q1
Vertex Transport, LLC

11554 Davis Creek Court
Jacksonville, FL  32256
Phone: (904) 421-0980
Fax: (904) 421-0981

logos

Vertex Transport


Vertex Transport
Vertex Transport Vertex Transport instagram

 

What To Expect In 2019

By Mike Steele, CEO, Vertex Transport

March 8, 2019

One of the advantages of being in third-party logistics is that you get to speak with a large number of shippers and carriers. And to listen about their concerns and problems in either getting their freight moved or having the resources to get it done.  I’m no exception and have conversed with many on both sides of the fence in the first few weeks of 2019. Here’s a snapshot as to what I’m hearing from many of them:

  • Capacity will continue to be tight in 2019 and 2020, as available freight will exceed available capacity. The need for more trucks – and the drivers to fill those seats – will continue to be an issue for some time to come.
  • Freight rates will continue to increase as the cost of trucking will be more expensive to acquire, with higher driver pay to lure more into the industry, and as fuel prices creep up. General inflation is a factor, but mostly a minor one.
  • Regulation of trucking services is at the forefront of many discussions as the trucking industry still wrestles with ELD compliance with smaller carriers and as shippers and providers alike wonder what additional changes will come in the next year.
  • Infrastructure improvements aren’t coming through as quickly as they need to be. Delivery times are often extended because of traffic backlogs and rerouting. Older and crumbling roads continue to frustrate carriers as maintenance costs rise to cover more wear-and-tear.

These seem to be the top categories shippers and carriers are concerned about. What tops your lists of concerns for the remainder of 2019? Give me some feedback at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we’ll revisit this in a few weeks.

********************************************************************

Government Shutdown May Impact Economic Growth – But Will Trucking Follow?

By Mike Steele, CEO, Vertex Transport

January 24, 2019

According to Bloomberg News, White House officials have said that if the partial government shutdown extends through March, there’s a chance we’ll see no economic expansion this quarter (although they also said it could be followed by a growth spurt of 4 to 5 percent once federal agencies reopen).

Further, analysts surveyed by Bloomberg last week said that if the shutdown lasts through the end of March, it would deduct 0.8 percentage points from first quarter growth, which would end up at 1.5%.  Conversely, estimates for GDP on an annualized pace would range from a contraction of 2% to a growth of 3.3%.  This might sound small, but it’s not.

All the turmoil in Washington is likely to cause further chaos in trucking, which continues to see a capacity shortage as we come off the best year for freight tonnage in the past 20 (Transport Topics, 1/23/19).  Temporarily, capacity could improve if freight movements are impacted by vendors who would normally be shipping government freight.  Or serve government installations.  That could bring temporary relief to the spot market.  But, if demand peaks again after the debates in Washington are resolved, we could see further capacity issues in the weeks to come. 

Hold on.  The crazy ride continues!

******************************************************************************

Transportation & Supply Chain Predictions For 2019

By Mike Steele, CEO of Vertex Transport

December 18, 2019

This past week, we saw some predictions for transportation and the supply chain for next year.   The source is www.supplychain247.com.   We thought we’d share them with you and add our thoughts, as well.

