That time my freight pickup was missed. Remember that moment when you needed to get to the store before it closed, but just couldn’t make it in time? It’s not fun for anyone but sometimes things happen in life that are just out of our control. Unfortunately, it’s not much different in the world of freight and freight pickup issues. Missed freight pickups are especially common on the LTL side of this industry and there could be a multitude of reasons as to why. The most common reasons are: driver tardiness, driver / dispatch miscommunications or simply the truck was filled with freight sooner than expected. Although they can plan their route flawlessly before leaving their terminal, a driver can never fully plan for what the road has in store for them. Dispatch may call the driver while they are on their current route asking them to make a few more stops along the way, thus causing a delay in the pickup of other shipments scheduled for later that day. When pickups are missed, we all lose a little. Your freight isn’t moving, the carrier has to try again another day, and depending on your broker, there’s a lot of back-end work going on as well. At FreightPros it’s not so much just about the missed pick up, but more importantly, it’s about what happens next and how we deliver a quality freight experience to our customers. We run a PRO report every morning to find out which LTL shipments from the previous day did not get assigned a PRO (also known as a tracking number). From there, our operations team will reach out regarding all shipments that have not been assigned a PRO to find out why it missed pickup. If the shipment misses pickup for reasons such as: they were told “there was no freight” or because the packaging was an issue, we will reach out to the customer to try to resolve the issue. If it was purely because the carrier could not make it to the location in time or the truck was full we will go ahead and put the shipment back on the carrier’s schedule for pick up. When your freight misses pickup there is no need to panic, we will get that shipment back on board for you the following business day. If ever you have a time sensitive shipment, I do highly suggest you express urgency when discussing shipment details with your freight provider, as this will allow them to find an option that best suits your needs.
In December, Austin City Council voted to require vehicle-for-hire drivers to pass fingerprint-based background checks. Companies like Uber and Lyft were not happy, and threatened to pull their services from the Austin area, just as they had done when places like San Antonio passed similar restrictions. Customers and drivers alike were not happy with the possibility that Uber and Lyft would no longer operate in Austin. Ridesharing Works gained over 65,000 signatures for it’s petition, and the likelihood of a public vote on these issues has risen in the early months of 2016. A little background: The conversation concerning ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft is a global one that has existed since their inception. Austin is fighting the same fight that many other cities are fighting. To hear the cities tell it, it’s all about security. Austin’s City Council voted, among other things, to require more extensive background checks for drivers. Amidst complaints of sexual assault and other felonies, city governments are attempting to impose regulations similar to those imposed on taxi cab companies. They believe these regulations will make it safer for their citizens to use these services. From companies like Uber and Lyft, it’s about unfair and sometimes illogical regulations. This Lyft driver points out inconsistencies in the effectiveness of fingerprint background checks, as well as exaggerated reports of ridesharing crime in the Austin area. The local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Austin Urban league co-authored a letter to City Council warning that such background checks could lead to racial discrimination. Even Austin Police Chief, Art Acevedo, expressed concern that TNCs leaving town could open the door for more drunk drivers, adding gasoline to an already significant fire. So what to do? It’s easier to point the finger at City Council. It always is. While companies like Uber and Lyft can concern themselves with making money for their drivers and providing a service that their customers (riders) want, City Council is faced with the more difficult task of governing. Implicit in this word, governing, is the sometimes daunting task of making decisions adverse to the wishes of a certain segment of the general population. In a “government of the people, by the people, for the people”, this is a very fine line to walk. While Uber and Lyft are wonderfully convenient, and complaints about the service of taxi cab companies are legitimate, it’s important to hold Uber and Lyft accountable for this situation as well. The safety charges against these companies are very real. A quick Google search will show incidents all over the world, and while it’s obvious that companies like Uber and Lyft are not wholly responsible for something as common as harassment, it’s also true that there has proven to be a lack of accountability displayed by some of these companies. This is not a plea to stop using Uber or Lyft. I’ve used both services countless times with nothing but excellent experiences and zero complaints. But by operating from such a position of power, of petulance, it seems Uber and Lyft are hurting both their riders and their drivers. This is a plea to look at the situation from both sides. It’s imperative for our elected officials to compromise with these companies, but negotiations are always a two-way street. Uber and Lyft need to come to the table too, and hopefully our leaders in government and commerce can co-exist. We should be able to find a middle ground. Regulation and profit are not mutually exclusive.
