By Sam LaRocca, Senior Vice President – LTL Operations, STG Logistics
A soft market, combined with an overall freight slow down, led to an underwhelming peak season for the less than truckload (LTL) industry. This shouldn’t, however, be a performance predictor for 2024 – which could have a different look altogether.
Whenever a significantly-sized organization exits the freight market, it can lead to a temporary slow down. Combined with slower economic growth and a post-pandemic shopping shift which brought a renewed spending focus on services over goods, and the result is a less than ideal peak season. The key for any logistics business, when faced with a tough market and influences outside of its control, is to ensure it excels when it comes to three areas: reliability, responsiveness and execution. If these three areas are being met on a consistent basis, logistics organizations can weather cyclical and unexpected market changes with confidence.
Reliability: In the LTL market, it is imperative for us to run a top end Customer Service Team. We need to have employees who understand our business and are able to respond quickly to our clients’ issues and concerns. We also need to follow through and ensure that we have met our clients expectations. We need to be sure we meet our KPI measurements and promote an environment of continuous improvement throughout our organization.
Responsiveness: In the freight business our clients will have different needs or questions at different times. In order for us to gain customer support and recognition, we need to be able to respond to these needs and asks promptly. Again, from ETA’s or POD’s to service defects, our customers expect that we will have the answer. When you are in a down market, responsiveness is critical. Every shipment drives your brand.
Execution: This is probably the most important category of the three because it really is the culmination of your team’s performance. Can we provide our service at an exceptional level continuously? In order for that to occur we need to be metric-driven. Every aspect of our business from pickup status, to final mile delivery (and every other metric in between) needs to be evaluated, reviewed, and have an actionable improvement plan. We then need to hold ourselves accountable to the results.
At STG, we weathered the down market during 2023’s peak season by taking a different approach in the LTL space. By restructuring and reorganizing some of our lanes that were not fully optimized, we had a very successful fourth quarter. And with those obstacles behind us, we are looking forward to significantly different results in 2024. We understand that it’s what you do the rest of the year – refining key performance indicators, strengthening core competencies – that counts when it comes to executing a successful peak season.
The current freight recession is unpredictable, but I’ve been with STG for six years, and as an organization we’ve withstood changes like these for over 40 years. With over the road and over the rail capabilities, as well as entry points at every port in North America, we have the flexibility and control necessary to meet the high and low periods in the logistics industry.