  1. Big changes - and a more holistic, organization-wide approach - to global supply chain strategies. We couldn’t agree more.  Tariff wars and related uncertainty will require top-level managers to rely more on their supply chain professionals and trade compliance people to rethink and change supply chain strategy and operations.
  2. A more intense focus on data analytics in supply chains. Data is key in managing the flow of information, so the need for more data and its analysis will be critical in the coming year.
  3. China’s expanding global reach and economic power. Don’t underestimate the influence of China on the global economy.  We must resolve the current trade issues between our two countries in such a manner that BOTH sides are benefitted.
  4. “King Consumer” and ever-faster delivery of e-commerce orders. Amazon has raised the bar in almost every area of buying and shipping goods. Consumers want it now, not tomorrow.  Transport providers have to be more in sync with this mindset to be long-time partners to retailers and other sellers.
  5. Intensified technological disruption and innovation. Whenever technology is part of the solution, the opportunity for failure at some point exists.  We have to better “foolproof” our technology in transportation so they we don’t become the weak link in the supply chain.
  6. Battered U.S. transportation infrastructure. The state of our highway infrastructure and bridges is getting worse, not better, every day. We must continue to lobby our legislators for more investment of roads and highways.  Next to technology and the driver shortage, this is our biggest challenge to overcome.
  7. Continued trucking/transportation regulation impacts. Brokers like Vertex rely on smaller truck fleets to move customer goods.  Smaller fleets without ELDs are reporting reductions in miles traveled per day up to 15 percent. This inefficiency will impact shippers’ planning and their supply chains, so we must make this is as “friendly” as possible to the smaller truckers.
  8. The ongoing capacity crunch with drivers/trucks. As a broker, we feel it every day and it’s not going away.  We must figure ways to entice younger men and women to want to get into the industry, and it cant just be about money.
  9. Soaring truck rates. Unfortunately, a continuing bi-product of supply and demand will continue as long as freight volumes are high and drivers are few.  Best solution is to try sticking with the same brokers and carriers with the goal of getting the best rates.
  10. Trucking industry technology trends. New technologies and apps will continue to make our lives better and easier.  On-demand load-matching freight apps will be favored by carriers and shippers.  And watch for more driverless trucks.  It’s coming, but at a slower pace than all the pundits are saying.

*****************************************************************************

A Season For Thanks

By Mike Steele, CEO of Vertex Transport

November 20, 2018

Thanksgiving is once again upon us – and an opportunity to reflect on the past year and give thanks.

For shippers, we can give thanks for a good economy that encourages customers to buy our goods and services.

For truckers, we can give thanks for an ample supply of freight, rising freight rates and, as of this date, declining fuel prices.

For freight brokers, we can give thanks for a marketplace that allow us to provide services to shippers and keep our carriers trucks moving with good paying freight. 

We can only hope that the new year, which is just weeks away, will afford us many of the same benefits as the current year has.

So, if you are a shipper, a trucker or a freight broker, please stop and give thanks for your business.  But more importantly, reflect on what you have in your own personal lives that you can be thankful for and hope that others can be as equally blessed.

*******************************************************************

Surviving The Strong Freight Market

By Mike Steele, CEO of Vertex Transport

October 26, 2018

Just this week, the American Trucking Associations reported that the year-long surge in freight volume continues into the Fall of 2018.

For the month of September, tonnage is running about 3% ahead of last year.  On a year-to-date basis, its 7% ahead of last year.  And we’re in the middle of the traditionally busy shipping season, where even more growth may be experienced as the retailers are expected to have one of the best holidays seasons ever.

What all this means to the average shipper is that truck capacity will continue to be restrained.  Trucks will be competing for the highest rates possible, even across lanes that are usually considered back-haul.  So, as a shipper, how do you survive this strong freight market?

Simply put, keep your options open and have as many shipping alternatives available to you as possible.  Use intermodal instead of truck where you can.  Instead of LTL, try to build loads into a full truck with multiple stops along the way.  Rely on the spot market when your regular carriers seem too busy with volume shipper freight.  And establish relationships with truck brokers.  They have far more connections with carriers than many shippers do, and have the expertise to find a truck quicker than you may be able to do.

You can survive this tight freight market if you plan accordingly and work smarter, not harder.

***************************************************************************************

Smack In The Middle

By Mike Steele, CEO, Vertex Transport

September 24, 2018

As the title of this suggests, we’re smack in the middle….of the annual busy season for shipping.  Historically, the busiest time of year to ship goods is from Labor Day until Thanksgiving.  That’s because brick & mortar retailers are busy stocking their stores for shoppers and online retailers are building inventory for the (anticipated) busy Christmas buying season.  Technology-based products are again expected to be the biggest sellers.

