Tire Tracks: Driving the Logistics Industry

Charting the Future of Freight with Trinity Logistics | Episode 3

December 14, 2022 Banyan Technology Episode 3
Charting the Future of Freight with Trinity Logistics | Episode 3
Tire Tracks: Driving the Logistics Industry
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Tire Tracks: Driving the Logistics Industry
Charting the Future of Freight with Trinity Logistics | Episode 3
Dec 14, 2022 Episode 3
Banyan Technology

Episode 3 of Banyan Technology’s Tire Tracks™ podcast features Curt Kouts and Doug Potvin from Trinity Logistics, a top 25 broker in the U.S. The duo discusses the importance of technology in shipping, the company’s transition from a Truckload-centric brokerage to adding LTL capabilities, and what they see for the supply chain in the next few years.

Show Notes Transcript

Episode 3 of Banyan Technology’s Tire Tracks™ podcast features Curt Kouts and Doug Potvin from Trinity Logistics, a top 25 broker in the U.S. The duo discusses the importance of technology in shipping, the company’s transition from a Truckload-centric brokerage to adding LTL capabilities, and what they see for the supply chain in the next few years.

Patrick Escolas:

Hey everybody, I'm still here at Downtown Cleveland at the Hilton with Banyan's Tire Tracks podcast. I'm joined here with Doug and Kurt from Trinity. Thank you guys for being here. Really excited. So first off, let's start with this. What does Trinity do? What are who are who are what's your organization? And what are your roles?

Doug Potvin:

Trinity's located in the southern part of Delaware. Okay, sort of out of the way.

Patrick Escolas:

Yeah -- would it's not down the street from Downtown Cleveland.

Doug Potvin:

No, it's not, no, it's not. Trinity Logistics is a top 25 broker in United States, we recently cracked a billion dollars in sales. We averaged about 550 to 600,000 shipments annually, primarily in the Truckload. But we also do a lot of LTL, which is current specialty. We also do intermodal warehousing internationally through third party partners. But we're exemplifying our approach to business we are focused on the customers in the customer service are both shippers and carriers. Without either one, they don't make a difference. I'm the CFO at Trinity Logistics been there 16 years. And there we go. And I tell you Trinity has two assets. My Accounts Receivable, which I know what the numbers are the large number, but the second asset is our team members. And they're priceless as a Sears or the MasterCard commercial, they are precious commodities and encourage one of those people, the 350 people, 120 agents, we get across United States, Canada, Mexico and overseas.

Patrick Escolas:

Hey, you now have leverage on your next next pay.

Doug Potvin:

Anyway, it's a little bit of Trinity and but uh, yeah I'm the CFO in there, all right.

Patrick Escolas:

And Curt.

Curt Kouts:

Yeah, I'm the director of LTL. At Trinity, I've been there for just about 13 years, it is a wonderful place to work to build a career, we have a lot of strong tenure people there, like Doug was talking about that. They don't come in, we have very low turnover, they build a career there. We treat everyone with a servant leadership principle where there's no closed doors, there's no hierarchy, Doug treats everyone the same way he would treat anybody else on the street. So my role in the LTL department is to direct us in the direction that we want to be, and leading a team of operations and then back and billing people. And we do LTL I've always told we do it differently. Okay, the other 3PLs where we make the barrier to entry super low, we're easy to do business with. So if a customer says I don't have enough time to do this, this and this, let us handle it, we'll offload that responsibility. We'll build that partnership with you. We take it from cradle to grave, whether they're big, small in between. We don't it doesn't matter to us, every customer means the world to us, and we're happy to have them and happy to serve them.

Patrick Escolas:

Now, when you said you're driving the team forward, is there. What does that look like? I mean, where it sounds like you're at a good place, you said low bar to get and make it easy. So it's not their problem. It's kind of it's mostly yours, you're handling that? Where are you driving towards?

Curt Kouts:

So we're driving towards, um, we have a couple bullet points that we hit for pretty much every business planning season that is productivity and efficiency, profitability, and then how can we interact with our customers in the best way so they have the best experience. So what we're doing is just to give you an outline on kind of where we've come from, in the past five years, we have almost doubled our footprint of LTL within Trinity as a company. Trinity has historically been a very truckload strong company, with the help of Banyan and the partnership with that, and the technology behind it. We've been able to grow that and double that percentage up to it's almost a third of what we ship at Trinity now. Wow. So it's more than just a value add. It's more than just a small piece of the pie. It's, it's a heavy hitting sales thing that our folks can use to sell the brand seller name, get it out there with our customers. And we've seen tremendous growth over the past two years. The pandemic as anybody in transportation will tell you was sort of a big catalyst to a lot of growth for that because people weren't leaving, people were buying stuff online that E commerce shot up like crazy. And the supply chain became more and more important. And people knew about supply chain at that point. So we gained exposure it you know, your grandmother was like, Oh, I heard about the cargo ships. So your people that are involved with it, that otherwise wouldn't have cared are now understanding that 3PLs and the carriers and the shippers and customers all work together to work on the backend on an otherwise product that people would just ignore for the most part, except when they see tractor trailers on the road that might hold up some traffic.

