LM Viewpoint: Cure for the common capacity headache?

The growing driver shortage, capacity imbalances, federal government regulations, meteoric e-commerce growth and overall robust economic conditions are all wreaking havoc on ground transportation costs and causing multiple pain points for nearly everyone moving freight domestically or internationally.

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Today, this tightening logistics market requires more creative thinking, innovation and collaboration on the part of shippers, carriers and third-party logistics (3PL) providers—and according to nearly all volume forecasts, the pressure shippers are feeling is not going to ease up any time soon. 

With that in mind, Logistics Management offers two expert roundtables this month designed to offer insight into transportation services markets that—if leveraged and optimized—can help shippers alter their game plan and alleviate some of the stress that has been mounting in their networks over the past few years. 

Over the 15 years that I have worked on Logistics Management, I’ve watched the rail/intermodal evolution with much interest, as those markets invested heavily to solve infrastructure challenges and worked feverishly to improve service and add supplemental technology to keep pace with modern demands. 

Our group news editor Jeff Berman has gathered three of the nation’s foremost experts in the rail/intermodal sectors to help put their progress into perspective and offer practical advice for shippers to get the most out of these services.

According to Berman, the panelists in our 8th Annual Rail/Intermodal Roundtable agree that these markets have made great strides, and in many cases are now at the same table as the traditionally more responsive and flexible modes. However, today’s environment has ushered in challenges that may hinder their pace.

“Volumes in carload and intermodal are certainly strong and steady,” says Berman, “but there have been a few service issues over the past several months and carload volumes have declined in key commodity areas. So while demand is solid, our panel believes that there’s still plenty of work to be done on the rails to help shippers fill what’s now a massive capacity need.”

According to executive editor Patrick Burnson, one of the central themes of the “3PL Value Creation/North America Summit 2018,” Armstrong & Associates’ conference that convenes this month in Chicago, will focus on how 3PLs can help shippers better streamline their freight networks and gain the capacity, technology support and appropriate service levels that will keep them competitive in this constrained era.

Starting on page 42, Burnson has pulled together four of the conference’s key speakers who share the common message that shippers now, more than ever, need to forego rate bashing, open up their operations and become more collaborative—or have freight left on the docks as a result of sitting idle.

“For years we’ve used our pages to show how important shipper/3PL partnerships would become in the modern age,” says Burnson, “so much, in fact, that it probably began to sound banal. But here we are, in one of the tightest environments shippers have ever had to navigate, and our panel contends that shipper/3PL collaboration may now be the only path to long-term success.” 

About the Author

Michael Levans, Group Editorial Director
Michael Levans is Group Editorial Director of American Truck Media’s Supply Chain Group of publications and websites including Logistics Management, Supply Chain Management Review, Modern Materials Handling, and Material Handling Product News. He’s a 23-year publishing veteran who started out at the Pittsburgh Press as a business reporter and has spent the last 17 years in the business-to-business press. He’s been covering the logistics and supply chain markets for the past seven years. You can reach him at [ protected]

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