So what does these mean for shippers?  Simply put, EVERTHING.  Since the economy rebounded after the Great Recession, truck capacity has gotten tighter and tighter and tighter still.  And increased movement of product in the 4th quarter will do nothing more than tax already strained truck capacity.

So what can you do so you don’t get caught with product and no trucks?

  1. Reaffirm your relationships with carriers and brokers and establish new ones where possible
  2. Allow additional shipping time to get stuff from Points A & B; don’t wait until the 11th hour
  3. Expect to pay higher prices for truck services, including adjustments for higher fuel prices
  4. Stay diligent in your search for capacity as you may have to work longer and harder
  5. Where possible, ship product head-haul into what are usually back-haul lanes (better rates, more trucks)

The holidays will be here before we know it – Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s.   Shippers will be rushing to complete their last orders and get everything in or out before holiday closures.  The year is coming to an end as well, and no one wants to leave freight behind and drag it into the new year.

*******************************************************************************************

How to Determine Whether Your Freight Broker Is Legitimate

By Mike Steele, CEO, Vertex Transport

August 24, 2018

Before you do business with your next freight broker, we suggest you check them out from stem to stern.  The industry is highly fragmented and there are both good providers and not-so-good providers out there.

Why Use A Freight Broker?

A good broker knows the shipping industry, uses the latest technology and works with reliable carriers that can sometimes be hard to find.

The right freight broker can find the best shipping options for you and save you time and money.

The right freight broker will know current regulations and the paperwork required.

The right freight broker can handle virtually any problem that may arise.

So if you think you’ve found a broker that fits these parameters…

Check The Broker’s Credentials

Freight brokers must be licensed and bonded.  They are all regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Check with FMCSA to see if their license is current.  Also, determine if it has ever been revoked and then re-instated.

Get a copy of their FMCSA operating authority.

Get a copy of their insurance certificates and be sure everything is current.  Contact the insurance company that issued the certificate if something doesn’t smell right.

Get a copy of their surety bond, which is their assurance to carriers that the carriers will get paid.  Be sure the bond is for at least $75,000.

Document your efforts so you won’t have to reinvent the wheel again later.

Doing your homework to verify broker legitimacy is the best thing you can do to prevent future problems.

***************************************************************************************

Factors To Consider In Choosing The Best 3PL Provider

By Mike Steele, CEO, Vertex Transport

July 23, 2018

With the year more than half way through, you may be thinking about adding or consolidating third-party logistics providers.  If that’s the case, there are several factors to consider besides just who offers the best price.  In no particular order, some of them are:

·    Consolidating loads to increase shipping volume – this decreases your overall cost because you can offer more freight to carriers over like lanes

·    Making sure the rates you get are all-inclusive – don’t get just long-haul rates, be sure to get all the accessorials worked out as well

·    Including high and low-demand periods of the year in your budget – don’t assume each month is the same; rates may decline in the winter and summer, but increase in the spring and fall

·    Opening up two-way lines of communication with your service providers – it won’t work effectively if one or the other side thinks its simply a one-way road

*************************************************************************

Shipping Is The Broker’s Core Competency

By Mike Steele, CEO, Vertex Transport

June 20, 2018

Shippers are focused on a varied of activities.  Securing raw materials. Turning raw materials into finished goods.  Finding channels to market their products.  Marketing and advertising their wares.  And the list goes on.  In most cases, moving goods is not the primary focus of shippers.  But it is the main focus or core competency for brokers.

Shipping is the only thing brokers do – and – as such are likely better qualified to do it than the shippers themselves.  Identifying optimal routes and modes of transportation.  Locating and securing carriers.  Vetting those carriers for equipment, safety and reliability.  Negotiating rates.  Scheduling pickups and deliveries.  Billing the carriers.  Filing claims with carriers in the occasional event something goes awry.

That is what the broker does.  Day in, day out.  Everyday.  365 days a year.  Often thousands of times a year.

