As shippers continue to struggle with a tough market for moving freight, an industry group says that the less than truckload (LTL) freight sector could benefit from better collaboration and standardization to help companies cope with the rise of increasingly common embargoes on short haul and last-mile delivery.
The market is further stressed because a rising number of carriers are capping the number of packages they will accept from shippers, since trucking fleets are operating with less freight capacity than they have offered for several years. The strategy is a bid to avoid getting swamped by a huge volume of parcels that could hit their ability to reach on-time delivery and other performance standards, the carriers say.
In response, a group of freight industry executives are trying to facilitate collaboration, automation, standardization, and digitalization across all LTL stakeholders in an effort to evolve and elevate the industry, according to the “Digital LTL Council.” The council aims to develop standards in three main focus areas: electronic bill of lading (EBL), shipment visibility and tracking, and freight exception handling.
The group’s two dozen members include representatives from firms including project44, SMC3, Uline, Quad Graphics, Averitt Express, and Pitt Ohio. And on Thursday, the group added another member when it named BlueGrace Logistics executive Adam Blankenship to join the board.
"As a council, we're looking to meet the challenges of today's LTL marketplace by simplifying digitization efforts across platforms to better ensure shippers, carriers and 3PLs work more efficient," Blankenship, who is BlueGrace’s chief commercial officer, said in a release. "In order to create lasting impact, collaboration is needed from different organizations and industry experts alike.”
As noted in its mission statement, the group faces increasing challenges from a stressed freight market. As one measure, the transportation analyst firm FTR noted last week that its Shippers Conditions Index (SCI) for June had fallen back to a reading of -12.0, reflecting a continuing tough environment for shippers.
Bloomington, Indiana-based FTR said the index tracks changes in four conditions in the U.S. full-load freight market: freight demand, freight rates, fleet capacity, and fuel price. Combined into a single score, the number indicates good conditions when positive and poor conditions when negative.
The latest reading means that shipper market conditions remain highly negative, according to Todd Tranausky, vice president of rail and intermodal at FTR. While freight rates improved slightly during June, that was not enough to offset tighter capacity utilization and little change in the other components – volume and fuel costs.
“The capacity situation is expected to remain tight into 2022 and while rate increases are expected to moderate their rates of growth through the next several months, they will for the most part remain in positive territory meaning shippers’ rate relief might feel good, but it is a matter of degrees as rates will still be going up year over year,” Tranausky said in a release.