As the overall U.S. economy and e-commerce demands in particular continue to grow, the less-than-truckload transportation industry should flourish provided it meets such challenges as having enough drivers and available equipment.
“It’s a great time to be in trucking,” Darren D. Hawkins, chief executive officer of less-than-truckload industry leader Yellow Corp., said Monday [June 28] in an opening session of the three-afternoon June 28-30 SMC3 Connections 2021 virtual conference.
“We’re going through a national renewal right now,” Hawkins said. “We all underestimated at this time last year just how much renewal we’d be seeing.”
While the full spectrum of transportation and logistics providers works to get the supply chain smoothly in order as the COVID-19 pandemic slides into the figurative rearview mirror, LTL companies have significant opportunities, but not without metaphorical roadblocks, according to Hawkins.
“It’s a great time to be in LTL, and it’s also a challenging time to be in LTL,” he said. “As CEO of this company, I feel like my office chair is actually a rollercoaster seat, and I’m buckling in every morning with a very interesting ride ahead of me.”
A three-decade veteran of the LTL industry, Hawkins is in his fourth year as chief executive of the Overland Park, Kansas-headquartered Yellow holding company, which counts LTL providers Holland, New Penn, Reddaway and YRC Freight, as well as HNRY Logistics, in its portfolio, boasting a combined roster of more than 200,000 active customers.
Yellow is currently advancing a “One Yellow” super-regional carrier model, which Hawkins said should better serve customers, including with centralized pricing and enhanced, highly visible velocity through more than 300 terminals nationwide.
Hawkins said the LTL industry as a whole is doing a good job of being as customer-centric as possible while seeking to attract and retain a sufficient number of truck drivers and provide necessary equipment in the right places at the right times.
“We as an industry are dealing with a very fragile capacity situation,” Hawkins noted, adding that the crunch is exacerbated by e-commerce companies that are not motivated to release trailers despite hefty detention charges. “The quicker you can turn my equipment, the more endeared you’re going to be to us.”
And, in this era of escalating expectations, it doesn’t help for customers to get mad.
“Getting angry and threatening – I promise you – doesn’t work,” he said, citing the importance of LTL providers to be transparent and offer customers end-to-end visibility for shipments. He also urged stronger partnerships between shippers and the carriers they use.
That said, Hawkins projected “tremendous revenue growth” on a year-over-year basis for Yellow and the LTL industry in general.
Hawkins said the $700 million loan Yellow received last year under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, has been integral in helping Yellow continue to serve its customer base, which includes the U.S. Department of Defense. He
Another product of the pandemic has been the discovery that employees engaged in pricing and other back office functions can work remotely from their homes without a hitch, according to Hawkins, who said he expects Yellow to continue to offer many such workers the flexibility to perform their duties away from the traditional office setting.
Based in Peachtree City, Georgia, SMC3 provides data and solutions to help optimize LTL freight transportation across the supply chain. SMC3 leadership looks forward to returning to an in-person format for its next major conference, Jump Start 2022, set for Jan. 24-26 in Atlanta.