So when it comes time to re-evaluate your shipping program, consider adding brokers to the mix.  It’s what they do, the only thing they do, and they do it well.

******************************************************************************

Brokers Have A Carrier Vetting Process That Includes Authority, Insurance Verification and Safety Rating

By Mike Steele, CEO, Vertex Transport

May 20, 2018

This is one of the areas where a good broker really excels. This a critical place where they can add value and justify their margins. 

There are literally hundreds of thousands of carriers out there moving freight, but many of them have no business doing so.  Some have expired operating authority, minimal or non-existing insurance or a safety rating that is one-step away from being shut-down.  Finding a carrier where any of these situations exist is an unnecessary risk to you and your freight.  

Brokers continually scrutinize operating authority not only for expired authority, but also for new authority. If no track record exists to determine whether the carrier should be entrusted with any freight, then why take the chance.  A low MC (motor carrier) or DOT (Department of Transportation) number indicates that the carrier and its authority have been around for many years.  That suggests stabilty.  On the other hand, a high MC or DOT number points to a newer carrier and many brokers with not tender freight to carriers with a number less than six months old. 

Insurance is another area where ongoing scrutiny is needed through the various tools and websites that track carrier insurance protection.  You don't want to hire a carrier with expired or insuffient insurance and your broker will steer you clear of these.  Insuffient insurance applies to higher value loads.  You don't want to move a load worth $500,000 with a carrier that only has $250,000 of coverage.

Safety is something that has been a top priority in the trucking industry the past several years.  Solid, well financed carriers will have a good or adequate safety rating, while others will not.  You don't want your freight to be on a truck operated a carrier that is literally being followed by the FMCSA just waiting for the next infraction to shut them down. 

So trust your broker to represent you well in there areas. 

****************************************************************    

Brokers Have The Know-How To Steer Clear Of Under-Insured, Inexperienced Carriers

By Mike Steele, CEO, Vertex Transport

April 20, 2018

One of the most important decision points in moving your freight is deciding which carriers you will use to move your move.  You can try to do this yourself, but freight brokers like Vertex Transport are often better equipped to do the job.

Brokers have access to the tools needed to vet carriers for quality and safety and do it all the time as a course of business.  They will also have built their own database of carriers over the years and already know which carriers are better to do business with – and the ones you want to steer clear of.

Why would you entrust an expensive truckload of freight with a carrier you don’t know anything about? While many carriers have good reputations with good safety records, the proper due diligence is needed before consigning freight to a trucker.

Performing the appropriate due diligence on freight carriers is a tedious, but necessary task.  Just two of the tools that brokers use to do this vetting include: 

Carrier 411 is a paid carrier monitoring service.  Its universe contains nearly one million carriers that are registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA). This service is used to confirm identities and to run equipment VINs and license plates to make sure nothing negative jumps out. The service also identifies carriers with a history of unethical behavior and companies that operate under multiple names or MC numbers to hide their true identity.

DAT Carrier Watch is another paid service brokers use to collect and verify carrier insurance levels. It has a link to the Transportation Intermediaries Association’s (TIA) Watchdog report that displays TIA member reports about carriers.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) inspects carriers regularly and rates them for safety. DOT ratings are typically satisfactory, unsatisfactory or conditional. The carrier usually has time to improve a conditional rating.  Good brokers stick with those carriers with satisfactory or improving safety rating. 

Another thing to consider is not using a carrier whose operating authority is less than six months old.  That is not a long enough a period of time for a sufficient service history to have been established.

**********************************

Brokers Have The Shipping Volume Leverage Needed To Negotiate Better Rates 

By Mike Steele, CEO, Vertex Transport LLC

March 20, 2018

Most small to medium sized shippers have less freight volumes to tender to carriers than brokers do.  That's why brokers have greater buying power than most shippers do. 

This doesn't apply just to freight volumes in general, but over specific traffic lanes as well.  Carriers who specialize in runs to specific markets position their equipment in these markets and are always looking for freight to keep their trucks full.  Empty trucks equals empty miles, thus higher costs for carriers as driver still need to be paid and fuel still needs to be purchased. 

