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FreightWaves Carrier Summit: COVID causes mindset metamorphosis at Ruan (with video)

The coronavirus crisis has forced Ruan Transportation Management Systems to become more creative and flexible in responding to customer needs. Customers, in turn, are more willing to try new services they would have shunned before, the company’s president says.

“We’re finding some more efficient or lower cost ways of doing things that perhaps were taboo in the past,” such as centralized billing or on-site support, “and perhaps exorcising some demons,” President Dan Van Alstine said Thursday during the virtual FreightWaves Carrier Summit.

Many shippers are now also considering managed transportation or dedicated contract fleets as an alternative to standard for-hire truck services, he added.

Ruan Transportation, based in Des Moines, Iowa, redirected resources — people, trucks and trailers — from companies that had sharply cut output because of the COVID-19 outbreak to grocery chains and other businesses that experienced a spike in business. 

Releasing some customers from their transportation commitments was a win-win-win situation, Van Alstine, who also serves as chief operating officer, said. “We wanted to provide employment for our driver team members. We wanted to create some economic relief for those customers affected. And we wanted to create solutions for customers that are facing a surge in volumes.” 

Ruan’s information technology team quickly created an electronic portal where operations staff in any part of the family-run trucking and logistics company could serve up assets that were not being used and others could find more capacity.

“That ability to quickly pivot to showing all of our demand and then being able to solve it had a huge impact on our ability to serve customers, keep drivers employed and generate some revenue for Ruan,” Van Alstine said.

The COVID situation has created a third dimension of safety for trucking companies to manage in the future, the former Schneider National executive said. Previously, trucking companies focused on preventing accidents and injuries, but now preventing disease through new protocols and cleaning truck cabs is just as important. 

Click here for more FreightWaves stories by Eric Kulisch.


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Eric Kulisch

Eric is the Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government coverage and news analysis, and was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. Eric is based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached for comments and tips at [email protected]