Patrick Escolas:

Yeah. And you said that within that five years LTL has grown tremendously for you obviously like you've talked about with COVID? And do a little bit of pitching here? I know Banyan some part to play in that. But how much is automation? Been a player within that? Why? Yeah. Why has that helped?

Curt Kouts:

Yeah, sure. So, automation, and technology is sort of the future of any logistics company, right now. rates or rates, you know, your, you know, stuff like that. But when it comes down to it, technology, automation, ease of use, and Banyan has been a real good component for us to sell as a TMS platform, a data warehouse, internal application for our teams to get more efficient, have more productivity, do more with less, and things like, you know, some of the backend features that you guys have built for us customer, you guys work with us on just about any idea that I possibly have. And I have a long list of them and you guys, don't laugh at them, you support them, you give me the scopes, you talk through the processes with us. So...

Patrick Escolas:

Doug, you're gonna have a problem, because he's gonna take my job, and he's gonna work for me, we're just gonna put him in front of all of our customers right there. And that's everything. We want to give right there.

Curt Kouts:

whiteboard and a marker. And, and I'm good for the rest of the day.

Patrick Escolas:

That's awesome to hear. Because you know, I'm in it day in and day out talking to clients talking to customers, and not from the logistics background. And to me, it was crazy how many organizations didn't have automation, because I just assumed they did, because this is my first step into it, and a lot of ways. But yeah, just a little bit of going into that. Sure. Everything we want to hear about, you know, if we're, if I'm looking at perfect, perfect thing of what I want to hear back, you just kind of nailed that right there. So with kind of in line and where that the past 18 months have been Where you've come in five years, what does 2023 look like for Trinity as a whole, not just in the LTL space, but as a whole? Especially? You'll have a broader picture, but we'll start with you.

Curt Kouts:

Yeah, I'll hit on the LTL piece. So right now it's looking like we're gonna finish 22 In the same sort of trajectory that we have been for the past two years. We are, it's a little bit different than truckload so it's hard to kind of quantify that and equate that to the same sort of standard, but we are expecting it to kind of taper off and remain steady, but not necessarily dip down in any sort of drastic manner, forever. No, that would be great. steady incline for the rest of time, but we don't anticipate it being any type of a lull, we're looking to continue strong, especially with the ever-advancing technology, and our customer platforms and stuff like that, that we have with them. So...

Doug Potvin:

It's gonna be an interesting 2022 and 2023. Especially with regard to the economic situation going on right now with the interest rates continue to being raised by the Fed, we're already beginning to see a little bit a slight decline in productivity not in our place, but just in manufacturing as a whole. Okay, again, people begin to curtail buying things, again, requires the use of capital right on there. So we expect freight volumes to, to, I wouldn't say dip but level off, and maybe dip to a degree but not a not a large within reason that no reason not to freak out about, like we heard this morning, I don't expect to hear see a deep recession or anything of that nature. Okay, but just a gradual part of that. Getting into consumer to get and feel good about what they're doing and how they're spending oriented. They've saved some money, but they've also spent money during this process, as well. I'm really good at spending money. Yeah, it's good. But let's see what happened with the interest rates going up in effect the Fed talked about they weren't actually, which was really weird unemployment to increase in the rate. Because as you keep hiring workers, you keep paying them more, right, I'm into the seats and stuff. Yes. So you get to continue wage base thing, which allows for the prices continue to go up and you continue to get this spiraling inflation. So you've been, you've been getting to have to bring that back a little bit to curtail a little bit of the domestic spending.

Patrick Escolas:

I'm not not a genius within that level. But that you you explain that in a way that made sense. And I appreciate that. So, I would have never thought that that was kind of counter logistic or logical to my thinking.

Doug Potvin:

Because, because of small businesses hiring. Larger businesses are beginning to curtail but smaller businesses are still out there.

Patrick Escolas:

It's a high level, it's consolidation at the lower level, it's getting more productive wherever they can. Okay,

Doug Potvin:

And we look like from a from a freight perspective during the pandemic course, customers had a need to get the shipments there immediately anyway. So they're willing to keep ramping up the rates and up the rates and up the rates and such right and a carriage and during the Great time now you'd begin to see freight begin to level off begin to come down from the high fall out somewhere carriers now have their rates are dropping right and unfortunately the ones who entered into the very end thinking of that's where they want to play for a while they're going to be hurting their first off right but yeah, and in the market is going to go back to shippers gonna say yeah, I had to go through all this stuff. And now it's occurred to level off and everything else and I'm going to start coming down on our prices. So we expect to see some margin squeezes over the future but but honestly, and it's more about working with the customer now right to be You proactive in our relationship. It's a partnership. Yes. And make them make sure they're successful so that we continue to be successful.

