Monthly Archives: October 2017

4 Tips to Prepare for the Holiday Season

As we are getting closer to the holiday season, we start to feel the pressure of the upcoming volume spikes and tight deadlines. This time of the year might be the busiest for the transportation industry in general, and definitely the craziest time for most retailers.

Companies must adapt to the demanding market and put, even more, effort into smooth supply chain operations in order to provide great customer experience and stay profitable. Holiday logistics will be stressful and overwhelming, but here are a few tips to help you get through this busy time and master holiday shipping.

iStock-118288507.jpgLearn from your experience

Take the time to sit down and analyze the previous year’s holiday shipping.  What did you do well? What went wrong? Could you avoid any issues? Come up with the key points to take into consideration this year to avoid repeating last year’s mistakes.

Move your deadlines forward

Don’t plan for the ‘best-case scenario’ – it will not happen. Odds are, you will end up operating in the ‘worse-than-you-could’ve-imagined’ one. Plan for it! Set your deadlines a day or too earlier and do your best to meet them. Should holiday chaos win and you miss your deadline – it will not be the end of the world and your customers will still be happy.

Be proactive

The holiday season will not be just another typical day in the office. Circumstances will change, the volume will be overwhelming and all kinds of issues and delays will stress you out. There is no avoiding it, to be honest. This is something we need to accept and make the best out of it. Be proactive – communicate with all parties involved in the shipping process, stay on top of what is going on. This will help you avoid quite a few last-minute disasters.

Get support!

The holiday season is a good time to partner up with a 3PL. This will give you access to their extensive carrier base and help you to secure trucks for your last-minute orders. 3PL representative also has extensive experience when it comes to managing high-volume projects in a fast-paced environment.

Looking for some assistance with your holiday shipping? Contact us!

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PLS Logistics Services Partners with the Blockchain In Trucking Alliance (BiTA)

Cranberry Twp., PA, October 26, 2017 – PLS Logistics Services, a leading 3rd party logistics provider, has joined the Blockchain in Trucking Alliance (BiTA).  BiTA is a standards and advocacy organization designed to educate, advocate, and establish standards for Blockchain applications in the trucking industry.

BiTA and PLS believe the Blockchain is one of the most significant developments for the supply chain industry. BiTA, PLS Logistics Services, and hundreds of other logistics leaders seek to revolutionize the trucking industry through this partnership.

By bringing together the most influential leaders in transportation, finance, and technology, BiTA will build the first set of transportation Blockchain standards. The Alliance seeks to provide clarity and standards around the Blockchain through education and advocacy of technology.

BiTA intends to become the leader of Blockchain within the industry. Together with PLS Logistic Services, expect to see an advancement in innovative infrastructure.

About PLS Logistics Services

PLS Logistics Services is a leading provider of logistics management, brokerage, and technology services for shippers across all industries. PLS handles millions of loads annually across all major freight modes: flatbed, van, LTL, rail and barge, air and ocean. The PLS carrier network consists of over 40,000 pre-qualified trucking companies along with Class-1 railroads and major barge companies. PLS has been recognized as a top 25 freight brokerage firm. To learn more visit www.plslogistics.com.

About Blockchain in Trucking Alliance

Founded in August 2017, the Blockchain in Trucking Alliance (BiTA) is a forum for promotion, education, and encouragement to develop and adopt Blockchain applications in the trucking, transportation, and logistics industry. BiTA’s goal is for members to participate, discuss, create, and adopt industry standard uses of Blockchain applications and to provide clarity and direction for the development of Blockchain technology in the trucking industry in a manner that will create efficiency, transparency, and foster trust. BiTA standards are intended to create a common framework to help organizations develop and adopt Blockchain technology. For more information, visit www.bita.studio

Media Contact:

Kelsey Magilton, Marketing Manager

(724) 814 – 5074

kmagilton@plslogistics.com

Blockchain in Trucking Alliance

Trailer Pools: A Logistics Industry Opportunity

With the logistics industry continually growing and redeveloping, freight brokers and 3PLs are taking to new heights for becoming more efficient. The reasoning? Efficiency = increased revenue. Trailer pools are the new hot topic of the logistics industry, could this increase shipper and carrier efficiency?

Presently, the 3PL industry is over $150B in annual revenues with a total of $50B in gross margin generated from the revenue total. Most trucking companies are outsourcing 42% of their capacity to other carriers and roughly 20% of for-hire freight is facilitated by brokerages and 3PLs.

