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Agforce: Your LTL Leaders

It’s pretty common that when a company is just getting off the ground, it’s entire team is working overtime, wearing dozens of hats and trying to be everything to everyone. Agforce was no exception. Because of the deep experience and knowledge our team has, that worked well … for a while. As we grew, we realized we needed to become more strategic and more dedicated to the needs of our customers. So we started focusing on industries – Wine & Spirits, Agribusiness, Food & Beverage, Plastics & Packaging. We brought on experts who knew these industries inside and out. 

But as we grew even more, we realized that customers within each industry still have wildly varied transportation needs, depending on what they’re moving, from where, at what time of year, and so on. That’s when we decided to start creating dedicated services teams – experts who work alongside our industry team members to coordinate the best transport for whatever you’re moving. 

Meet our Dedicated LTL Team

We’re thrilled to let you know Agforce now has a dedicated LTL team, created specifically to meet less-than-truckload needs across all industries, on all routes. 

Okay, so a 3PL offering LTL … big deal, right? But Agforce is different. 

You can trust us to understand, analyze and predict the intricacies of this $44B a year market through all its ups and downs. As carriers go out of business, unexpected global occurrences unsettle international shipping (COVID-19, anyone?), and dynamic and spot rates rise and fall, you can rely on Agforce to make sure you’re making the best choices for your needs. We watch the market carefully and have the expertise to guide our customers toward the best choice for you. 

By matching your unique needs to our trusted carrier partners, you get the best value in standard, expedited, volume, partial and temp-controlled LTL. And working with the Agforce LTL team isn’t just smart – it’s easy. Our LTL offerings are:

  • Flexible. You can get a quote and book online … or not! It’s up to you. We find many of our customers prefer the personal service of their friendly Agforce rep.
  • Communicative. Transportation doesn’t always go smoothly – we all know that. But when an issue crops up, the way your 3PL addresses it makes all the difference. Our LTL team works hand-in-hand with our carrier partners to find solutions to problems before you even know they exist. 
  • Competitive. We can’t always be the cheapest, but we will always give you the best value. Not only do our service and response time set us apart, but our deep understanding of the LTL market means we know when spending a little more on the front end will deliver more ROI on the back end. 

You Have LTL Business – any company transporting goods does. It’s time to give that business the attention it deserves. Your customers will thank you. 

Our LTL team would love to talk more about what sets us apart from other logistics providers you’ve worked with in the past. We’re willing to bet you’ll be able to feel the difference on the very first phone call … so let’s give it a try. Call us at 877.367.2324 or email inquiry@agforcets.com to see what we’re all about. Can’t wait to hear from you!

Considering Contract Intermodal Transportation through 2020

Back in January, Brett Eckinger, Director of Sales at Agforce, predicted that intermodal transport would be a good option for many of our clients’ shipping needs in 2020. “We’ll see intermodal getting healthier,” he said. “I think we’ll be able to utilize it a bit more in order to deliver customers’ goods more efficiently.”

And then COVID-19 hit, first internationally and then in the U.S. It disrupted supply chains and wreaked havoc on shipping rates, timelines and efficiency. Though we seem to be past the sudden disruptive shock of the pandemic, it will continue to send waves of uncertainty through the rest of 2020, especially in the logistics market.

Amid this uncertainty, IHS Markit published its quarterly analysis of US intermodal rates, trends and futures, titled US Intermodal Savings Index: An Analysis of the Domestic Intermodal and Truckload Markets.

It, too, acknowledges the market volatility caused by COVID-19, but pointed toward one conclusion in particular: intermodal is a great option right now if you’re looking for consistent pricing on consistent business.

Not only do you get the ”flexibility of over-the-road trucking with the affordability of long-haul rail shipping, all without an investment in tracks,” as Loup Logistics puts it, but you also get the promise of more consistency than we predict in trucking for the rest of the year.

Here’s what the report says happened in Q1: “Once COVID-19 arrived in the US, JOC’s Spot ISI dramatically reversed course. The April reading was 102.9, the weakest month since February 2019 and a stark reversal from 116.5 in March 2020.”

That means that in March, spot intermodal rates were 16.5% cheaper than spot trucking rates, but by April they were just 2.9% cheaper.

Contract intermodal, however, which we are recommending to clients whenever possible, “slipped only one point sequentially to 118.2 in April.” While this is still less of a savings than the historic average (18.2% savings compared to an average 24.5%), it’s still significant compared to truckload.

Contract truckload rates did drop while intermodal rose, but the savings are still notable. While trucking rates went from $1.91 per mile to $1.76 per mile, contract rates rose just one cent, from $1.45 to $1.46.

