By Lynn Gravley CEO
As I reviewed the recent ELD mandate in the last blog, I found myself thinking about how quickly things are changing in this industry, and all that has happened since NT Logistics was founded in 1999. Originally, I got into this great business as a contract carrier when I started North Texas Carrier Corporation in 1988. At the time, I was a newlywed and recent college graduate starting a journey that would exceed my wildest dreams.
Looking through some old photos, I came across this picture of my very first truck. The photo was taken in Bellemont, AZ on February 2, 1990 and this was a 1980 Cabover Peterbilt with a 400 HP Cummins 855.
What a difference a few years can make. Below is a shot of the last group of trucks I bought. They were 2006 International 9400’s with Detroit series 60 at 435HP.
There were many trucks in between, including a group of 11 Freightliners and many Internationals. While I cannot list all the trucks, I remember the drivers – many of whom I will never forget.
In those 18 years between 1988 and 2006, in addition to learning how to make money operating trucks, I discovered the value of great drivers, great employees, and the need for great customers. I really think my history of operating trucks helped me understand the needs and wants of the carrier community by being able to see the perspective from the view of our many great carriers. Certainly, these last 17 years of operating a 3PL and bridging the gap between great customers and great carriers have helped me learn the best way to add value to both parties. The changing landscape of the industry will certainly provide me with plenty of opportunities to continue to learn new ways to add value as we go forward.
As mentioned in my previous article on ELD’s, the ongoing technology advancements are an important component of industry changes. The new mandate is soon upon us and the actual hours of productivity (read mileage and deliveries) that will be lost will vary by carrier, by driver, and certainly by region (traffic congestion). How the carriers and shippers will respond and how the rates will respond to this change is yet to be fully seen. Some estimate we will see a 10% decrease in efficiency resulting in a need for 10% more drivers to keep even par. This factor alone is causing significant concern as we continue to see severe driver shortages impact our businesses.
Additionally, an unknown factor we must take into consideration is the general state of the economy as this change transpires, as well as the cost of fuel, which today averages about $2.00/gallon. In 1994, (as far as I could go back) the price was less than $1.00/gallon and in July of 2008 peaked at about $4.70/gal.
Advancing technology works to both drive changes and provide solutions. The 1980
Peterbilt averaged about 5.5 MPG and had zero electronic gadgets (other than the radio) whereas the Internationals delivered 6.8 MPG and were equipped with variable HP computers that ensured improved efficiency. We could also slow down the red trucks whereas the old Pete would go scary fast (therefore the 5.5 vs 6.8 MPG) Devices such as smartphones, tablets, and computers will help carriers and drivers meet the government regulations while providing important protection and helpful data.
In light of both the known and unknown challenges ahead, I strive to stay focused on how we can add value to the great people we work with. To the shipper we offer leverage–the leveraging of our $50M+ transportation spend, our technology and systems, and most importantly, our people. To the carrier we offer steady lanes that fill gaps in their networks, a rock solid reputation and credit history, and also, great folks. In addition to my background as a trucker, many of our NT operations personnel have a trucking background. This experience helps each and every day when we are dealing with our many carriers and helps us better serve both carriers and shippers.
In light of all the advances I have seen over the last nearly 30 years, the true constants are trucks and great people. I still love the smell of diesel exhaust and truly enjoy being around some of the greatest people on earth that make up our carriers, our customers, and our folks here at NT Logistics.
At NT, we look forward to continuing to work with great people so we can take advantage of both changing technology and opportunities as they present themselves.