Carriers also have differing long haul and back haul characteristics.  One carrier's headhaul lane is another carrier's backhaul.  Brokers can provide carriers with more backhaul freight, which means more freight can also be moved at backhaul rather than headhaul rates. 

Think of working with a broker as working with a co-op.  With a broker, your freight is essential pooled with the freight of other shippers to be tendered to carriers.  This implies greater volume, and thus a load that might normally cost $1000 to be moved might cost $950 or even $900 because you have more than one load to tender to a carrier. 

Brokers deal largely in the spot market where freight and pricing velocity is more uncertain.  Brokers can use their buying power with carriers to normalize the flow of freight across certain lanes, thus helping take uncertainty out of pricing.  For example, on lanes where prices range from $2.50 to $3.50 per mile depending on time of year and even the day of the week, stablilzing the movement of freight might shave the price range by 50 cents a mile.  Over the course of hundreds of miles and thousands of loads that can add up to tremendous savings.

**********************************

Brokers Manage Risk, Providing a Layer of Protection Between You and the Carriers 

By Mike Steele, CEO, Vertex Transport LLC

February 20, 2018

Working with brokers to secure transportation for your freight comes with a multiple of benefits, including providing a layer of protection between your company and the carriers selected to move the goods.  Insurance is a huge piece of this.

All brokers are required to carry a surety bond of $75,000, which provides a pool of money that carriers can collect against if the broker fails to pay their bills.  This provides a plus to you by working through that broker because the carrier is assured of getting paid.

Carriers are legally responsible for the safe handling and delivered condition of freight they transport.  To insure against most negatives, motor carriers typically carry a form of primary trucker's cargo liability insurance.

Where the broker provides extra protection is by carrying Contingent Cargo Insurance, which acts as a back-up to the coverage provided under the motor carrier's insurance. The default insurance limit for cargo policies is $100,000, so higher-value shipments must be placed with more financially secure motor carriers with higher limits, say up to $250,000. If the broker is involved, the contingent cargo policy should follow suit.

Highway transport of freight has the constant risk of huge accidents resulting in serious personal injuries and property losses.  Federal motor carrier safety regulations mandate minimum auto liability insurance limits of at least $750,000.

However, neither limit is sufficient to cover the possible range of losses when there is significant property damage and/or loss of life.  Motor carriers that proactively manage risk can be expected to have $2 million or more of coverage, but recent jury verdicts have reached 10 times that amount.

Continuing litigation has identified possible exposure for brokers, too.  Some jurisdictions allow a cause of action against the broker for negligence in hiring or selecting the motor carrier that causes injury. The insurance market has responded with a type of insurance that covers this risk: primary truck brokers liability insurance.  It covers a broker's use of hired trucks to move brokered freight, the core activity in which brokers are engaged.

Utilizing a skilled broker that incorporates risk mitigation in the selection process reduces the risk to parties further removed from the transportation cycle.  For shippers concerned about managing risk, they should choose a broker with the best financial responsibility and insurance.  Parties that work together with a common approach to safety can achieve greater success than those that do not.

**********************************

Brokers Have the Resources to Develop and Maintain Relationships With Large Numbers of Carriers

By Mike Steele, CEO, Vertex Transport LLC

January 20, 2018

One of the main reasons for outsourcing your transportation management activities is the huge window it opens to providing access to a greater range of carriers.

By using a broker to manage your transportation, instead of having access to dozens or maybe hundreds of carriers, you will have access to literally thousands of carriers.  And that means having access to tens of thousands of pieces of rolling stock. 

This is particularly important if your needs include specialized equipment such as reefers or flatbeds.  This type of equipment is always in high demand, making it more difficult to find if your carrier base is small. 

By having access to more trucks, it lessens the likelihood of having to pay to have that truck repositioned in a different market to pick up your freight.  This saves you money and helps reduce the overall transit time for your load from Point A to Point B. 

