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Check Call: Type A for everyone

Walmart’s hottest club | 3PLs had a good quarter

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Hot Take


The Great Resignation is morphing into the great reshuffling as people search for new career opportunities — leaving employers scrambling to ensure the employees they have are happy and satisfied while those who are looking to capitalize on the mass exodus tout their company culture and benefits. 

The weird thing about the transportation world is that once you’re in the industry, it becomes harder every year to leave. For an industry that isn’t often a lot of people’s first pick, it collects quite a variety of talented individuals that move the entire supply chain. 

Almost everyone in the past year and a half, more than ever, has felt the sting of burnout. No matter how hard you work and how much you accomplish, the list of things to do never ends. It’s exhausting and leads to doing the absolute bare minimum till you can find something to bring you back. Whether it’s a new job, new company, a new project — anything to stoke those fires and motivate people has become crucial. 

Here’s where I have a weird idea: outlining your day. It’s not just for high-strung type A people anymore. It’s about knowing what you have in front of you and how you can start working proactively instead of reactively. No one likes coming in every day and fighting fires, but it’s all a fire, and you spend your day triaging which fire is the biggest and start there. 

People are overwhelmed, overworked and most days come in not even knowing where to start so they just start anywhere. If you get some buy-in from management to help those in the trenches take stuff off their plate or more efficiently use their time, it just might be the spark people need to get those flames of passion going again. 

On a typical day, a broker comes in and just starts sifting through fires, booking freight, getting status updates from drivers and trying to make it through the day and maybe have a few extra minutes at the end of the day to try to grow some business. While no one can predict a driver falling off a load, a missed appointment, someone picking up the wrong freight and realizing it 600 miles later when they try to deliver, if you run your day, you can handle that before you get run by it.

Unfortunately the more success you have, the busier you become. Fortunately in larger companies you can get help with check calls, paperwork collection, customer management and a host of other things, but the small to medium-size brokers can’t get away from it. 

When trying to outline your day and work proactively, it’s important to start with noticing how much time you dedicate to certain tasks. Do I spend 20 minutes on check calls, can I turn those phone calls into emails or texts I check for five minutes every hour or two? What conversations can I have with my customers when they give me loads to ensure drivers have the information they need to get through security? It’s important to look at the random small issues that come up throughout the day and say if I can work to prevent even a few of those and get 15-20 minutes back in my day. 

By approaching it from a management perspective you can turn those questions into coaching sessions to help employees feel supported, appreciated, and that the company actually stands by its values. Think of it like professional baseball players: They aren’t going to work on their skills only during coaching sessions. They’re going to practice throughout the week and take what they’ve learned in coaching sessions and apply it in practice. By helping those who are struggling structure their days, you’re just adding to the commitment you made to them and they made to you. 

Quick hits

Image: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

Excess container storage clubs these days are so hot I can barely keep up. First it’s the Port of Los Angeles, second the port of Long Beach, then Savannah, Georgia’s airport. Now it’s Walmart? At the request of the president, as well as everyone else in the country, retailers are having to get creative with picking their freight up at the ports and Walmart has handled the problem like any millennial hipster trying to spread Christmas cheer, with a pop-up bar. 

OK so it’s not a bar per se, but it is a new pop-up container yard near the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. They’ve temporarily eased their issue by rerouting ships to less congested ports, adjusting lead times, and doing some good old-fashioned problem solving. These temporary lots are helping to prevent import boxes from becoming trapped under other cargo and act as a storage facility until the freight can be accepted at import facilities to be distributed across the country. 

They can prioritize what gets released first, and make sure that stores aren’t running out of the crucial holiday inventory that Santa is more than likely relying desperately on as the days tick by. 

TRAC Thursday

Image: SONAR TRAC Market Dashboard

Our beloved market check is taking a twist these days. Instead of covering the outbound volumes, rejections, etc. that are typically highlighted here, we’re dedicating Thursday to TRAC, like Taco Tuesday, just with no tacos and it’s on Thursday. Let’s take a pop down to the City in the Forest and see how rates are looking heading up to the City of Brotherly Love.

The lane score is at 73; typically anytime it’s above 50 the negotiation power tends to favor the carrier over the shipper. Capacity is loosening in Philly but staying pretty consistent in Atlanta, as is to be expected. Atlanta is picking up a lot of the excess containers from Savannah, through the rail system, not showing any sign of loosening. For this lane going all in with a 10% margin, you’re all-in rates are going to be $3,150. Starting with leaning on some relationships and striking a few deals, see what you can get if you have some freight heading to the North. 

Image: SONAR TRAC Market Dashboard

Who’s with the lemonade stand?


Let’s take our two favorite topics, mergers and acquisitions, and combine them with a sprinkling of earnings and projections. The best of both worlds. 

The Transportation Intermediaries Association’s third-quarter report shows that the 3PL industry had a strong third quarter, both compared to Q2 of 2021 and year over year. Shipments were up 6.8% and revenues were up 10.3%, compared to Q2. While Q3 was tight on margin for smaller companies, 3PLs in the middle range — between $16 million and $100 million — came in at 9.4% on shipment volume that was up just 2.6%. Revenue climbed 7.1% and the average invoice amount rose 4.5%.

TFI International has acquired Missouri trucking company D&D Sexton. TFI International is entering a deal that expands the temperature-controlled business of the U.S. firm CFI. D&D, based in Carthage, Missouri, will be operating under CFI, about 17 miles away in Joplin, Missouri. This expansion will grow the refrigerated fleet by 50%.

The more you know

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.