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3PL Summit keynote: ‘Cat is out of the bag’ on supply chain importance

TIA chief turning up the volume on industry advocacy efforts

TIA's Anne Reinke, with FreightWaves Kevin Hill, keynoting FreightWaves' 3PL Summit.

With barely six months behind her as president and CEO of the Transportation Intermediaries Association, Anne Reinke has a major goal in front of her: to “amplify” advocacy at TIA.

“The pandemic did a lot of things for a lot of people, but one of the unintended consequences is that it made the supply chain somehow known and understood better,” Reinke said during her keynote address at FreightWaves’ 3PL Summit on Wednesday.

“I think TIA and brokerage generally flew under the radar for a long time, but I don’t think we do anymore. The cat is out of the bag — the supply chain is important. We want to take that as an opportunity, harness that and continue to amplify our voice.”

Reinke’s transportation experience puts her in prime position to make that happen. After spending 16 years heading up the government affairs team at CSX, one of the nation’s five largest railroads, she went to work bridging policy goals of the U.S. Department of Transportation with states and with lawmakers as deputy assistant secretary for DOT’s government affairs and congressional affairs departments.

Reinke acknowledged, however, that “after going through a sort of toxic policy experience with DOT, it’s nice to be with people who are motivated to try to create efficiencies for their customers all around,” she said.

Reinke entered the brokerage and 3PL arena months after its own toxic issue – contention between brokers and independent owner-operators over rate transparency – had simmered down after heating up in the first quarter of 2020.

“My sense was that it was a government-driven, five-week economic recession that drove truck traffic into an abyss,” she said. “You had all the carriers chasing traffic that had been reduced so sharply, and obviously that drives rates down, and brokers were blamed as profiting off of it. We’ve already talked to OOIDA (Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association), and we’re hopeful that we can move beyond it. There is so much truck traffic out there now with so little capacity I don’t imagine this issue will come back again, but you never know.”

Also high on TIA’s concern list is the spike in cybersecurity attacks in private industry – and brokers can be particularly susceptible.

“We have a very strong VPN (virtual private network) at TIA, but not every member has that. If you’re a small broker, you may not have the resources to pour into IT. So through our vendors and relationships we try to provide assistance where we can, because that’s a driving need, especially with so many people working out of their homes.”

Since joining TIA in October, Reinke said she found that the association’s 1,600 members are generous with sharing best practices. “Through our conferences and networking events we’ve really been able to grow and harness the talent that we see at the nascent stage into the larger brokerage firms.”

Examples, she said, include a TIA member with a proprietary program that translates individual software programs of carriers and shippers so that they are able to “speak to each other” by accepting each other’s data. Another has a program on how to create an LTL load by analyzing different data points, such as refrigerated or frozen freight, destination and hourly restrictions. “The fact that we have this ingenuity shows the value of our members,” Reinke noted.

That ingenuity could bode well for her members over the next several years as the economy remains strong.

“There is still real optimism about that. I think we’re a little concerned about monetary policy and inflation and what that could mean long term,” she said, pointing out also that like any industry, “some consolidation could happen over time, but we see vast opportunities.” Some of that optimism is based on forecasting data from FreightWaves, which is projecting that truckload transactions executed by an intermediary such as a 3PL or freight broker will increase from 18% to 30% over the next 10 years.

Right now, TIA’s members are benefiting in an economic climate of constrained capacity as “capacity aggregators,” Reinke stressed. “We have these relationships with tens of thousands of carriers simultaneously with thousands of shippers, so with the spot market being what it is and capacity as it is, brokerages have never been more valuable.”

Her advice to people looking to get into the brokerage business – “aside from joining TIA, of course” – is to make sure they operate their business ethically, “otherwise no one will come back to you.” In addition, “network, network, network,” she said. “If you don’t go out there and meet carriers and shippers, you’re not going to succeed.”

John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.