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Freight costs represent between two and five percent of revenue in many manufacturers and distributors. They are typically the single largest supply chain expense. When transportation costs begin to escalate, the Transportation department and the Transportation leader can become the “whipping boys” for senior management.

Over the years, we have observed that the companies that are most successful in managing freight costs tend to have a collaborative work environment. They understand that successful freight cost management is most effective in companies where all of the key operating departments - - - Sales, Purchasing, Production, Warehouse and Inventory Management, Customer Service, Transportation and the Customer work together. In other words, freight management is a team sport.

When we visit a new shipper client, there are four things that we typically look for at the outset. They are a:

• 12 month Freight Budget

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The previous blog focused on some of the core freight management processes that are part of a company’s supply chain. For many years, prior to the age of computers and tablets, these processes were performed with manual procedures, calculators and spreadsheets. Some companies still use spreadsheets to manage a few or all of these processes. The good news is that there are some excellent technology-based tools that shippers can acquire or outsource to manage freight transportation. They include:

Transportation Management Systems (TMS)

A good TMS system can perform many of the activities outlined in the previous blog ( These include shipment planning, shipment consolidations, mode and carrier selection, carrier performance management, exception reporting and a host of other functions. When linked with a strong Warehouse Management System (WMS), they provide a powerful integrated system to perform “end to end” supply chain management.

Shipment Loading

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As the year 2013 winds down, it is time to reflect on the major transportation trends of the past year.  While I saw and read about a wide range of developments, these are the ones that resonated most with me.

1.Technology Comes to Freight Transportation

Last year I predicted that we would see a flurry of new technologies come to freight transportation.  They did and I wrote about some of these new companies on several occasions during the year.  Technology was successfully applied to the freight brokerage business, freight portals, LTL density calculations and to other segments of the industry., PostBidShip, Freightopolis, QuoteMyTruckload,  and Freightsnap were featured in various blogs during the year.  They are changing the way business is done in freight transportation.  Watch for more of these companies to surface in 2014.

2013 has been called the Year of the Network by numerous supply chain and transportation industry thought leaders.  Companies that built a successful supply chain trading partner network focused on three elements:

Connectivity— unite disparate systems and trading partners

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At the end of each year, I like to take stock of the major freight transportation stories of the past twelve months and look ahead to the trends that will drive the industry in the coming year.  The two blogs that I write are prepared from my perspective as a consultant to shippers and carriers.

This year I would like to hear from you.  Those of you who follow this blog observe trends in your segment of the industry.  Please take a minute to share them with me.  Please post them on this blog or send a private e mail to

Please feel free to select any major trend or trends that are having or will have a major impact on our industry, whether regulatory, economic, technological, demographic, consumer behavior, environmental, modal shifts or business strategy.

To broaden the range of inputs and perspectives, I will also post this request on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.  In the coming weeks I will be preparing my two lists.  The lists will include a blend of my observations and yours.  Look for these two blogs in mid-December.  Thank you to those of you who take the time to share your observations with me.


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The world of freight transportation is changing rapidly.  The signs are there and they are unmistakable.  Recognizing and responding effectively to these signals may help determine which shippers and carriers will survive in the years ahead.  Let’s examine the components of the new paradigm of freight transportation.

The Era is Cheap Oil is Over

The steep escalation in fuel prices this year is a harbinger of things to come for shippers and carriers.  This time there will likely be no major recession to bring energy prices down.  The sad fact is that 95 percent of transportation modes, passenger and freight, run on petroleum products and the likelihood of finding new sources of supply or of shrinkage in global demand is highly unlikely. In fact the use of petroleum in countries such as China and India is on the rise.

The result will be tighter truck capacity, greater use of intermodal rail services, the electrification of transportation systems, the relocation of factories and distribution centres and the slow shift to cleaner, cheaper fuels.  It will drive more LCV’s (long combination vehicles) or “turnpikes” and more triple trailer configurations.  This may be the impetus to harmonize our laws throughout North America to remove barriers to the movement of the most energy efficient vehicle combinations across our highways.   To curb use, many countries will have to begin looking at the Danish example of higher taxes on fuel inefficient vehicles and higher taxes on petroleum.  Get used to it.

The Driver Shortage is Real

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