner. Last year, Amazon also unveiled Prime Wardrobe which is free to members but limited to 3-8 items per order with a seven-day window to return before getting charged.

Retailers are now tracking serial returners and threatening harsh action. The bigger problem is the big retailers have made returns far too easy for shoppers. Trying now to pull back on that ease of shopping experience may backfire. It will be interesting to see the changes for the next holiday season.

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Topics: Logistics Business, Logistics News, Industry Trends

Supply Chain Management Outsourcing Expected To Be An Ongoing Trend

Posted by Land Link on Jan 8, 2020 10:27:38 AM


Eighty-five percent of supply chain managers expect their outsourcing budget to increase by more than 5% in 2020, according to Gartner, Inc. A sizeable portion of that will be aimed at choosing multiple third-party-logistics (3PL) partners.

The question no longer is whether to outsource; it's what to outsource and how much. Evaluating different outsourcing strategies has become a priority for global managers. To be effective, the supply chain outsourcing strategy needs to be aligned with the overall logistics priorities. Supply chain leaders are realizing that updating their technology systems, increasing speed to customer and improving visibility are their most important goals for next year. We are in the thick of the digital era and new routes to market and technology-enabled products and services are rapidly disrupting industries and business models. To respond to these accelerated and evocative changes, logistics leaders need not only understand the foundational elements of good overall strategy, but also rethink how their logistics outsourcing strategy is assessed and developed.

If your organization is considering a 3PL relationship here are several potential benefits to consider:

Improve global capabilities. 3PLs have on-ground knowledge of local markets, regulations and government agencies, and understanding of capacity constraints.

Reduce costs. 3PLs can help reduce excess carrying costs, return goods cost and lost sales. They can also help manufacturers move more material with fewer assets while still meeting customer requirements. In some cases, manufacturers can realize savings when consolidating warehouses and/or using shared facilities operated by 3PLs.

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Topics: Third Party Logistics, Transportation News, Logistics Business, Shipping News, Logistics News, Industry Trends

This Is a Good Time for a Year-End Freight Bill Review

Posted by Land Link on Dec 19, 2019 9:12:46 AM


As another year draws to a close it may be useful to review some of your supply chain protocols. A good place to start is a year end freight bill review. Things are a little quieter this time of year and there is plenty of recent data to review. Typically, this is a no cost exercise provided by your 3PL so there is every reason to have the review done. If for no other reason than knowing your fright payment protocols are working.

What is a Freight Invoice Audit?

As a concept, freight invoice auditing is simple to understand. The idea is to make sure you only pay the shipping charges you should, and nothing more. In most cases, software does the hard work. However, some auditing must be done by hand. All this happens once the invoice is received. The carrier only gets paid after it’s determined that the invoice is accurate.

Billing Errors Happen More Than You Think

Shipping charges can make up to 10 percent of a company’s total expenses. It’s not unusual for companies to spend millions or tens of millions of dollars annually to ship their products with trucking companies or parcel carriers like UPS and FedEx. But it’s common for major shipping carriers to overcharge by missing discounts or mis-classification of freight. Pricing in the shipping industry is complex, and in many cases, carriers make mistakes or do not meet service requirements. Billing in today’s logistics environment contains a myriad of charges and discounts, base rates, fuel surcharges and hundreds of accessorial charges. There’s a lot of opportunity for mistakes, and you need to protect yourself. That’s where freight invoice auditing comes in.

At Freight Payment, Inc., a subsidiary of Land Link, freight bill auditing is a big part of our business.  Most successful companies know the value associated with utilizing the services of a fully integrated freight bill audit and payment service. More than 80% of well managed companies, with operations in the US currently use and leverage the power of audit and pay solutions. Our solution takes the benefits of standard freight bill audit and payment to an entirely different level.

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Topics: Logistics Business, Freight Bill Audit, Shipping News, Logistics News, Technology

Major Trucking Company's Bankruptcy May Be the Tip of the Iceberg

Posted by Land Link on Dec 11, 2019 11:37:00 AM


Celadon Transport, a division of the Celadon group filed for bankruptcy protection this week just days after two former officials were charged in an accounting fraud scheme. The Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing by the Indianapolis based Celadon Group left more than 3,000 drivers jobless and, in many cases, stranded drivers across the U.S. after their company gas cards were cancelled.  Another 500 administrative jobs are expected to be eliminated through the bankruptcy.

Celadon's former president and chief operating officer, William Meek, 39, and its former chief financial officer, Bobby Lee Peavler, 40, were indicted on conspiracy and other charges. They knew the value of a substantial portion of Celadon's trucks had declined and that many trucks had serious mechanical issues that made them unattractive to drivers, according to the indictment.

Earlier this year, Celadon agreed to pay $42.2 million to settle securities fraud allegations stemming from falsely reporting profits and assets. The company's stock was trading at less than 3 cents a share on Monday, down from a 52-week high of $2.83 last April 11. Celadon said it was the largest provider of international truckload services in North America, and its bankruptcy filing means 3,300 trucks and 10,000 trailers will stop rolling.

