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Interview with an Expert

Kaleb Shaw, Sales Manager at OEC Group’s Kansas City office, discusses the overall state of domestic logistics and examines the importance of multiple options when it comes to shipping effectively from A to B.

What is the most pressing problem disrupting imports to the US?

U.S. landside operations are the biggest issue across the board right now. Finding available equipment and actually accessing that for use is very difficult for your average shipper at the majority of gateway ports and throughout the inland North American transportation network.

It’s also extremely important for shippers to remember that the issues industry publications have discussed and that we’ve harped on are still extremely consequential. The ILWU-PMA negotiations are still going on in the background, and now these rail negotiations have taken more of a front seat. Although these issues may not make headlines every day, they still need to be taken into account.

Do you advise clients to focus their supply chain strategies on ports of entry or inland distribution routes?

Both. And I think that’s what makes diligently collecting information on the market and our clients’ individual needs is so important. The more options we’re able to present across multiple modes of transport—air, ocean, rail, truck, or some combination—and multiple types of moves—FCL, LCL, etcetera—that satisfy a customer’s specific supply chain constraints, the more optimized their shipping process will be.

Bottom line shippers should absolutely avoid putting all their eggs in one basket. Diversifying and limiting exposure to risks and delays on one singular route is helpful in a difficult market like this one. If all of your freight is scheduled on the rail and there’s a rail strike, then the consequences would be catastrophic. Similarly, if a shipper is struggling to find equipment and trucking capacity to rely solely on a trucking solution while having zero rail capacity booked, then catastrophe can strike in that situation, as well.

How do expedited services factor into the current environment?

I’ve had more clients ask about expedited services in the last few weeks than at certain points during the height of COVID-19. Back then, shippers were asking about expedited options due to the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, pandemic restrictions, and the viability of their deadlines under those conditions. Now shippers are inquiring about expedited options due to their proven utility. Specifically, on the West Coast, we’re seeing expedited freight gain consistent and substantial velocity when compared to the rest of the field. For shippers with tight delivery windows, these services can make all the difference.

How difficult is it to get a clear picture of what conditions are like on the ground?

For most shippers, finding reliable and updated information on the state of ports or inland freight stops can be difficult. It can take some time before industry publications or other organizations publish confirmed statistics. Fortunately, with an organization like ours, tracking the large volume of cargo we are responsible for can give us a clear picture of the overall landscape. Constant communication with truckers, port and terminal operators, and closely monitoring transit times of our own freight between locations lets us identify congested areas as well as fast-moving routes in real time.

What advice would you give shippers trying to move freight effectively under current conditions?

Diversification is imperative. Communication with your logistical provider is also key when minimizing delays and building that effective diversified strategy. Also, using market characteristics to your advantage is sometimes overlooked. I know last month our newsletter discussed the inherent benefits of FCL shipments, including how shipping that way eliminates delay from opening the container, repackaging, or unnecessarily handling internal cargo during a shipment. Shippers need to capitalize on those aspects of the market and partner with an expert that can help them do so in an optimal way.

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