A few weeks ago, the FreightPros management team went through a great company offsite. The major topic of the day was to revisit our company Vision and Mission statements, and I’m proud to announce what came out of that day. As FreightPros has evolved over time, the purpose of the company has changed rather drastically. In the earliest days, we were just trying to keep the lights on and enough cash in the bank to meet our obligations. We’ve come a long way. As the years have gone by, we’ve built an energetic and amazing team. We’ve focused on service first, building partnerships with our customers, and really revolutionizing the way that freight shipping customers interact with a logistics provider. We realized the time had come to update the long term goal of the company, and the methodology for how we will eventually get to that goal. FreightPros vision is to set the standard for a quality freight experience. Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? The surprising thing is that we operate in an industry without a clearly defined service quality leader. Look at other industries and you have American Express, Zappos, USAA, Costco, or even Amazon. For years we’ve battled the notion that third party logistics and freight brokerage companies are really offering a commoditized service. This false notion, and the lack of a service leader, screams OPPORTUNITY for our team. We are set not only on establishing and defining what a quality freight experience truly will be, but delivering on that elevated standard. How do we get there? We feel like we’ve already made huge strides towards this vision. We’ve assembled an amazing team that adheres to a really strong set of core values, built really smart quoting tools, and have poured countless hours and millions of dollars into developing our back-end customer management system. That said, we still have work to do. A focus on our customer partnerships, enhanced technology tools, and continuing to build and develop our team of FreightPros will propel us toward the vision. FreightPros mission is to build strong customer partnerships by delivering exceptional support and innovative solutions carried out by a reliable, efficient, inspired team of freight experts. Our hope is that a daily commitment to our mission will lead us toward our vision, and along the way we will continue to create an amazing business that is a vehicle to enrich the lives of our customers and employees.
If you’ve driven through a large city, traffic and all, you may have seen signs denoting specific lanes for trucks carrying HazMat materials. They’re often set up around exits and major highways, loudly shouting for truck drivers to get off the interstate if they’re carrying HazMat material. “HazMat,” stands for “Hazardous Material,” by the way. Thought we should clarify that before we get started. Here in Texas, several cities such as Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio have already established HazMat lanes to ensure the safety of the city’s busiest highways. However, despite Austin’s status as the state capital and its reputation as one of Texas’s most progressive cities, it has no specified route for trucks carrying hazardous material. We have this, but no alternate routes for HazMat. Routing hazardous cargo through high-traffic areas puts the safety of the driver and others around at risk. Even if such a wreck doesn’t result in any injuries, it will probably cause some pretty heavy traffic delays (which we all know is an issue here without adding a HazMat wreck into the mix!). And while most (though interestingly enough, not everyone) agrees that the need for an alternate route for trucks carrying hazardous materials is a must, pinpointing the best solution to this problem proves to be more difficult. Some have suggested the 130 Toll Road as the best alternative to I-35. However, others worry that it is too far out of the way, and would present too much of an inconvenience for freight companies. Furthermore, federal law mandates that designated HazMat routes cannot include tolls or additional fees. And of course, once everyone finally agrees on a solution, they will also have to tackle the ongoing debate about who is going to pay for it all. Bureaucracy at its finest! Clearly there is more work to be done here. Austin must either alter the conditions of an existing route so that it presents a sufficient solution, or create a brand new route that will satisfy the requirements. Here’s hoping for a busy legislation season. CC photo courtesy Surian Soosay via Flickr
This is the first of our week-long blog series on Produce Season Shipping 2015! Part II covers changes for 2015 produce season shipping, while Part III deals with capacity and truckload pricing during produce season. And don’t forget to download some free Freight Papers, such as our LTL & Truckload Equipment Guide. Cotton is king: Or, at least it is when looking at the commercially grown crops of Texas. Texas harvested 3.2 million acres of cotton in 2013, compared to 18,500 acres of one of our most well-known crops: the grapefruit. That’s quite a divide. But why are we talking about king cotton, produce, and Texas’ harvested acres on a freight blog? Well, because produce season 2015 is right around the corner, and we want to give you some insight into what this means for the truck markets in Texas. But first, what kind of produce is grown in Texas? The overwhelming majority of Texas commercial crops are cotton, corn, sorghum, and wheat grains, but an interesting new trend is the rise in nursery crops being grown. Bedding plants, foliage plants, sod, and the woody landscape plants you see in retail nurseries are primarily being grown in Texas. Of course, there are also the favorites like the state vegetable: the onion, the state pepper: the jalapeño, the state fruit: the grapefruit, and the state nut: the pecan. And where is it all coming from? While Texas has farms in every county and every corner of the state, the majority of the commercial farms are in South Texas. In fact, McMullen County in South Texas has the greatest percentage of farmers in the US. with a population of 707, 374 farmers. In addition to what is actually grown in Texas, a staggering amount of produce flows through the border with Mexico. In 2012, there were 160,000 loads of produce that crossed the Texas/Mexico border, the majority of which was bound for the midwest and northeast. That number is expected to double with the opening of the Mexican Supervia, a superhighway that will connect Sinaloa, Mexico to Pharr, Texas. Sinaloa is in southwestern Mexico and produces 70-80% of the country’s fruits and vegetables. And why does this matter to Texas truckload freight? It’s all about supply and demand when it comes to truck markets, rates, and capacity. When harvest season comes around, available drivers and trucks flock to the border. This means there are less trucks on the road for other loads, and rates go up. The demand on the limited supply of trucks increases, causing rates to increase. Happy harvesting for today, and check back for more information during Produce Week 2015 here at FreightPros!