Dedicated is not the only answer

A shift to dedicated carriage from private fleets is something Gordon Hale, vice president of dedicated operations for truckload carrier Schneider National (, sees as a dramatic trend.

"Many more shippers are contacting us to outsource their private fleets than we've seen over the last five years," Hale claims. "There are three pieces to it: They are getting out of the business because they can't get drivers; there are increased regulatory burdens; and since Wall Street is focused on return on capital, private fleet operators suddenly realize how capital-intensive this business is compared to their core business."

Hale feels that the concept of dedicated is becoming stale since the market is moving toward customized, complex solutions. "Shippers are realizing that a complex solution can drive down their costs," he notes. "A simple dedicated solution ā€” where we put dedicated trucks on every lane ā€” isn't necessarily the best solution. Some lanes are going to be better intermodal. Some are going to be better brokering out to a local carrier where it might fill a backhaul. Some lanes will be better in a one-way network."

What is helpful to Hale is that shippers are providing better information that leads to improved service. "They give us long lead times on the things they know," he says, "and don't wait until they have all of the information to pass it to us. So it becomes more of a constant stream of what their demand is. That way we can set the assets in place that are needed early and then can flex assets for short-term needs."

Looking to the future, Hale suggests the concept of the dedicated fleet needs to move more toward being an integrated part of a total transportation portfolio.

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