When Chris Henry conceived the idea of benchmarking financial and operational data for trucking companies in North America, he faced resistance.
“Those first 90 days were full of rejections, specifically focused on ‘It will be impossible to get truckers to agree to submit their confidential data for any type of benchmarking purpose,’ with some choice swear words thrown in for good measure,” Henry said.
But he persisted, and with the help of a partnership with the Truckload Carriers Association formed in 2015, his vision that began as Best Practice Groups back in 2002 was rebranded as the TCA Profitability Program (TPP) and took off. It now comprises over 200 trucking companies and is the largest member-driven benchmarking program in trucking, Henry said.
Henry, who has served as vice president of carrier profitability for FreightWaves since the data and media business acquired his company StakUp in June 2019, is stepping away from both FreightWaves and his role as program manager for TPP. FreightWaves clients and TPP members, though, are being left in good hands as industry veteran Todd Davis, vice president of customer success for FreightWaves, will succeed Henry in handling all benchmarking efforts at FreightWaves and those related to the TPP program.
Henry, who lives in Canada, is joining a Canadian company within the transportation industry. The announcement was made Monday morning by TCA President John Lyboldt, TPP Managing Director Jack Porter and by FreightWaves.
“Todd Davis has deep carrier experience,” Henry said. “In his career, he has led a pricing team for one of the largest truckload carriers in North America, and also led their internal benchmarking activities. He will be uncovering new ways for carriers and brokerages to extract value out of benchmarking data, more specifically use of data to drive execution.”
At its core, TPP is about benchmarking, and it utilizes the inGauge benchmarking program acquired by FreightWaves in the StakUp acquisition to do that. inGauge collects over 500 key operational and financial performance indicators submitted by members. Participants can choose to utilize “data only” benchmark services or join a Best Practice Group. By joining a Best Practices Group, participants can connect with peers to share knowledge and best practices, to improve profitability, employee engagement and retention, and lower their collective risk profiles. Currently, there are 12 Best Practice Groups within the refrigerated, van, tanker/bulk and brokerage modes.
Davis said he is excited to continue growing what Henry has built.
“Firstly, I would like to thank Chris Henry for the amazing job that he has done with the program and for the support he has shown me,” Davis said. “It is an honor to be asked to assume his role, as he leaves big shoes to fill. Chris, [FreightWaves Data Integration Manager] Will Hopping and the team have done an outstanding job, and I am excited to be joining the team and helping move it forward.”
Prior to joining FreightWaves, Davis spent a little over 22 years at U.S. Xpress (NYSE: USX) in several roles, including senior director of sales and marketing, and as director of pricing and marketing services. He has extensive experience in benchmarking on the carrier side and believes strongly in the mission of the TPP program.
“I believe my background on the asset carrier side, the benchmarking I did in my prior carrier role, and my interactions with industry advocacy organizations allows me to understand and relate to the challenges that the TPP group is keenly interested in,” he said. “I want to listen to what the groups’ needs are and deliver data, insight and solutions geared toward helping resolve these needs.”
In a letter sent to TPP members Monday morning, TCA’s Lyboldt said he and Jack Porter remain dedicated to growing the benchmarking Best Practice Group program.
Lyboldt said Henry will remain involved to ensure a smooth leadership transition and called the elevation of Dunn to a larger role and “excellent fit.”
“Shepard Dunn, an industry veteran and past TCA Chairman, is also the current moderator for a number of best practice groups,” Lyboldt said. “Shepard will be assuming the duties and responsibilities for those Best Practice Groups previously handled by Chris, as well as being a liaison with FreightWaves along with Jack. We are thankful to have such a great facilitator and moderator like Shepard to support this transition and to help manage the growth of TPP Best Practice Group program.”
Davis anticipates a smooth transition to his new role and has already met with Dunn and Porter to discuss the transition, and been briefed on the program by Henry, who will continue to serve as an ambassador for both FreightWaves and TPP. Davis added that his previous experience in benchmarking has taught him the value of it, something FreightWaves’ SONAR and TPP participation can enhance.
“Carriers by and large have very similar models,” he said. “Running similar equipment, having similar driver pay scales and similar maintenance expenses for instance. Granted there are a multitude of variations, but for most carriers the main cost drivers and their resulting operational metrics look largely the same. Given this, and in light of the industry’s relatively low margins, I believe that it is an industry whose participants can benefit greatly from benchmarking key KPI and cost metrics versus their peers in order to rapidly identify areas where they are out of step with peers and can drive improvement.”
Henry echoed those thoughts on the importance of benchmarking, noting that traditionally, benchmarking has been a historical measure.
“Until now, the word benchmarking in trucking has referred to lagging financial and operational measures, typically aggregated at company level,” Henry said. “In combination with the ever-evolving SONAR platform, Todd is going to lead the charge of helping companies use their own transactional data in conjunction with and compared to the rich SONAR datasets in multiple ways.”
In May, Henry announced a new brokerage benchmarking application available within FreightWaves’ SONAR platform. In a blog post, Henry wrote that the “new application and service will allow forward-thinking brokerages to compare their operational and financial performance to peers in an anonymous, aggregated format. In addition, our brokerage benchmarking application will leverage FreightWaves Media, Events and Intel teams to provide qualitative insights and best practices among a vetted, members-only participant group.”
Davis will now head up this growing business opportunity.
Henry thanked FreightWaves founder and CEO Craig Fuller for the opportunities he has been presented in the past year-plus.
“When FreightWaves acquired StakUp in 2019, it was because Craig Fuller shared my vision of reaching a larger audience in the trucking community who can benefit from the exercise of benchmarking,” Henry said. “Craig is a trucker at heart, and understands how difficult operating a truckload carrier is, and the potential advantages that can be gained from establishing new objectives and eliminating the status quo in a trucking operation. We have continued to grow our audience, and my friends Todd and Will are going to take it to a whole other level. I am excited for what’s next for FreightWaves benchmarking and the TCA Profitability Program.”
Henry said that leaving generates some mixed feelings, but the relationships he has built, and the knowledge he has gained, are invaluable.
“I will miss the relationships,” he said. “Benchmarking is all about trust at its core, and the top-performing trucking companies on the planet have entrusted me with their data, and as a result, I’ve built strong relationships with the people and companies. Although those relationships will continue, it will be different. I am extremely appreciative of the apprenticeship this collection of leaders has provided me.”
Lyboldt said that the TPP program will continue to evolve.
“With change comes an opportunity to look at the past, embrace the current program, and shape the future of it,” he said. “That is exactly what we have been doing and this approach will not change. We are looking at what is working well, were we can improve, by working closely with the membership to get their input to help shape our continued success. TPP’s growth will be dictated by each member’s productivity and profitability, and their constant improvement operationally. This where the rubber meets the road.”Any carrier interested in participating in the TCA Profitability Program can sign up at the group’s website: tcaingauge.com.