This is evidence of how significant 3PLs have become within the trucking industry. Now let’s look at the differences between brokerage & 3PLs:

Brokerages:

  • Not asset-based, don’t own their own equipment to transport shipments
  • Best for shippers with unpredictable transportation needs
  • Connected to many trusted carriers that offer varieties of services
  • Not involved in the planning and optimization of supply chain strategy
  • Works for an as-needed basis

3PLs:

  • Plays a strategic role in supply chain optimization
  • Establishes a long-term relationship with supply chain managers
  • Involved in the entire planning process
  • Works with shippers to create a unified logistics solution
  • Connected to many trusted carriers just like a broker
  • Occasionally deploy their own assets to bring down the cost for shippers

Trailer PoolIn the future, experts believe the industry is likely to see the usage of trailer pools. What is a trailer pool? Essentially, trailer pools are a way to tranche together a subset of trailers in an area that doesn’t have much freight and get them to a better area without them having to deadhead there for $0. These trailers don’t necessarily have to come from the same carrier – that’s the beauty of it.

Shippers benefit from a cheaper average price. While carriers benefit from a guaranteed move.

When we consider the practical usage of trailer pools, it’s a tough call on how to best use them. Are these trailer pools a good thing or a bad thing? It’s a situation that can have effects on those using a pool and those without.

Pros:

  • Allows loading and unloading to happen without a driver being present, efficient
  • Shipper is given flexibility in loading and unloading which prevents congestion in docks
  • Reduces the severity of detention spending that shippers pay out for creating delays
  • Fleets can allow their drivers to maintain loaded miles (happy CFOs and drivers)
  • Creates a consistent price point for those in the pool
  • Allows carriers the ability to improve data recording

Cons:

  • Creates a freight that is often less desirable for larger commercial fleets
  • Requires a great amount of investment
  • Carriers can sometimes become concerned of customers abusing the pool
  • Trailer pools that are too small may result in customers being underserved
  • Profit loss when carriers are not moving cargo
  • Can create an influx in pricing for those not involved within a trailer pool of a certain area
  • Increase in enforcement and collections for detention if a shipper abuses the pool

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Warehouse Automation: What does this mean for your business?

High-speed 24/7 processing with enhanced order accuracy which is running like clockwork – doesn’t that sound perfect and slightly sci-fi?

Warehouse automation is gradually becoming just another typical thing in the global supply chain. Various warehouses and DC’s across the globe are choosing this path to improve their material handling process in order to maximize the overall warehouse efficiency and output and enhance the order accuracy.

iStock-858527370.jpgWarehouse automation is definitely the future of the global supply chain and will be implemented in more and more facilities going forward. It’s easy to see some of the obvious benefits, but there is a downside to the implementation process as well.

Pros of automating your warehouse

Efficiency. Increased output and faster order processing – the main benefit of warehouse automation. In the end, real efficiency is what any business is looking to achieve.

Manpower. You will be hiring and training fewer, more highly-skilled people, reducing the overall hiring and training time.

Seasonal spikes. You will be less dependent on the tight labor market and will face fewer layoffs.

Labor costs. With the two benefits above, you will reduce your operating costs and, granted the freed capital is properly applied, it will help you grow your business.

Accuracy. Computer software will eliminate the “human error” and will provide more accurate inventory and give you better visibility of what is in stock, as well as ensure fewer mistakes in shipping. This will help cut down on the cost of these mistakes, such as reverse logistics for example.

Cons of automating your warehouse

The most problematic part will be the implementation process.

Interrupted activity. Your present warehouse day-to-day will not run smoothly until the transition is complete. This will most likely temporarily set you back with inventory and delivery schedules.

Staff. Automation will eliminate jobs – you will either have to provide the training which will give them the necessary skills to handle new tasks, or face layoffs.

Cost. Automation will be expensive and will without a doubt affect your budget. Although it should pay off, considering the cons – make sure to go through a thorough analysis to ensure your budget will be able to afford it.

Accuracy? Computer software will eliminate the “human error”, but introduce the possible “software glitch”. The glitch may not be caught immediately and may affect the operations on a larger scale than just one person making a mistake.

 

The most important thing when making the decision to automate your warehouse is the in-depth analysis. Is it worth the expense if it’s only necessary during your peak season? Will the costly undertaking be actually worth it? Warehouse automation can be a life-saver for one business but will be the end of another.

