By Jason Dekker, Senior Director of Business Development at ProTrans
SMC³ is a knowledge hub providing data, technology, and expertise across the less-than-truckload (LTL) industry, working to optimize freight transportation. They host several annual events, including Jump Start 2024: The Definitive Supply Chain Intelligence Gathering, a three-day supply chain event focused on exploring the industry’s current challenges and emerging trends to kick off the new year.
Jason Dekker, Senior Director of Business Development of ProTrans, attended Jump Start 2024 held in Atlanta January 22-24. Following three days of quality presenters, industry education, and networking opportunities, he shared the following recap of the event:
A Record Number of Industry Leaders
When? That was the most prominent question on the minds of hundreds of transportation and logistics industry leaders as they poured into SCM³ Jump Start 2024 in record numbers. It was only fitting that the first industry leader to take the stage after Carly Fiorina’s keynote was Dave Bozeman, CEO of C.H. Robinson, the largest 3PL in the United States measured by gross logistics revenue. [i]
Bozeman is going to avoid falling into the trap of playing prognosticator. He repeatedly pointed to his team’s readiness for “when, not if,” the freight economy comes roaring back. Bozeman had a brief discussion with Logistics Management’s Jeff Berman after making his remarks but did not take questions from the audience due to the logistics juggernaut being in its earnings quiet period.
The company would report those earnings the following week. Revenue dropped 17% for the fourth quarter of 2023, with net profit diving to $31 million from the $96.2 million in the comparable prior year period. [ii] These results came on the heels of parcel giant UPS announcing a top and bottom line miss as well as plans to lay off 12,000 workers. [iii]
Bill Ward Jr., who was officially elevated to CEO of Ward Transport and Logistics while the conference was underway, told me that he is expecting to see little lift from the general economy in 2024. Ward has been strategically expanding geographically over the past couple of years. Ward Transport enjoys a tremendous upside advantage as a new entrant to some of these markets. Mr. Ward sees growth in these markets as one way his organization can see good results despite macroeconomic headwinds.
Keith Prather, Managing Director of Armada Corporate Intelligence, and Jeff Rosensweig, Director of John Robson Program for Business, Public Policy and Government at Emory University, took the stage giving a global and financial industry updates, respectively.
Highly Respected Economists Take the Stage
Jeff Rosensweig, Director of the John Robson Program for Business, Public Policy, and Government at Emory University, stated that “nobody is calling for a recession” in 2024. He sees the NAFTA region in about a 2% GDP growth range this year. While that is nothing to write home about compared to some of the red-hot quarters we saw emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, it would represent a very typical post-Great Recession, pre-pandemic type of year.
Admittedly, Keith Prather, Managing Director of Armada Corporate Intelligence, is much more optimistic about 2024 than some of the conference’s other presenters. The data points that Prather used show that, historically speaking, freight services lag real GDP by 14-18 months. He pointed out that the de-stocking process has already run its course. He believes that the transportation economy will be much more “in cycle” with the general economy this year.
For many in transportation, particularly those not in LTL and buoyed by Yellow’s exit from the marketplace, last year’s third and fourth quarters felt like a just slightly better version of 2008-09. It’s easy to forget that domestic GDP grew at an annual rate of 4.9% in Q3 2023 and 3.3% in Q4. [iv] Imagine if things would have been, to borrow Prather’s phrase “in cycle” in 2023.
Prather is bullish on the transportation market in the back half of 2024 based on various factors, including the above-mentioned cyclical factors, a surge in residential construction spending, and the Feds’ oft-mentioned dot plot projection signaling interest rate relief later in the year.
Whether the transportation and logistics space receives assistance from the general economy this year or not, former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina challenged and inspired the audience with her keynote to remain focused on leadership. Fiorina reminded the highly attentive audience that there is a difference between management and leadership. Managers, she explained, operate in the status quo. She went on to say, “Leaders challenge the status quo; they change the order of things for the better.”
Fiorina’s remarks were an inspiring reminder for those slogging it out in this protracted freight recession. Whatever the environment, it is ultimately disruption of the status quo and innovation that will bring differentiation and create value.
ProTrans Provides an Alternative to Traditional LTL
ProTrans International was founded in 1993 in anticipation of the NAFTA trade agreement. For more than 30 years, we have developed our southbound consolidation model to provide fast, reliable transportation to the US/Mexico border and within Mexico’s interior. Bypassing the traditional hub-and-spoke model inherent in the traditional LTL model, our customers enjoy superior handling due to our minimal touchpoints. It has been one way our team has challenged the status quo and seeks to change the order of things for the better.
The “Great Recession” was one of our history’s most significant growth points. That’s because no matter the macroeconomic backdrop, there is always a market for leadership
[iv] Gross Domestic Product | U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA)
About ProTrans International
ProTrans specializes in reliable Inbound to Manufacturing integrated with end-to-end, cross-border solutions to, from, and within North America. Backed by innovative, best-in-class service, we focus on engineering high-quality, lower-cost solutions enabled by our global team of experts, in-house Transportation Management System (TMS), and providing visibility of all shipments. Our solutions include Cross Border Consolidation, Supply Chain Management, Third-Party Logistics (3PL), Dedicated Transportation, Global Forwarding, Expedites, and Value-Added Services (Warehousing, Customs Brokerage).