FreightWaves Radio launched its fourth national show on Saturday, March 16 on SiriusXM’s Road Dog Channel 146. Unlike other industry-specific radio shows that often have particular messaging or lobbying aims, FreightWaves Radio is an independent, data-driven look at what’s really going on in the freight world, and the episode proved just that. Hosts Chad Prevost and John Kingston kicked things off from both the SiriusXM studios in Rockefeller Center in downtown Manhattan, and from Chattanooga, Tennessee’s Freight Alley studio.
How is data sourced, supplied, analyzed and, finally, made actionable? We discussed this topic with our guests Chris Henry, Todd Amen and Martin Lew.
Quotable from Chris Henry, program manager of the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) inGauge:
“The Truckload Profitability Program [TPP] is two things. First, it’s is an online benchmarking program that allows carriers of all sizes – our smallest fleet is 13 units and our largest is 7,000. What this platform allows companies to do is to compare their financial and operational performance on a monthly basis. It could be revenue per truck per week, or it could be their equipment financing cost as a percentage of revenue. We have 245 KPIs that you can track, all depending on how much data you can provide us. That platform can be used in an anonymous format, so you can see how you’re doing compared to other carriers based on the number of population filters and then secondly, if you’re in what is called a Best Practice Group, you can see how you are doing with your fellow group members on a non-anonymous basis. The Best Practice Groups is kind of taking it to another level. It allows companies to get not just the what, but the how. So these companies that are vetted, so there are no direct competitors, they get together two to three times a year. They share best practices, network and also talk about what you should avoid doing.”
Quotable from John Gallagher, FreightWaves’ Washington correspondent:
“Just this past week in the wake of what’s come up with this LNG [liquid natural gas] waiver, Mike Lee, a Republican Senator from Utah, proposed a bill to repeal the Jones Act altogether, citing the higher cost of moving cargo to Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. The argument supporting the Jones Act comes from a powerful lobby here in Washington, which is maritime labor. An argument against jobs of any kind in Congress – it’s always a difficult position to put yourself in. There’s no doubt that the Jones Act has a very strong American jobs argument to make. And, John [Kingston], you mention economic analysis, while it’s true it’s hard to argue against a pure economic theory, when you have more competition for a service it lowers the cost for everyone. Supporters of the Jones Act would argue that if you repeal it entirely, you would pretty much deplete the U.S. merchant fleet, because suddenly you’d have to be competing with shipbuilders in China who are heavily subsidized, and merchant mariners that come from the Philippines, India and Greece that tend to be paid much less than U.S. mariners, and you’d have to deal with that as well.”
Quotable from Todd Amen, president and CEO of American Truck Business Services (ATBS) of Lakewood, Colorado.
“We are an accounting and tax and business consulting company. We’ve been at it for 20 years, and essentially we do the books and taxes for owner-operators. Our model is different than many accountants because drivers don’t like to mess with paperwork. We literally just ask the drivers to send us their settlement statements, their receipts, anything that relates to their business. We put it together in a nice, monthly profit and loss statement. At the end of the year we do their taxes for them, and their quarterlies, and all those things along the road. We do that for about 20,000 drivers annually, so that’s a huge amount of data that we gather. The good news is no matter what segment of the industry you’re in, whether it’s dry van, flatbed, refrigerated, a port hauler, a gravel hauler, an oil field worker, trucking businesses look the same from a revenue and expense perspective. So we can put all those buckets together, and really that’s where our data comes from.”
Quotable from Martin Lew, CEO of Commtrex, an electronic marketplace connecting all things rail.
“I get asked that question a lot from investors. Why hasn’t this been done yet? The real answer is there have been attempts to create message boards, and create websites that are more like Craig’s List listings, but no one has been able to create an actual marketplace. For two reasons, I think. Number one, I think technology wasn’t there to be able to create a system. That cloud-based technology was really important. And number two, and probably the more important reason, technology hasn’t been in great demand in the rail industry. Rail is probably five-to-10 years behind trucking. We don’t have the load boards that trucking does, the digital data and advancements that trucking has been seeing over the past five or 10 years. What has really been the driver within the industry is the generational shift. You have Baby Boomers retiring at a historical rate. You have Millennials coming in to seats that have typically been held by Boomers. [For Millennials] with the way they think and how they manage their workflows and how they operate, technology is at the forefront of everything they do.”
The FreightWaves Radio show will keep on coming live to you each and every week from 3:00-5:00 p.m. EDT on SiriusXM’s Road Dog Channel 146. If you can’t tune in then, the show is also replayed on Saturday from 9:00-11:00 p.m. and then again on Sunday from 7:00-9:00 p.m. Also, the show is available for two weeks via SiriusXM’s on-demand feature. Join the discussion on all things freight and see how so much connects to transport and the movement of goods.