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4 Tips to Ensure On-time Shipping for Small Businesses

On time delivery is crucial in any industry. This final touchpoint in the supply chain represents your ability to fulfill your customer’s needs competently. It’s especially important for small businesses to deliver products on-time, as a good reputation is essential to their bottom-line.

Small Business Owner

Regardless if you’re shipping to consumers or businesses, delayed shipments are detrimental. Late deliveries slow down supply chains and hurt customer relationships. In fact, 70% of consumers may not shop with a retailer again after receiving a late shipment, and 86% of consumers say their expectation for on-time delivery increases in peak seasons like the holiday shopping season.

A transportation management system (TMS) is a great tool for small businesses to improve shipping performance. TMS software aids in finding the lowest rates and find the best carrier for your shipping needs. A TMS provides the foundation for freight optimization. It can give you visibility into your distribution network to discover potential flaws.

Here are some tips to ensure on-time shipping:

1. Analyze Performance Data for Supply Chain Partners

Are some of your inbound materials consistently delivered late or damaged? Are you delivering late to one of your customers more often than the others? Sometimes suppliers, customers, and freight carriers cause late deliveries. With the visibility you gain from a TMS, you can pinpoint which partners in your supply chain are causing trouble and work with them to fix it.

2.Assess Dwell Time at Your Facility

The way you ship items may be slowing down the transportation process and causing late deliveries. Dwell time, or how long a driver has to wait at your facility or location, is very important. If dwell time is too long, it may force the driver, due to hours of service rules, to take an extra day to arrive at the destination. Long dwell time will decrease a driver’s willingness to haul your freight, leaving you to work with carriers that have a bad history of truck and driver out of service rates.

3. Create Visibility into Freight Movement

Although LTL shipping is convenient and fast, you are particularly susceptible to delays. LTL trailers are filled with multiple loads from different companies, so the route is longer, and more freight handling is required, which leads to a higher chance for damage., When you ship LTL, avoid delays and damage by ensuring there is a track and trace feature available, so you can keep an eye on your freight.

4. Lean on 3PL Expertise

3PLs have proprietary technology and a large carrier capacity to put to work for you. This enables visibility into transportation and some of the lowest linehaul rates on the market. These carriers are pre-qualified for safety and security, so you’ll experience less frequent disruptions. A 3PLs expertise will help you increase shipment speed, reliability and reduce costs. A 3PL will take care of transporting your goods while you focus on core competencies.

Additional tip: always inform customers of late delivery. While warning customers of an anticipated disruption won’t stop the shipment being delayed, it can mitigate the negative impact on reputation and perceived service. Having track and trace features from a TMS will enable you to warn customers of late delivery. When your customers are made aware of a delay in shipping, they can make plans to notify their customers and/or prepare to receive the shipment at a different date, reducing the inefficiencies on their end.

There are many practical TMS solutions for small businesses – especially TMS software hosted on the cloud, where you only pay for what you use. Typically, the cost savings from lower linehaul rates and better routing offsets the cost of using a TMS. TMS software allows small businesses to spend less time on transportation and more time on core competencies.

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How To Make Your Freight More Attractive To Carriers

Capacity is tighter than ever; the rates are at all-time high and steadily climbing up – this is no surprise to anyone connected to the transportation industry. We have already discussed the major factors which are contributing to the capacity crisis, and a few tips which should help you negotiate in the current high-rate market.

The current market is the reality we all must face at the moment, and the experts forecast that the crisis will most likely continue well into the next year at the very least. With truck-to-load ratio breaking the records, it’s not just the rates which will help you move your freight in a timely manner, but also how attractive your freight is for carriers.

How can you make carriers more interested in your load? Of course, a lot revolves around the rate, but there are a few things that can contribute as well:

Be flexible

Although it’s understandable why shippers prefer strict appointments, in times on tight capacity this will limit your options even more. Some drivers might not be able to meet your appointment requirement, and others will prefer a different load which will give them more flexibility with pick-up/delivery and less anxiety over potentially missing the appointment.

Don’t waste time

We have previously discussed in more detail how shippers can help increase truck capacity, and this is a very important factor indeed. Make sure your loading/unloading procedures are efficient and avoid detention. First of all, it will help streamline the process and keep the drivers on the road rather than at your dock. Moreover, the word travels fast: if your facility is notorious for holding drivers up for an unreasonable amount of time, carriers might not be willing to load at your facility, even if offered a good rate.

