Carrier Success Stories
The road to a successful partnership with your transportation provider can be long. But with the right mix of dedicated service, innovative strategies, advanced technology, and old-fashioned work ethic, carriers go above and beyond to meet shippers’ unique needs. Here’s how they get the job done.
Any iced coffee fan can attest that a large straw is a must-have for enjoying a cold hit of caffeine. Rarely do customers think about a straw shortage when placing their beverage order—it’s just a given. But that’s exactly what was at risk when COVID-related capacity shortages at the ports hampered a leading international coffee company’s ability to get ancillary products, like straws and napkins, to some of its stores.
To save the day, Candor Expedite, a woman-owned, Plano, Texas-based expedited carrier, stepped in with a strategic workaround. The carrier served as a pop-up distribution provider for the coffee company, doing “milk runs” to collect products from various suppliers and get them to the coffee shops each day.
Using expedited as a fill-in for its regular transportation supply chain allowed the coffee conglomerate to continue serving its in-store customers effectively despite the port backups.
The project was so effective that it was expanded to additional cities. For Candor, it was just business as usual.
“Our goal as a carrier is always to bring new ideas to customers, help them think about and use expedited transport in ways they didn’t realize they could, and find opportunities throughout the supply chain where expedited can make a positive impact,” explains Nicole Glenn, founder and CEO of Candor.
The Keys to Carrier Success
Dig into any carrier success story and you’re likely to find that same can-do attitude. Carriers build and maintain successful businesses based on their ability to serve shippers in good times and bad—by offering services, solutions, technology, and people that do everything in their power to meet customer needs as strategically, efficiently, and cost-effectively as possible.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all roadmap to success, a few shared characteristics are hallmarks of the industry’s leading carriers.
“The number-one element of being a successful carrier is offering world-class service,” states Fred Virga, vice president of business development for Cardinal Logistics, a Concord, North Carolina-based integrated transportation management provider. “Number two is providing continuous improvement for your customers.”
The ability to innovate and offer creative solutions is another key success factor for carriers.
“It’s crucial for carriers to have a solid, fundamental understanding of how their customers operate and what goals and challenges are important to them,” adds Chip Robinson, Cardinal’s area vice president of operations.
“The carrier really has to become ingrained in the customer’s business,” he says. “With that knowledge, carriers gain the right perspective to help customers achieve their goals through innovative strategies.”
Technology solutions, and the ancillary benefits they enable, are also critical. “Technology helps us to make the best, most optimal decisions for our customers, and enables us to remain agile and flexible in order to meet customer needs,” notes John Luciani, chief operating officer of LTL solutions for A. Duie Pyle, a transportation and logistics solutions provider based in West Chester, Pennsylvania.
Other times, critical industry knowledge enables a carrier to shine. That’s the case with Syfan Logistics, which has been serving shippers in the poultry industry since the 1980s.
Based in Gainesville, Georgia—known as the chicken capital of the world—the company “started by hauling chicken, and will always have a special place in our business for chicken,” says Sean Moore, a division manager for Syfan. “We have all the relationships necessary to serve that particular industry at the highest level.”
Here, these three carriers share stories that demonstrate their success philosophies in action.
Shipping National As If You Are Local
When a large Midwestern manufacturer of glass shower doors and enclosures first began working with Cardinal Logistics to improve its overall transportation strategy, the company used its own fleet of 125 drivers, running from its central manufacturing facility to points all over the country. Every shipment was a round trip.
The manufacturer’s goal was to ship products nationwide to its customer base of dealers, contractors, installers, and homebuilders with a service level that could rival what a customer would expect from a local facility.
Struggling to hit that goal, the manufacturer turned to Cardinal Logistics for effective strategies. Bringing its transportation expertise to bear, Cardinal put into play a plan that has reaped wide-ranging benefits.
“We were able to increase customer service and get their goods to market faster by changing existing domiciles and adding new domiciles,” explains Cardinal’s Fred Virga.
To eliminate running empty miles, Cardinal also began using its brokerage fleet to ship products from the company’s manufacturing location to a network of about 20 cross-dock facilities that Cardinal operates around the country.
“We ship the customer’s products utilizing a one-way solution to our cross-dock locations” Virga says. “From the cross-docks, we leverage our dedicated footprint, meaning our drivers make the final delivery from the cross-dock to the customer.
“Our trained drivers are the ones who touch every piece of glass and hardware during delivery,” he adds.
By rebuilding the transportation model to put Cardinal trucks in zones, the firm now yields greater sales dollars on every truck—in 2022, that translated to a 27% sales increase over 2021.
“We ship strategically now, compared to the past when our customer was basically shipping every order whenever their customer wanted it,” says Virga.
Cardinal also helped the glass firm strategize on where to open a second manufacturing location to better serve the western United States. They chose Reno, Nevada, based on the company’s historical customer data in the region and the location’s ability to maximize fleet operations.
Another strategic move centered around workforce allotment. Because of the more strategic approach to delivery, the customer was able to reduce its number of drivers to 85—a significant labor cost savings. Cardinal also made the decision to add management staff and place those managers in field locations to better understand and supervise the local flow of shipments.
Introducing technology played a key role in the transformation as well.
“Previously, the manufacturer didn’t have any technology” notes Virga. “They dispatched their trucks but had no visibility to what went on. By implementing Cardinal’s technology, they now have routing software, ETA notification, and track-and-trace capability.
The soup-to-nuts transportation overhaul has produced impressive results including roughly $2 million in yearly savings—a 10% annual reduction—for the manufacturer.
