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Check Call: Flatbed is alive!

Mountain snow storms | Bots to save time

Credit: FreightWaves

Hot Takes

Image: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

“Hey, can you handle these flatbed shipments for us?” A sentence usually followed by “Jaws” music in the background. In almost every organization, there is usually the “one guy” who handles all the flatbed moves.

Flatbed is weird, involves a bunch of requirements and has a very small network of drivers. In a previous life, I was “that guy” who handled the flatbed moves. We love a lowboy, with overweight, overdimensional permits, and everything in between. I had my regulars that I could rely on to go to the middle of a field, pick up a tractor and deliver it to the middle of another random field states away.

It wasn’t too bad till someone was busy or it was hurricane season. The second FEMA sends out the call, you’re left with a bunch of tractors where they aren’t supposed to be, and offers of “Name your price — I’ll pay it” are met with laughter. 

To this day, flatbed is such a manual process of knowing the right people to call, hoping they have the equipment and availability you need, and relying on a hope and a prayer everything works out. Flatbed is the one thing everyone has to have but no one wants to do. 

EXO Freight, a Las Vegas-based 3PL startup, has taken the technology and automation developments of the dry van world and brought them to flatbed. It is the only company that is bringing flatbed technology, processes, and raising it to match that of dry van. 

EXO Freight has a homegrown TMS that not only shows available carriers and equipment type, but also can map out a route for the shipment that avoids low bridges as well as other obstacles that are unique to flatbed shipments. On top of that, it allows for all the equipment types, from conestoga trailers to double drops, to be entered both by the rep looking for the carrier and the carrier with its various equipment types.

Most flatbed shippers still work out of Excel. They send a list of shipments to “that one guy” to get the freight booked. Their budget doesn’t allow for thousands of dollars a month to go into a digital system that doesn’t meet all of their needs. A solution has to be rock-solid, reduce everyone’s work and cost roughly the same as Excel. 

Flatbed is hard to get automated, but with more technology and people getting involved in it, we stand a chance of moving away from Excel into some sort of fully transparent system like full truckload has currently.

Quick Hits


Tired of fielding your 50th email of the day quoting Fresno, California, to Indianapolis? What about the countless ETA requests? Well there could be a solution for you. Chatbots and email bots.

Chatbots are commonly being used to relieve teams of mundane tasks so they can engage with direct customer needs. Email bots serve similar purposes but are fueled through AI technology that creates feedback loops learning what to look for and how to answer emails as the request volume increases.

The more mundane high-touch, low-value tasks can become, the more automation sort of pays for itself. If you can have an email bot read someone’s request for a quote, online login, ETA, etc. with only one customer service person around to monitor unusual requests, then you’ve freed up the other people to move around your organization to support other departments that need it. 

Bots might not be the solution for everyone yet, but they could free up much-needed employee time for more critical tasks.


Bring it down, ElsaBrace yourself as the snowstorms have returned to the Rocky Mountains. Parts of Montana and Wyoming were slammed with over 24 inches at the beginning of last week.

Fresh off that snowstorm, round two geared up Sunday night into Monday morning this week. The storm to start off the week dumped an additional 12 inches of snow in northeast Nevada as it moved across the northern Rockies. 

If you have drivers and shipments going through Interstate 25 from Orin, Wyoming, to just north of Casper and Interstate 80 from Reno, Nevada, to Truckee, you can expect delays in the beginning half of this week.

Market Check

SONAR Ticker: Agrate

Look how the turntables have turned. Harvest season has pretty much come to a close in the South. USDA spot rates have started dropping in our Southern lanes and increasing in the Northern lanes. 

Personally, I love to see a $2,500 decrease in the spot market on one lane. Now what I don’t like to see are the increases north of $500, like Hartford, Connecticut, to Brooklyn, New York. Due to the drastic changes in our Northern rates, we can see that harvest season is coming to a close and should hopefully be complete in the next few weeks. If you happen to know any farmers who drive trucks, you should be getting them back in the market probably by the end of the month, if you haven’t already. 


Who’s with Whom

Tri-State Expedited Service has been acquired by members of its senior management team. The sale came from a trust of its founders with the goal to restore the legacy of Tri-State and build it back to its former place as a true leader of the expedite industry. Read more here.

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Mary O'Connell

Former pricing analyst, supply chain planner, and broker/dispatcher turned creator of the newsletter and podcast Check Call. Which gives insights into the world around 3PLs and Freight brokers. She will talk your ear off about anything and everything if you let her. Expertise in operations, LTL pricing and procurement, flatbed operations, dry van, tracking and tracing, reality tv shows and how to turn a stranger into your new best friend.