Plan ahead

Try to ship your loads consistently over the course of the month and schedule them in advance. This will give you more truck options and will help negotiate better rates with your consistent carriers, as they will be able to plan their operations better. Trying to push all the loads out last minute and at once will be stressful, expensive – and you will most likely not meet the delivery requirements.

Be open-minded

Sticking to the rules is extremely important for the proper operation of any business. However, be open-minded in the times of capacity crisis. Sometimes, being flexible and maybe even bending a rule to accommodate the needs of your regular carrier might be worth it to keep them on your freight going forward. Carriers will often stay loyal and move your loads for lower rates than offered elsewhere if they feel their cooperation is valued.

 

In the end, it’s not just about money. The tips above will help you market your freight better, give you more truck options and help you keep your supply chain operations uninterrupted.

Looking for access to a consistent carrier base? Contact us!

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How to Negotiate With Market Rate Increases

It’s no secret that rates are increasing and could continue well into 2018. Both spot rates and contract rates are spiking.

The looming electronic logging device mandate (ELD) is expected to decrease capacity by as much as 20%. Not to mention, as the economy grows – the shortage of drivers continues to grow, causing the capacity to remain tight.

So, rates are going up. Now that we’re in Q4 of 2017, many 2018 contracts are up for negotiation. How can you secure a good rate?

There are many factors to consider when calculating rates, but it all boils down to your own costs. When beginning a negotiation – understand not just what rate you want, but what rate you deserve. A little research can go a long way. Understand the services you can deliver and services your customer needs. Don’t try and up-sell customers just for a rate boost – if you don’t like it, chances are your customer won’t either.

Understand your competitive landscape. A competitive rate analysis will give you a better understanding of where you stand against your competitors.negotiation

If a rate increase is required, be sure to explain to your customer WHY there was an X% increase. Did your insurance rate go up? Did you add employees to increase productivity? Explain the reason for an increase.

Of course, in any negotiation, an essential factor is to sell the value of your service/product to the customer. If you’re selling based on rate, there will be no value-added in signing on with your business and endless price bargaining. Let your customer know what services you provide that differentiate your services from your competitors.

Lastly, use benchmarking tools to set and understand proper rate structures. Tools such as DAT’s RateView are great for understanding spot and contract rates in the current market. This data will likely give you a leg up in the negotiation game.

There are always opportunities to secure a good rate between you and your customer, you just have to know where to find them.

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4 Tips to Help You Handle Your High-Value Shipments

When you need to move a smaller high-value shipment, you undoubtedly consider shipping it LTL. This is definitely the most efficient way, but what about the classic LTL risks? The freight will be handled and transferred multiple times between origin and destination increasing the risk of loss and damage.

Let’s take a look at a few tips which might help you eliminate these risks and ensure your high-value shipment is delivered on time and ‘in one piece’.

Using Expedited Time Critical Service iStock-621247676.jpg

Usually, time-sensitive LTL service not only offers a quicker service but provides better visibility and gives you an opportunity to have more control over your shipment. You may combine it with Guaranteed service as well.

This will give you an opportunity to have a more specific pick-up/delivery time. These services will not be free but will give you peace of mind knowing your high-value shipment is being shipped with premium treatment.

Selecting a Quality Carrier

The cheapest option is not always the best option. Carriers with significantly lower rates and reasonable transit times are usually notorious for their service levels. Although you might have no problem taking a little risk with your other shipments to save money – it might not be the best idea for a high-value shipment.

Choose a reliable carrier that will take proper care of your shipment, pick up and deliver on time and provide clear visibility in transit. Always make sure your shipment will go direct, without being transferred to partner carriers as it will decrease the visibility and increase the risks.

Shorter Transit Times

Usually, shorter transit times indicate that your shipment will be transferred around less often. This is exactly what we need for our high-value shipments – the absolute minimum of transfers and terminals.

Choose a quality carrier with the shorter transit times to ensure the safety of your shipment. As already mentioned above, consider using Time-Critical and Guaranteed options to have it delivered as soon as possible.

Proper Insurance Coverage

Think ahead and always plan for the worst-case scenario. Even if you have done everything to ensure your shipment gets to the destination on time and in a perfect condition – you can never be 100% sure! Don’t leave yourself exposed to the unexpected and avoid financial loss should anything go wrong.