Among the big companies that failed in 2019 are New England Motor Freight, which employed more than 1,400 drivers. HVH Transportation, Falcon Transport and LME have all shuttered operations this year, too. Part of the problem, according to Donald Broughton, principal and managing partner of data firm Broughton Capital, is that spot pricing has dropped, which is hurtful to smaller companies that operate in the spot market instead of the contract market. Spot prices refer to shipping prices as they currently exist.

Trade tariffs, as well as slowdowns in a variety of markets, including housing and auto, contributed to the drop, Broughton had told FOX Business. He predicted companies would continue to fail into 2020 because of the weak pricing environment.

Additional pain for the industry could be coming next year in the form of labor laws designed to protect contracted workers from being misclassified. In California, for example, starting in January a law will go into effect that will make it harder for companies to classify workers as contractors, which the California Trucking Association has said could put 70,000 owner-operators in the state out of work. The group has sued to prevent the law from taking effect.

New Jersey is considering similar presumption-of-employment status legislation, which has caused alarm among the state’s trucking industry, as well.

What Shipper Can Do To Protect Shipments

The thousands of trucks stranded Celadon trucks likely have customers shipments onboard which will not be delivered anytime soon.  Getting that freight delivered will likely cost significantly more than the original rate.  The most damaging aspect of getting caught in a bankruptcy like this one is that thousands of customers supply chain has been significantly disrupted.

The best way to protect yourself against insolvent and even under achieving carriers is to vette them annually.  Review financial statements, credit ratings, customer experiences on social media and verifiable on time percentages.  Another option is to employ a 3rd party Logistics Firm to help with routing decisions.  At Land Link Traffic Systems carrier vetting is a standard procedure.  We take every precaution to route our customers freight with a financially healthy carrier with above average performance.

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Topics: Supply Chain Management, Third Party Logistics, Transportation News, Logistics Business, Shipping News, Logistics News, Industry Trends

Predictions for the Digital Supply Chain for 2020 and Beyond

Posted by Land Link on Nov 26, 2019 2:40:44 PM


We have been writing extensively on the topic of the digital supply chain revolution in recent blog posts. Digital transformation is now the overriding priority for most manufacturers and retailers, with the adoption of digital technologies aimed at improving efficiency and effectiveness in the shorter term while providing the opportunity to grow a leaner operational protocol in the future. The focus is definitely on the efficiency of operations relating to technological applications as we enter 2020. The big question is; are you ready? If not, perhaps we can help. Here are some interesting predictions from a reputable international research firm, IDC, which highlights key areas of technological applications regarding the impending digital revolution of the international supply chain.

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Topics: Logistics Business, Shipping News, Logistics News, Industry Trends, Technology

Emerging Freight and Trucking Markets

Posted by Land Link on Nov 6, 2019 9:19:31 AM


The trucking sector is going through a major paradigm shift due to the ongoing digitization of the industry and the increased transparency resulting from the digitization and the launching of a trucking forward and freight futures market. It’s now three-dimensional market comprised of the spot, forward and trucking freight futures markets. As the trucking forward and futures markets gain traction, the three markets will become increasingly more interrelated.

Forward Market

The forward market is being established where shippers place “buy” orders to procure future trucking capacity anywhere from two weeks to six months plus out and carriers place “sell” orders to provide trucking capacity to shippers in the same time frame. As opposed to the existing non-standardized RFP based contract market,  forward contracts are binding and based on a standardized contract. They provide guaranteed load volume/trucking capacity and rates to shippers and carriers, and the contract rates can be hedged via trucking freight futures.

Trucking Freight Futures Market

The trucking rate futures market was launched at the end of March 2019 on the Nodal Exchange. The underlying rate, which the futures markets track, are indices produced by DAT and updated daily. There are seven directional lanes and four calculated indices, each with a 16-month series. Trucking freight futures provide a trucking rate volatility hedging tool for trucking carriers, shippers and third-party logistics (3PL) providers, allowing them to lock in a trucking rate today for up to 16-months in the future. What does this mean for trucking carriers, shippers and 3PLs? Due to this increased transparency, trucking rates will become more volatile, will change more frequently and will be increasingly influenced by changes in the trucking forward and freight futures markets. Carriers and shippers will be able to see changes in trucking rates around the country in all three markets on a more “real time” basis, causing rates in their lanes to adjust much faster.

Trucking freight futures provide a very effective way to hedge trucking rate risk, and the forward market provides a hedge to lock in guaranteed rates and load volume and trucking capacity on a multi-month basis. There are also viable cross-market hedging and profiting strategies that can be executed on in conjunction with the trucking forward and futures markets.

3-Dimensional Execution

The new three-dimensional market provides new ways for market participants to mitigate trucking rate risk, determine trucking rates and pricing and to procure trucking capacity or access load volume. The successful companies in this new market will be those that learn to engineer execution strategies via combined solutions from each of the three markets. Regardless of whether a market participant ever uses binding forward and or trucking freight futures, it will need to stay current on the pricing trends in both the trucking forward and freight futures markets as spot market rates in their lanes will be affected by both.

Technology is spawning hybrid markets in many sectors.  The successful logistics planner will be the one who understands these emerging markets.  To stay informed on this and many other Logistics topics, subscribe to our blog.

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Topics: Transportation News, Logistics Business, Shipping News, Logistics News, Industry Trends