“Contract markets are typically less volatile during sudden disruptions such as COVID-19,” the report says.

And while it might be tempting to “save money” by choosing spot rates in the short term, for fear of what the future will bring, holding steady and choosing consistency is a better move.

Jim Filter, senior vice president of intermodal for Schneider National agrees, urging shippers to resist turning into transactional customers. “You have three intermodal carriers that represent 70 percent of the market, and [shippers] don’t want to burn a relationship. It’s going to be more harmful long term than any short-term gain,” he said.

Of course, what’s right for you is nuanced, and Agforce understands that. Give us a call at 877.367.2324 or email inquiry@agforcets.com and we’ll put together a personalized recommendation based on your needs and our expertise.

Kudos to our Carrier Partners

How trustworthy would a logistics provider be if it couldn’t trust its carrier partners? Not very. When you see how closely Agforce partners with clients, you can trust, too, that we partner just as closely with our carriers.

“Historically, the relationship between brokers and carriers has been rocky,” says Mike Tuley, Director of Logistics and Execution. “Brokers that focus exclusively on the customer side without building partnerships with core carriers lack the infrastructure and network of carriers that make the business run successfully. Striking the balance of what’s available vs. what capacity you have access to with carrier preference of freight profiles and lanes is what creates balance and growth.”

Agforce strives to match the right carrier with the right load, every time. We want to understand carrier networks and needs, so we can make business easier for everyone. Strong relationships between logistics providers and their carrier partners result in overwhelming benefits for the carriers, the 3PLs and the end customers, including:

  • Controlled costs in volatile markets
  • Higher levels of customer service
  • Better problem-solving for logistical challenges
  • Greater efficiencies
  • Stronger communication and more transparency end-to-end
  • More enjoyable working environments for everyone

Justin Hathaway, Carrier Sales Manager, asserts that the “importance of good carrier partners cannot be overstated. They are a vital part of what we do at Agforce. Without them we cannot fulfill our obligations to our customers and we cannot meet the goals set forth for our business.”

This means we stay true to our carrier partners and the relationships we’ve built, even when it means taking on a bit more overhead on our end. It’s the only way we can ensure the service we provide to our clients is impeccable over the years, even as conditions change.

“Savvy carriers understand that just like any industry, there is market volatility, says Brian Phipps, Director of Carrier Sales. “Relationships are one of the ways to counteract some of that volatility. Agforce doesn’t just chase the money when freight is slow. We concentrate on funneling freight to carrier partners that have demonstrated a relationship with the company.”

“The ultimate goal is to ensure capacity remains with Agforce throughout if/when the truck market eventually tightens up again,” he continues. “There are numerous benefits to utilizing all true carrier partners to everyone with this approach. Better proactive communication, mitigate monetary market fluctuations, improved customer service, more on-time deliveries, and more. Carrier partnerships are invaluable.”

“Exclusively buying capacity on the spot market exposes a 3PL and their customer partners to a much higher financial risk,” Tuley says. “Seasonality, weather, and market disruptors like the Coronavirus can produce equally favorable or unfavorable conditions with short notice. Carrier relationships are excellent stabilizers when market conditions change.”

And carrier partnerships don’t just matter over the long-term. Day to day, working with carriers we trust and respect helps business run more smoothly.

“Carrier partners, when on our load, are the face of Agforce, says Jason Beinke. “They’re an extension of our business, the people who represent us across the nation.”

When it comes down to it, our carrier partnerships are truly what keeps Agforce running. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to service our customers – and our company wouldn’t exist. We trust our carriers with our business … and our customers can, too.

If you’re looking to work with a logistics provider that respects and prioritizes its carrier network, call Agforce at 877.367.2324 or email us at inquiry@agforcets.com.

If you’re a carrier who wants to be treated with the respect you deserve, email carriersales@agforcets.com.

COVID-19 Effects on LTL Transportation

The effects of COVID-19 have been felt across the board in transportation and the changes it brings to customers and shippers is having a widespread impact. There have been some recent and significant changes within the domestic LTL sector, a few we cover below.

Suspending reimbursement payments for failed guaranteed or time critical shipments

Several LTL carriers have suspended reimbursement if a shipment fails to deliver by the due date on guaranteed, time critical or priority type shipments. These carriers will still make every attempt to deliver by the guaranteed date and they will still get priority over non-guaranteed and non-essential goods type shipments. During this time, please be aware this is a carrier by carrier basis, some still honor guaranteed reimbursement failures. This should return to normal after we emerge successful from this virus, however, there is no ETA on when this will occur. Please reach out to your Agforce contact if you have a time-sensitive shipment and would like a solution for how we can get this delivered on the due date.

