Shipping patterns for LTL customers have shifted, observes Phil Pierce, executive vice president sales & marketing, Averitt Express (www.averittexpress.com), and it's important that carriers both recognize the changes and respond to them. Here are some of the most notable changes: n Several years ago, the trend was for shippers to close their regional distribution centers (DCs) in favor of large, consolidated DCs. However, in the aftermath of 9/11 and attendant security concerns, shippers have gone back to regionalizing their distribution patterns.
- Shippers continue to ask carriers to extend their lanes further because they want next-morning or next-day delivery.
- Delivery reliability used to be a major factor in choosing a carrier, but in today's environment, service is almost a given. “If you don't have the service, you're not asked to the party,” Pierce notes.
- Price plays a part in shipper carrier selection, but it's not so much the bottom price — it's how well the price blends in with a shipper's overall strategy.
- For Averitt, the fastest-growing segment of its business is providing customized solutions. “Our industry has traditionally tried to force all the transportation into one mode or another,” Pierce notes. “We're teaching our people at the local service centers to listen to their customers, find out exactly what their issues are, and then customize a solution for that customer.” LTL carriers should think of themselves as a third-party provider with assets.
- About 18 months ago Averitt opened portside deconsolidation centers at 12 ports. “We recognized the potential of international business, beginning with NAFTA and business moving between the U.S. and Mexico,” Pierce says. “Most of that freight now has gone to China. If you're not at the ports or in the international arena, then you're not going to be a viable LTL provider in the future.”