And don't forget that brokers are more experienced at vetting carriers for you.  So you are more likely to have a truck on your load that has a better reputation, better safety record and the proper insurance. For more information about that benefit, see our previous post below.

**********************************

Brokers Have Access To a Wide Range of Equipment and Modal Types

By Mike Steele, CEO, Vertex Transport LLC

December 20, 2017

As a continuation of our series on the top reasons for using a freight broker, we'll address access to capacity.  Unlike asset-based carriers, brokers are not limited to the capacity like truckers are.  Carriers can only provide capacity for the number of trucks and drivers in their operation.  A broker will have agreements and contracts in place with literally thousands of reputable carriers, thus the carriers' collective capacity becomes that of the broker.  And not only is the number of trucks available increased through use of a broker, so does the mix of equipment types.  For example, a truckload carrier that deals exclusively in dry vans will not be able to handle freight that requires refrigeration or open bed.  They will be limited to handling dry cargo that fills a 48' or 53' trailer.

And it goes deeper than this.  Multi-modes are also now at the disposal of the shipper.  Less-than-truckoad and intermodal options now become available, as do non-highway modes such as air or ocean.  So if finding a truck in a critical lane becomes particularly difficult, the railroads now offer truck-like services in most markets.  All under the direction of your broker.

So when deciding on which carrier to use, you may want to be less limiting in your choices and select a broker instead.  You'll find that the landscape becomes less constrained when you do. 

*********************************

Freight Brokers Are Licensed and Bonded Intermediaries

By Mike Steele, CEO, Vertex Transport LLC

November 20, 2017

Recently, we started a blog on the top reasons for using a freight broker.  We broke these reasons into eight categories.  Let's take a few moments to elaborate on the first one:  freight brokers are licensed and bonded intermediaries.

Everyone business man or woman who runs a freight brokerage firm must be licensed and bonded.  These are federal government requirements designed to protect not only the shipper, but also the carrier. 

A freight broker must have operating authority issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).  These are often referred to as motor carrier numbers.  The lower the number, the longer the authority has existed.  For example, an MC# of 333444 would indicate a broker that's been around for several years.  An MC # of 888999 indicates an authority that may only be several months old.  The age of the authority doesn't necessarily imply stability, but the longer the authority has existed the more likely a shipper or carrier may want to do business with that broker.

The freight broker must also be bonded and carry a Surety Bond of at least $75,000.  This is the minimum amount having been increased from $10,000 in 2013.  This bond exists to protect the carrier.  It exists to provide a fund to be paid to carriers in the event the broker becomes insolvent and not paying its carriers.  Alert carriers will always want to check out the bond the broker has before moving their first load from them.

If you are approached by someone alledging to be a freight broker, but can't provide active and valid operating authority and a surety bond, DON'T do business with them. It could be a scam, or at least it could be an opportunity to lose your freight.

*********************************

Top Reasons for Using A Freight Broker

By Mike Steele, CEO, Vertex Transport LLC

October 20, 2017

Freight brokers play a huge and important role in the logistics supply chain. They support manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers and government entities in the movement of freight between Points A & B. They perform services for these types of shippers that these companies would need to have the expertise and resources to otherwise do on their – often at a higher cost in time and money.

In the next several installments in this blog, we will explore the following top reasons why your company should consider using a freight broker, if you are not already:

  1. Brokers are licensed and bonded intermediaries
  2. Brokers have access to a wide range of equipment and modal types
  3. Brokers manage risk, providing a layer of protection between you and the carriers (including insurance)
  4. Brokers have the resources to develop and maintain relationships with large numbers of carriers
  5. Brokers have the shipping volume leverage needed to negotiate better rates
  6. Brokers have the know-how to steer clear of under-insured, inexperienced carriers
  7. Brokers have a carrier vetting process that includes authority and insurance verification and safety rating
  8. Shipping is the broker’s core competency

Until next time…………..