No-touch proof of delivery receipts

Many LTL carriers have implemented a “no-touch” proof of delivery (POD) or deliver receipt (DR) due to COVID-19. If a driver or receiver is uncomfortable with touching someone’s paperwork or device, LTL carriers are having their drivers sign the POD for the receiver with the receiver’s permission. They then transmit this completed delivery to their dispatchers with the time, date and name of the receiver. With these new implementations, we encourage shippers and receivers to take pictures of the shipment at pickup and delivery to help support a claim if required for damage. Ideally, we would like the receiver to notate with the driver “damage” upon delivery but know that is not always the case as some receivers may not be checking for damage ASAP with the driver onsite with the pandemic.

Undeliverable freight procedures due to business being closed or limited hours due to COVID-19

Our partners are seeing a huge increase in undeliverable freight with receivers being closed or limited hours. This increase is causing multiple issues such as storage, delivery delays, backlogging their supply chains and altering the way their operations can process an increased volume. Prior to this, carriers would call the billing party if a shipment were not able to be delivered and request a disposition. Normally we were given a couple of days to provide a resolution before storage charges were applied and flexibility in working with the customer. Currently, procedures are adjusting to returning the freight back to the shipper automatically with no prior authorization, and a limited timeframe for the customer to resolve the issue or storage charges can occur. In some cases, these charges are automatically applied to the customers’ invoice resulting in large adjustments from the initial quote. Driven largely from nationally based LTL carries, we expect the regional carrier to follow suit. It is highly crucial, now more than ever, for customers to communicate closures or limited hours with carriers to prevent this from occurring.

Delays in invoicing and back office functionality

Back-office functionality has largely been an offshore product for many LTL carriers with the pandemic causing a worldwide shutdown. As they work through the process of it, we have seen a rippled effect of delays in documents and invoices. Communication is paramount, if you need anything from us please let us know, we are doing our best to stay ahead of this.

One positive COVID-19 case can shut down an entire terminal

Increased sanitation measures have been put in place at terminals. If someone tests positive, they will shut down the terminal to sanitize everything. This can cause missed pickups, deliveries, and delays in transit. There is not a great way to predict this, so wherever possible please allow flexibility. We will do our best to communicate any closures that may impact your shipments.

Conclusion

This is an unprecedented time and the need to adapt is paramount. At Agforce, we embrace change and our agility allows us to thrive in any environment. Please reach out to your Agforce partner if you would like to discuss anything around these events or if we can provide more information. We will get through this together and be stronger from it.

“The only constant is change” – Heraclitus

-Ryan Chancey, LTL Carrier Relations Manager

Ryan Chancey

Truck Drivers: Heroes on the Front Lines of the Fight Against COVID-19

Is your local grocery store out of toilet paper? You can blame your neighbors for hoarding it, not the supply chain for running low. Production facilities around America are still churning out product, and America’s truck drivers are driving full-time (and then some) to deliver the essentials from coast to coast … potentially risking their own health and certainly risking their own comfort in the process. 

There are about 3.5 million truck drivers working around the country in 2020, according to the American Trucking Association, and they haul more than two thirds of our total freight tonnage annually (that’s more than 10 billion tons) to stock your shelves and so much more. 

When things are good, most of us don’t really notice all they’re doing behind the scenes to keep our lives operating normally. But in a crisis, like the current COVID-19 pandemic, truckers have joined healthcare professionals as workers on the front line of the battle.

After one of the industry’s worst years on record, truckers are now in high demand to keep up with the rush on supplies. This unprecedented pandemic has thrown a wrench in any trucking outlook for 2020, no matter how expertly-predicted. 

Instead of the tough year we were prepared for, “the trucking industry could be key to keeping the economy afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says one article

“Without truck drivers, the millions of Americans who have been urged to stay at home would be without food and other essential goods. Healthcare workers would be even lower on personal protection equipment than they already are. Cities around the countries would be without sanitary supplies that allow us the chance to stay healthy,” says Andy Tuley, Vice President of Business Development at Agforce. “They are truly some of the unsung heroes of this crisis.”

At a time when record numbers of Americans are filing for unemployment, truck drivers are experiencing increased demand on their time. In response to COVID-19, the Department of Transportation loosened restrictions on how long drivers can be on the road each day, in order to deliver their shipments more quickly. But what toll does that take on them? 

“Many truckers said they aren’t overly concerned about getting sick, although their jobs – which require touching shipments that could be contaminated, interacting with others, and going out in public at a time when many lawmakers are urging people to stay home – could put them at increased risk of contracting the virus,” according to a USA Today article

Precautions are in place to keep drivers from working while sick, and to keep them from passing sickness onto consumers. Pamela Polyak, president of Polyak Trucking told FOX6 News that her drivers are often being screened upon arrival at their destinations to check for symptoms.

