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DG&A's Transportation Consulting Blog

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Driving a transport truck is one of the most prevalent jobs in North America and throughout the world. There are about 3.5 million truck drivers in the United States; the comparable number for Canada would be in the range of 350,000 people. Truck drivers are mostly men who like a life on the open road, crisscrossing the freeways and city streets of America. These are folks who are away from home for long stretches of time, as they go from state to state, province to province, sleeping in cheap motels or in their sleeper cabs, eating unhealthy meals in Truck Stops and spending long, lonely hours driving their rigs.

Young people seeking to enter the profession need to take a set of courses so they learn safe driving techniques and how to manage their rigs. For those individuals who wish to run their own businesses, they can become owner-operators. They can work for themselves or for one of the thousands of trucking companies throughout North America. This can include working for a for-hire fleet or for the private fleet of a manufacturer or retailer.

Despite the relative ease of entry into the profession, there is a shortage of truck drivers in North America. Driving a truck is a tough job. Bad weather, traffic, and road conditions create difficulties on a daily basis. A lack of investment in infrastructure throughout North America creates congestion and impedes productivity. Driving a tractor-trailer unit with a 45,000-pound payload requires full concentration throughout the period they are on the road.

For many people, being away from home for blocks of time is not glamorous or fun. For someone with a young family, missing family occasions and their kids’ baseball or soccer games does not help maintain positive personal relationships.  While much has been done to raise the quality of the profession, truck driving does not command the respect it deserves; it remains a relatively poorly paid job.

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This is the decade of the “effect.” As  an example, we keep hearing about the “Trump Effect.” While not much of his legislative agenda has been approved to date, president Trump still has almost three and half years remaining on his first term in office. It will be interesting to see how much of his “conservative” agenda is implemented and the impact that it will have. Of particular interest will be the NAFTA negotiations that begin on August 16. Similarly, Climate Change is having profound effects in various parts of the world, whether it is from flooding, forest fires, drought, severe storms, or floating ice bergs.

We are also going through an era of major transformations in energy production/consumption and technology. The new Tesla car that was introduced to great reviews this week may be the catalyst to a shift away from gasoline-powered cars to electric vehicles. The fact that this beautifully designed car, introduced at a market friendly price, can get almost 500 miles on a charge, could be a turning point in the evolution of electric vehicles. India has recently made a major commitment to electric vehicles.  This coupled with driverless or at least semi-autonomous cars and trucks, that are a few years away, could have profound effects on energy consumption and transportation.

Smartphones, tablets, ecommerce, apps and Uber threaten to have an equally dramatic impact in many areas of business. One company that is very well positioned to capitalize on the Technology Effect is Amazon. Here are a few statistics to consider.

While total retail sales in the United States grew by 3.8 percent in 2016, ecommerce sales grew by 15.1 percent during the same period. Most of that growth is being driven by one company. According to Slice Intelligence, Amazon accounted for 53% of all ecommerce growth in 2016. During 2016, Amazon had almost 37% market share in ecommerce sales; Wal-Mart had a 2.6 percent market share and Target had a 2.7 percent share. Keep in mind, these statistics don’t reflect the potential impact of the Whole Foods acquisition.

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This week marks the six-month anniversary of the Donald Trump presidency. Four months ago, I posted a blog (http://www.dantranscon.com/index.php/blog/entry/will-donald-trump-be-a-successful-president ) that looked at the president’s strengths and weaknesses. I thought, at the time, that this might help provide some insights into his potential for success or failure in the job. These are my thoughts at this milestone.

Clearly president Trump has made several key decisions during this period. He terminated America’s interest in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), took America out of the Paris Climate Accord, overturned president Obama’s decision to not permit the Keystone XL pipeline into America, changed the balance of America’s alliances in the Middle East, pushed hard for the repeal and replacement of Obamacare, initiated a review of America’s participation in NAFTA, instituted a ban on citizens from six primarily Muslim countries and oversaw the appointment of a new Supreme Court Judge, justice Neil Gorsuch.

While he has talked a lot about infrastructure spending, reducing taxes, building a wall between Mexico and the United States and tax reform, there have been few legislative achievements. Other than some positive stock market and employment numbers, most Americans are not seeing many tangible results from this president. Donald Trump’s overall approval rating stands at 39 percent, a historical low for a president in office for six months. On the bright side, his approval rating among Republicans stands at 85 percent. Looking back at my March blog, I now realize that my assessment of Donald Trump was largely correct. However, I now see some character traits more clearly and these traits are very problematic for him.

President Trump did have and still does have a vision of America. He frequently talks about “Make America Great Again” and about restoring lost manufacturing jobs to the United States. One of his biggest problems is that he lacks a coherent plan to make his vision a reality. Withdrawing from the Paris accord will not bring back lost coal mining jobs. Job growth in the energy sector will come from investing in the new sources that are growing rapidly. Withdrawing from TPP will hurt America’s trading relationships with countries in the Asia- Pacific region. His Make America a Loner Strategy is hurting the country’s relationships with many of its allies.

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A few years ago, I wrote a blog about some of the major changes that were and still are shaping the world of Sales (http://www.dantranscon.com/index.php/blog/entry/does-your-trucking-company-still-need-an-outside-sales-force ). In that blog, I suggested that economics, technology, and customer requirements were raising questions about the value proposition of an in-house sales team in the freight transportation industry.

A few days ago, I read an article posted by the Business Guru Club (https://businessguruclub.info/outsourced-sales-management-how-does-it-work/ ) that made the argument that Sales is a functional area like Accounting. Companies can benefit by outsourcing their Sales operation as they do their Accounting activities to a for-hire third party.

“For small businesses trying to launch their own sales department can be very difficult, time consuming and above all – risky. If sales don’t start to come in and you have to dismiss staff a lot of time and money has been wasted and this could break the business.”

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Freight matching services or “freight exchanges” have become one of the hottest topics in Freight Transportation over the past few years. Venture capital funds, private investors and others have poured at least $200 million — and potentially substantially more — into dozens of on-demand freight start-ups, including Flexport, Transfix, Loadsmart, Convoy, Doft, Cargo Chief, TugForce, HaulHound, Parade, Ship Lync, Load Surfer, FreightCenter, Freight Finder, Freightera, Freightcom, Pickmyload and others. There are new companies entering this space on a nearly daily basis.

Uber, the controversial but successful online taxi app, has recently announced that it is entering the freight matching arena. What is the attraction?

A brief history of freight matching services

DAT (which is an abbreviation for Dial-A-Truck) was the original load board in North America that was created in 1978. TruckersEdge was founded after DAT and was acquired by TransCore in 1992, another internet pioneer in load board services. Truckstop.com and Getloaded.com were launched in the early 2000s. In 2001, DAT was purchased by TransCore. In 2004, TransCore was acquired by Roper Technologies. In 2014, TransCore DAT became DAT Solutions. For four decades, this group of companies has been offering, for a fee, a process for shippers and brokers to post loads that need to be moved and for carriers to highlight available capacity.

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