Consult your 3PL representative and find out whether the liability provided by the carrier is enough, or the purchase of additional insurance is required. It will never hurt to ensure your freight is fully covered and you are ready for the worst before sending your shipment out to the consignee.

Looking for advice or a rate quote on your regular or high-value shipments? Contact us!

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5 Tips to Choose the Perfect LTL Freight Carrier

LTL shipments and quotes have been a popular discussion in recent weeks of the PLS . We’ve covered everything from LTL quotes for beginners to LTL shipping mistakes. Now we’re going to go in depth on how to choose the perfect LTL freight carrier with these 5 tips.

Since the federal deregulation of the transportation industry in the late 1970’s, LTL transportation has morphed from a heavily unionized group of carriers operating in a largely non-competitive environment into a high tech, cost-effective and service-oriented transportation industry.

Over the past few years, LTL carriers have made tremendous advancements in technology and service. The industry has mastered state-of-the-art website functionality, paperless tender and billing, instant electronic dispatch, and real-time status verification of delivery.

Nowadays, it’s more common than not for carriers and 3PLs to offer apps for smartphones and tablets. You can now stay in touch anytime, anywhere.

With all these advancements, it may seem tricky when choosing your LTL carrier. What’s the difference between A and B? What should I look for in an LTL carrier?

LTL AgreementWhen choosing your LTL carrier, keep in mind these 5 factors:

  1. Guaranteed Service: For a nominal fee, shippers can have the money-back assurance that the carrier will meet published service expectations.
  2. Insurance Policies: Most LTL carriers provide liability insurance at a rate of $10 per pound. Some can be as low as $1 per pound. Investigate your carrier’s insurance policy to ensure you’re covered.
  3. Sealed Trailer Space: Shippers can now reserve exclusive trailer space where goods can be packed in various configurations and walled off from remaining trailer space, protecting the shipment from other freight, excessive handling, loss or damage through to final delivery.
  4. Carrier Shipping Units: Many carriers now offer pre-fabricated shipping containers for easy shipping of mixed commodities, personal effects, even entire households. Containers range from small folding crates to full-size storage containers that are loaded and unloaded at customer-specified locations.
  5. Time-Definite Service: Many carriers are now offering service options that work around your schedule with customized transportation services that adhere specifically to customer’s requirements.

These, as well as many other industry-specific service offerings, have allowed LTL carriers to maximize market share, giving shippers numerous options for service and cost that are not available with full truckload, air, or other surface modes of transportation.

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Why Are Rates Skyrocketing?

Anyone connected with transportation is well aware of the latest market trends and conditions. We have been witnessing a steady increase in truckload rates lately. Experts predict this is only the beginning and spot market rates will keep climbing in the foreseeable future. Capacity is tighter than ever and its load to truck ratio in September is breaking the records.

iStock-841802950.jpgThis is not caused by a single factor – a complex of things is contributing to the tightening capacity and continuous rate increases. Let’s look at a few major reasons:

Aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma

Two devastating hurricanes hit the US within a very short period of time leaving destruction and severe weather conditions behind as they passed. This had a major impact on the truckload capacity. Recovery required emergency supplied and aid which shifted the capacity to the affected areas, leaving other parts of the country with much lighter coverage.

Driver shortage

This is a problem which did not show up as suddenly as hurricanes. It has been happening for some time now; it has been actively discussed – and it is not likely to stop anytime soon. Qualified drivers are not easy to come by now, and the industry is definitely feeling the pain caused by driver shortage in the form of continuously tightening capacity.

ELD

Probably the most controversial and widely discussed topic in the transportation industry in 2017. The mandate designed to improve safety on the roads and eliminate paperwork component has not been met with excitement by many carriers. The cost and complexity of implementation and achieving compliance caused major pushback from carriers. There have been multiple attempts to stall the process and extend the implementation period for two more years.

As of right now, it seems like the regulation will be fully in effect in December. As a result, we will see a decrease in capacity as some carriers will not be ready by December, some will violate it and face consequences and so on.

All of these factors directly affect truckload capacity and logically, boost the rates. Forecasts suggest that shippers brace themselves for even higher rates in the coming 2018.

Read more: ELD Mandate: What you need to know, Can Shippers Help Increase Truck Capacity?, Secure Capacity with these 3 tips

Struggling with capacity for your loads? We can help thanks to our solid and steady carrier base.

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