Beyond direct health implications, “there are now fewer options for truckers to eat when they take a break,” says WSPA. “Restaurants have allowed for more drive-thru and delivery options, but there are still limited choices for those driving a semi-truck. Gas stations and grocery stores are convenient, but most shelves are empty.” TravelCenters of America closing their Driver Lounges, meaning fewer places for drivers to stop and rest. 

Still, the drivers keep on truckin’. 

Agforce has long recognized that truck drivers are the behind-the-scenes heroes allowing our business to thrive. As the COVID-19 crisis looms, it becomes more and more apparent that they are the heroes helping all of America to thrive, as well.

The Experience Makes a Difference

Great customer experience. It’s a hot topic right now across many industries, including transportation. But, how do you know you are getting the best experience? It may be a gut feeling, intuition, but let’s see if we can pinpoint some checklist items for a strategic evaluation. And, while we’re at it, let’s tackle why experience matters. It can be impactful to your business with consistent deliverables that free up your time. A great experience also means you have a business partner that is engaged in your success — and that equals a boost to your bottom line.

Ok, that’s all well and good, but what is a great customer experience?

Well, at its core it is convenience. Nothing about your experience with a vendor should be hard. With a 3PL that has created an exceptional customer experience, you should be walking on Easy Street. They’re going to excel at three things.

1. Communication

They will be in touch with you for anything that needs your attention in a timely manner. Communication will be proactive, and when you reach out, they will respond. You shouldn’t feel like things are murky or information is being withheld. Transparency will be apparent. Here are a few other things you should look for:

  • Honesty: It’s the foundation of trust for a true partnership.
  • A relationship: Is your communication meaningful? Can you feel a growing connection?  Do they care about your success?
  • Reliability: They should take ownership of what you task them with. If they cause you stress, move on. A great 3PL experience will be consistent and provide peace of mind.
  • Vision: Do they seem to have a plan for improving your business? Look for a forward-thinking partner that helps you move the needle.

2. Technology

Enhanced performance comes from the right technology. Your 3PL should be able to spot trends and make recommendations to keep your shipping on track and on budget. In addition, they will provide you valuable, real-time data.

3. People

The royal treatment from a 3PL means they will have great technology, but they won’t hide behind it. They will invest in the right people. Beyond the right people, they will make sure you are working with the individual that best matches up with your business. How will you know they make their people a priority?

  • Everyone you talk to is engaged. They take their time to understand you.
  • The 3PL invests in their team’s growth with training and education.
  • It’s not just lip service. They have the right people to execute the plan.
  • Employees are all rowing in the same direction. They are like-minded, focused on the same outcome.
  • You will feel like the center of the universe because the customer is at the center of everything they do.
  • They will take a holistic approach. Not only will they know your shipping inside and out, they will understand your entire business model.
  • Your representative will be collaborative — a true partner — because that is how their own team thrives.  

Summary

With a great customer experience you will find an evolving relationship that focuses on your long term goals. The attention you receive will not stop after onboarding, but rather it will build into something meaningful for your business. A great experience with a 3PL will foster growth with consistent processes driven by communication, technology and the right people. Now you should experience this: Agforce. You’ll find a true partner that acts as an extension of your business and in your best interests. Together, we can free up your time, get you peace of mind and grow your bottom line. Give us a call at 877.367.2324 or email us at inquiry@agforcets.com.

Diversification: Optimize Your Supply Chain

Diversification [dih-vur-suh-fi-key-shuh] noun: the act or practice of manufacturing a variety of products, investing in a variety of securities, selling a variety of merchandise, etc., so that a failure in or an economic slump affecting one of them will not be disastrous.

The economic slump referred to in the definition of diversification translates to supply chain as tight capacity. If you are only using an asset-based freight service high demand means, inevitably, you are going to face a disruption to your supply chain, impacting your company’s profitability.

When you diversify your freight providers by adding the right 3PL to your mix, you are getting access to capacity in any lane at any time, making your supply chain agile and adaptable. The result will be increased performance and better cost control throughout your supply chain.

Summary

Keep your options open. When you partner with a 3PL, they can help you find capacity that an asset-based provider may not have access to. Service is their product. With that mindset, they can help you build the perfect mix of capacity and cost control to optimize your supply chain.

Agforce can help you maximize efficiency and avoid disruption to your business. Together, we can deliver the right mix for a nimble, agile and profitable supply chain. Give us a call at 877.367.2324 or email us at inquiry@agforcets.com.