TripPak Express serves about 700 truckload carriers, providing next-day and two-day delivery of driver trip envelopes collected from drop boxes around the country-- envelopes containing the bills of lading and other documents fleets require to process shipper invoicing and driver payroll. Even on a routine day, it is a big job, involving many millions of documents.
On Tuesday, it suddenly became a gigantic and difficult job, with a host of new problems to solve.
“When the terrorist attacks occurred on Tuesday morning, about 90% of our packages were already in the air,” says Kevin Foley, president of TMI, the parent company of TripPak Express and its online counterpart, TripPak Online. “About 40% arrived before air travel was suspended, but the rest of the deliveries were on planes that were diverted to other airports and even impounded in some cases.
“We got busy right away trying to find our packages and transfer them to ground transportation,” he explains. “Tuesday is our biggest delivery day. It is 60-70% bigger than other days, and it is especially critical besides. Since it is the payroll cut-off date for most fleets, thousands of drivers depend on delivery of those Tuesday packages for on-time processing of their paychecks.”
“We were able to track down every plane and package,” adds executive vp Mark Cleveland. “Many of our packages are handled by our business partner, Airborne Express, but we also use commercial carriers. Today we finally found the last plane in Kansas City, an American Airlines plane, and were able to get those documents off and on their way.”
According to Cleveland, finding and retrieving their customer’s TripPak envelopes involved working with the FAA and negotiating with the airlines to gain release of the cargo, then making arrangements to enter locked-down airports to pick-up the packages for ground transport. In at least one case, it even involved the voluntary efforts of a TripPak Express customer.
“We had our own customers calling to offer help retrieving and delivering packages,” says Foley. “When we asked if anyone had a truck in St. Louis going west that could help us out, John Christner of John Christner Trucking (Tulsa, OK) called right away. They sent a truck to meet our representative at the airport in St. Louis and picked up all the TripPak envelopes, not just their own but those belonging to many of their competitors as well, including packages for CFI, Prime, Arrow Trucking, O&S and others.
“Christner took the packages to Missouri and our couriers finished the deliveries. They picked up our freight and moved it with no mention of payment for their services. It was a case of helping out their neighbors, of putting their country’s interests before their own,” he adds.
Foley expects to begin seeing a normal flow of packages back out to the fleets they serve beginning tonight. “Airborne has all their planes in the air today and all of our packages have been picked up every day without interruption, even though they have not all made it to our sorting facilities,” he said.
TMI’s online fleet customers were largely unaffected by the shutdown of air travel, according to Foley. They received virtually uninterrupted service since TripPak Online scans their documents, sends the images electronically and stores the actual paperwork.