Driver Shortages, MAP-21 Changes and Driverless Tractors Ahead

Transportation & Logistics Council’s 40th Annual Conference:

On March 17, Trans International participated in the Transportation & Logistics Council’s 40th Annual Conference in Nashville, TN. This year’s conference had a record-breaking number of attendees, including shippers, carriers, brokers, 3PLs, attorneys and insurance brokers. It was a great crowd to network with and learn from.

For me, it was a chance to meet new people and take part in a unique educational opportunity. It’s not often that I get to hear from all sides of the transportation transaction in one venue.

One speaker of note was Jack Holmes, President of UPS Freight. Holmes talked about the “Customer Experience” and what it means to UPS. He discussed how the shortage of 250,000 drivers expected by 2022 will affect the price of transportation in the future. He also talked about “driverless tractors” and how this farfetched-sounding idea is not as implausible as we once may have thought. With driver shortages on the horizon, the research institutes (ATRI and NFAC) have been looking into a wide array of possibilities.

Administrator Anne Ferro of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) was another engaging speaker. She covered carrier safety ratings, new Hours of Service Rules and MAP-21 legislation and detailed how each affects the broker and carrier environment. The FMCSA continues to monitor unsafe carriers to keep them off the road and keep our highways safe. One role of the FMCSA is licensing commercial motor vehicle drivers. Under the new MAP-21 rules, brokers have to meet licensing requirements to be considered “authorized brokers.” This change, which went into effect in 2011, thinned the broker market from over 23,000 brokers down to today’s 14,000 brokers.

Lastly, we heard from Michael Cole, Senior Director of North America Transportation at Kraft Foods. Cole shared Kraft’s transportation philosophy with us. He explained that the main focus at Kraft is to utilize shippers of choice and partner with core carriers in order to demonstrate transparency. In a further effort to exercise transparency, Kraft set up an advisory board for joint planning purposes. The board sits seven of Kraft’s top freight carriers who advise on best practices. Imagine sitting across the table from your competition and talking about your best practices; what a unique and beneficial opportunity. To keep their model steady, Kraft only allows their largest carrier to carry 6% of their volume. For a brand as large as Kraft, 6% is still a lot of volume – and the numbers prove it. Their freight demographics for 2013 included 500,000 shipments, 3,800 locations, 8,500 lanes, six primary modes (LTL, TL, Air, Rail, Intermodal, Backhaul), not to mention specialty freight like reefer and freezer trucks.

While in Tennessee, I also took the opportunity to visit a piece of local history – The Hermitage. The Hermitage is the former homestead of Andrew Jackson. The tour was fascinating and packed with history. We heard stories of the Westward movements and the changing role of women. It was a reminder of how far women have come in a relatively short time. Not long ago, it would have been unthinkable for a woman to be at the helm of a business – and today, Trans International is a WBENC certified company.

At the end of the trip, driving through Tennessee to Knoxville, the view of the sunset in the Smokey Mountains was breathtaking. It was a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the road while reflecting on all of the fresh insights I’d received about today’s transportation industry.

Did you attend this year’s Transportation & Logistics Council’s Conference? Or do you have thoughts about some of the topics discussed? I’d love to hear about them in a comment below.

Denise Lawien
Chief Operating Officer


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