Research conducted by NPTC has found that some 28% of all miles private fleets run are empty. This percentage has risen in recent years and may actually be higher for the entire private fleet industry.
Where are the opportunities for filling empty miles? Looking to the inbound side of their business is a good strategy for private fleets. NPTC research indicates that private fleets haul 61% of their company's total outbound freight while hauling 39% of their company's inbound freight. Another important trend is that more private fleets are obtaining for-hire authority in an effort to fill empty miles with freight from customers other than those of their company.
Designing a successful backhaul program requires taking a strategic rather than transactional perspective. The kind of equipment your fleet operates, its locations, how drivers are compensated, the nature of customers, type of freight, and what you expect to be paid all factor into the strengths and limits of your backhaul program's potential for true optimization. Unrealistic expectations about rates can be the most debilitating reason backhaul programs fail to reach their true potential. Since many fleet professionals are responsible for many functions within a single job, a private fleet backhaul effort run entirely on its own has many limitations.
For this reason, the Fleet Optimization Center was created in 2008 to provide free consultation and guidance for private fleet members of NPTC in helping them put a strategic backhaul program in place, one which “optimizes” their fleet's greatest potential. The Center is co-sponsored by NPTC and C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc. (C.H. Robinson), the leading third-party provider of transportation, distribution and related logistics services and one of the largest non-asset-based transportation companies in the world. C.H. Robinson has 50,000 carriers worldwide, 32,000 customers, 228 offices and $8.6 billion in revenue.
Here's how the program works: A call to the Fleet Optimization Center at 952-683-2990 starts the process. C.H. Robinson will review the history of your fleet's backhaul experience, understand your management's expectations, help design a strategic plan of action, and outline the requirements of a contract. The Center will appoint the appropriate branch location as the “one-stop” central point of contact. The Center helps you pick the right backhaul partners within the network, works to get all of your operational team on board, and suggests realistic goals and metrics for the best “optimization” results.
Several private fleet companies have already signed up and more are joining each month. Mark Walker, C.H. Robinson vp, says the Center looks at filling empty miles from a much broader perspective. “We focus on finding the right types of freight for your company needs. With access to about 25,000 shipments a day, there are many opportunities for private fleets to fill empty miles,” he continues.
“The combination of our expert people and technology and NPTC's commitment to assisting its fleet members has paved an innovative path that is symbolic of both organizations' leadership and desire to improve fleet optimization,” Walker adds.
Check out the recent webcast “Fleet Optimization Center: Your Ticket to Profitable Results” at www.jjkeller.com/nptcinfo.
Gary Petty is president and CEO of the National Private Truck Council. The council's web site is www.nptc.org.
His column appears monthly in FLEET OWNER.