The effectiveness also shows in mileage and stops numbers: In 2021, Cardinal logged 6 million miles and 98,000 stops for the customer. Year-to-date (in mid-November), the 2022 numbers were 4 million miles and 72,000 stops.
“This improvement is not because we delivered less,” Virga says. “The manufacturer didn’t cancel or lose customers. We just changed the way we deliver.”
When Time is Tight, It’s Time to Get Smart
For a shipper, a transportation provider that guarantees next-day shipping for all orders placed by 6 p.m. is a sure win. But such a late cut-off time is super challenging for the company—and its carrier—to execute. That’s the scenario for a leading general commodities company, based in the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania, that moves a wide range of office and shipping products to businesses and consumers across the Northeast.
In 2017, the company was struggling to hit its shipment promises using a core carrier and turned to A. Duie Pyle for solutions. What began as a 100-shipments-per-day engagement has grown to some 800 or 900 daily less-than-truckload (LTL) shipments. The commodities company is now one of Pyle’s largest corporate customers.
Partners that Click
The companies have worked together with synergy for a few key reasons. “The company is located centrally in the middle of our network, which gives us a strong strategic approach for managing their tight time frames,” says Pyle’s John Luciani.
“From their location, we can ship overnight, via our network, to destinations such as Portland, Maine; Buffalo, New York; and Richmond, Virginia, which gives them a competitive advantage,” he adds.
Proactive communication coupled with strong technology resources are other reasons for the partnership’s success. The company’s wide range of products—everything from 10-foot-long corrugated cardboard to standardized pallets and small cartons of items like packaging tape, along with pallet racking and two wheeled cargo handlers—necessitate some flexibility in how the loads are handled.
A. Duie Pyle counts on communication and technology to prioritize oversized shipments and shipments with the longest length of haul in order to meet the customer’s tight deadlines. (Pyle will pick up as late as 9:30 p.m. for overnight delivery.)
“The customer measures raw on-time service numbers, so if they give us 100 shipments, they expect 97 of them to be delivered overnight,” Luciani notes.
The revamped loading and shipping setup also helps the carrier exceed expectations. “We drop trailers—40 in total—at the customer’s shipping facilities and they load them,” Luciani explains. “We swap these 40 trailers all day, but there’s a progression. As it gets closer to 6 p.m., they start to proactively communicate with us. They send bill-of-lading information so we know what shipment is loaded on what trailer.”
This proactive communication helps Pyle with load planning for the longest lengths of haul.
At that point, A. Duie Pyle pre-builds the shipments. “We dimension a majority of the outbound freight we handle,” Luciani says. “As a result, we have good density information and a strong understanding, from a cubic capacity perspective, of how much room we need on a particular trailer, based on historical data and the bill-of-lading information.”
In addition, A. Duie Pyle operates 27 LTL service centers throughout the Northeast, so the company is able to consolidate shipments, based on the destination terminal, from its Allentown service center.
Overall, this success story rests in the customer’s gained ability to “hit remote points in the Northeast overnight without needing the bricks-and-mortar infrastructure that some of their competitors have,” Luciani notes. “We can enable them to offer that same overnight service, but do it from one central location.”
Don’t Chicken Out on Tough Shipments
Truck drivers are notoriously tough, but even the most hard-core road dogs have limits on what they are willing to haul.
So, it’s not surprising that a leading chicken producer was having a hard time finding drivers to transport loads of chicken waste from its poultry plant in Alabama to a rendering location in Mississippi. After a fire burned down the company’s local chicken-rendering facility, it was left with this inconvenient out-of-state scenario.
To make the situation more challenging, the chicken waste had to be hauled away constantly or the plant would have to shut down, so time was of the essence.
The company turned to Syfan Logistics for help, given its long-standing reputation in the industry. The carrier got its start in the chicken business and poultry-hauling is still a mainstay of Syfan’s customer base.
“Through our strong relationships and network, we were able to find drivers who were willing to take on this work,” says Syfan’s Sean Moore. “We explained to them exactly what they were getting into so there were no surprises.”
It wasn’t only the extremely bad smell that made these loads challenging. Caution was essential as the trailers used for transport were open at the top and covered only with a tarp, so sloshing was a big concern.
“Our drivers had to be extra careful to ensure no spillage on the highway,” Moore explains. In addition, the drivers faced a 500-mile round trip on each run and long wait times loading and unloading. The total volume was about 10 to 12 loads per day.
Because they were trying to prevent shutdowns, there was also constant pressure to get empty trailers back to the chicken plant on time.
“We had to make sure our drivers were running their hours correctly because there always had to be an empty trailer at the plant to collect the waste,” Moore says. “Also, any delays that occurred during the trip, or while unloading, could end up causing a plant shutdown if we couldn’t get an empty trailer back on time.”
If a driver ran out of hours, for instance, Syfan had to arrange for another driver to come and get that trailer and return it to the plant.
To help ease the burden, Syfan brought in extra trailers from the customer’s locations in Texas and made sure they always had a “fresh” extra driver (one with available hours) to wait at the rendering location in Mississippi in case another driver ran out of hours.
Coordinating all of this was no easy feat. Though Syfan uses top-notch transportation technology, this was a case where a manual approach of “constant phone calls and texts” was more practical, Moore says.
“We had the drivers on automated tracking, so we could constantly see their location, but putting all these puzzle pieces together 24/7 was more about person-to-person communication.”
The two-way partnership between Syfan and the chicken company was key to success. “It was truly a team effort,” Moore says.