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FreightWaves Carrier Summit: Keller uses benchmarking to elevate its game (with video)

Trucker lauds program as invaluable tool for profitable growth

Photo: FreightWaves

Five years ago, Thomas E. Keller Trucking, a unit of Defiance, Ohio-based Keller Logistics, was dissatisfied with its carrier benchmarking efforts and found itself in the lower quadrant of carriers in terms of measuring its performance. That changed when Keller joined the carrier benchmarking initiative of the Truckload Carriers Association’s (TCA) Profitability Program (TPP), said Jonathan Wolfrum, the unit’s president.

Today, the unit is growing its top line, and is doing so quite profitably, Wolfrum told Todd Davis, FreightWaves’ vice president of customer success and benchmarking, during the second day of the FreightWaves Carrier Summit. Much of the turnaround, Wolfrum said, can be attributed to superior benchmarking processes built out through Keller’s participation in the TPP program. FreightWaves supports the program through ownership and support of its inGauge online benchmarking platform.

Keller is a member of the TPP Best Practice Groups (BPG) for its dry van and brokerage units. The TCA-moderated groups provide the opportunity to glean best-practice information from like-minded competitors in an informal setting, according to the group. 

The program is unique because 155 top-tier truckload carriers are willing to share their data and best practices covering the myriad of functions that support a successful truckload operation, Wolfrum said. 

“Each carrier brings its best idea to the table, and the carriers have been very open with their information,” Wolfrum told Davis. 

Keller has greatly benefited from the breadth and granularity of data offered through the benchmarking initiative, Wolfrum said. Because the program contains 500 key performance indicators (KPIs) for carriers to compare their operational and financial performance, it is impossible for Keller to drill down into each one. Instead, Keller selects the metric or metrics that it considers priorities and extracts best practices from those. Members can go as broad or as granular as they want in their analyses.

The experience has opened Keller’s eyes to what it thought it knew but actually didn’t, Wolfrum said. “We thought we knew what was good, but then we got cold, hard numbers that we could trust. It’s been very invaluable.” 

Participating carriers securely submit detailed financial and operational data to FreightWaves each month. The FreightWaves’ SONAR platform then provides users with exclusive access to leading indicators on the overall health of the truckload sector. These metrics are derived and aggregated from the monthly results reported by TPP participants. Seventeen of the most important KPIs are aggregated and made available (by operating mode) to all SONAR users.

To take it to the next level, carriers and brokerage operators can join the TPP and gain secure, provisioned access to the inGauge app within SONAR. The app provides granular access to all performance indicators and filters to better match the operating attributes of the company or companies.

Mark Solomon

Formerly the Executive Editor at DC Velocity, Mark Solomon joined FreightWaves as Managing Editor of Freight Markets. Solomon began his journalistic career in 1982 at Traffic World magazine, ran his own public relations firm (Media Based Solutions) from 1994 to 2008, and has been at DC Velocity since then. Over the course of his career, Solomon has covered nearly the whole gamut of the transportation and logistics industry, including trucking, railroads, maritime, 3PLs, and regulatory issues. Solomon witnessed and narrated the rise of Amazon and XPO Logistics and the shift of the U.S. Postal Service from a mail-focused service to parcel, as well as the exponential, e-commerce-driven growth of warehouse square footage and omnichannel fulfillment.