Beyond browsing

"E-commerce will be the key to success for carriers in the future. "These truly are exciting times in trucking. As we close in on the new millennium, the U.S. economy sits on a firm foundation of strong employment, reasonable inflation rates, and steady consumer confidence. These conditions, when coupled with continued high manufacturing output and the rapidly changing transportation requirements

"E-commerce will be the key to success for carriers in the future. "

These truly are exciting times in trucking. As we close in on the new millennium, the U.S. economy sits on a firm foundation of strong employment, reasonable inflation rates, and steady consumer confidence. These conditions, when coupled with continued high manufacturing output and the rapidly changing transportation requirements for both inbound and outbound freight distribution, create numerous market opportunities.

Success beyond 2000 will rely heavily on our ability to anticipate changes and innovate to meet market demands. In the age of logistics and JIT, today's trucks operate as virtual warehouses on wheels; scheduling, tracking and performance are more critical than ever. The Internet, while not entirely new to trucking, will expand its presence as a communication medium, and e-commerce will drive growth opportunities.

It's no secret that the .com phenomenon is creating quite a stir in today's business world. The Internet has taken us all by storm, with consumer businesses scurrying to capitalize on the opportunities available through this medium.

For carriers, the Internet is playing more of a role in sharing and gathering shipping data, as well as load placement. Communication with drivers is performed via e-mail, replacing phone calls and satellite transmissions.

A number of factors will continue to impact trucking companies, and strong e-commerce strategies will separate the successful from those that struggle. In the future, the use of the Internet will grow immensely, as trucking companies go online to manage shipping information directly from their customers' systems.

For-hire carriers are examining alternative business practices such as new billing methodology that will easily be handled via the Internet. Many have begun preparations by expanding their operations through acquisitions in order to capitalize on economies of scale and to broaden their presence through e-commerce marketing capabilities.

The private sector will continue to grow, as their customers value a very high quality of service. The Internet will serve as a brand management tool for companies seeking to enhance customer relations, promote the value of their service, and potentially change how they distribute their products.

The owner-operator segment will continue to evolve as more operators become affiliated with fleets through purchase and lease programs. The Internet will be crucial to operator recruitment and serve as an additional communication medium for emergencies or to expedite services.

Leasing companies are aggressively seeking ways to gain competitive advantages, driving many to specialize in niche markets. Fleets in this segment will utilize e-commerce by tailoring their operations to a growing, diverse customer base.

>From a manufacturer's perspective, the Internet is being used frequently in our industry to communicate with suppliers and gather marketing and sales data online. But this is only the beginning. Business-to-business sales are expected to grow at a faster pace than consumer sales, opening the door for new market opportunities.

The bottom line for everyone is simply to move beyond browsing the Internet, and discover how it can work to improve your operation. If you haven't formulated an e-commerce strategy for your business activities, now is the time. The Internet is a vast, untamed frontier - one that fits perfectly in the trucking industry, and in your business.

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