Patrick Escolas:

And that's why with Banyan and what me and my other account managers and other co-workers, it's very much and we get to deal with brokers and three peels, it's very much a win win, there isn't a certain situation where you do okay, but I do better because of it. No, the, it's exponential as far as your when relating to it. And looking at any business, when it's everybody is going the same direction for the same reason. It's really nice, because there's not much of a conflict within those ideologies. But thank you for that. And the for kind of get going to the next one. So that's next year, what do you see five years from now, as far as kind of a? I don't know, it's more of a guess at this point. But it's way that things are moving? What What would you think that the industry might look like in five years?

Doug Potvin:

I think the industry in five years will be much more technology advanced than us. For brokers, I think you're gonna see interactions directly through technology, people, but you'll never replace the people. Relationships. Oh,

Patrick Escolas:

I hear that a lot today. Yeah, really good to know, because I'm a person. So...

Doug Potvin:

I don't anticipate that ever going away, 'cuz you want to provide that great service. Let's face it, me. And the other 8,000 brokers, we all do the same exact thing. We utilize the same carriers LTL specially right, in FedEx ups. I mean, you're using the same carrier. What do you differentiate yourself with service? It's who you trust the hypermart helping out in a tight situation, not looking at knowledge, I think five years from now, I think there'll be some more consolidation within the brokerage space. I think they'll probably be more agents within the brokerage. Okay. I gotcha. I think that'll be also the case, or the smaller brokers will say, hey, because they're also people looking to get out or do something differently. So either, like I said, a consolidation or become agents, because again, it's the backend stuff that all of a sudden mistakes, insurance, yes, collections, the tertiary aspects of it. Yeah. So I use passion that's going to happen within the industry as a self, I think, I think you'll see the number of brokers shrink, but actually the volume going through brokers are going to increase dramatically, because as a customer, you don't want to hire 1520 People in the transportation department when you can outsource it to a company like Trinity, right? outsource the LTL to tuckerton. His team there. Yeah. And it gets handled well, and you can focus on your business realize that transportation is taken care. You don't have to wear so many hats. Correct? I see that as well.

Curt Kouts:

I mean, I agree with everything Doug just said,. On the LTL space, we look to see, I look to see more carriers sort of looking at not necessarily final mile, but more of a consolidation, like kind of what YRC or Yellow, Matt talked about earlier today. Yeah, redefining their role as a terminal to terminal basis to have faster service that one and two day delivery point, increasing those turnaround times for our customers. Because right now, we've got a lot of consumers and shippers and customers that went through that pandemic. And there's some expectations of those service levels. Because like what Doug said, we all use the same carriers, at least in LTL. So when FedEx is trying to set themselves apart from the UPS or an SDS, what is what's going to set them apart rates and their service. And for us, that's where we can sell that stuff as well through Bannion through the integration process, but I look to see more, more advancement in that area, as well as the technology from the carriers. They've been heavily investing in personnel but also their technology, right? Well as their assets. We had a couple of carrier reps over the past year that told us they were placing several 100 orders for trailers and tractors that wouldn't be completed until 23, 24. So they are ramping up their assets to be able to handle any capacity. Assuming that we continue trending like we are which based on the economic forecast, it doesn't look like it's necessarily going down so carriers are investing in themselves now to be able to better set up themselves for those next 2, 3, 4 years.

Patrick Escolas:

That's great because I got I got Doug's saying you'll have the opportunity to go out of house and you say that people are bringing it in house so I guess that in five years it's still It all depends on how you're looking at school say where you think that that's going to play into what you do better and I I liked that because you're it's two different outlooks or two different sides of the story. But so I also hear it's automation still further automation and more immediate. Yeah, like getting that immediate service last touch. Yeah, we're gonna we're gonna keep self service. Yep. Self Service. Exactly. So I love a lot of what you guys have hit on here and you guys are a great partner to have within the space. We love the relationship and all kinds of give it to you now you got the mic first. You got a statement that makes you customers to people in logistics space. What's one thing to walk away from here and talking about today that you put out there.

Curt Kouts:

Banyan related? I can plug you guys!

Patrick Escolas:

We all over here, you're already our half our spokesperson now they're actually firing me after this, you're gonna be hosting the podcast! Trinity, logistics, anything!

Curt Kouts:

So, as you know, born and bred at Trinity, it's been a third of my life essentially. I think the word broker has a bad rap to it. And 3PL, I guess what I what I would want to say is that for customers and shippers like we look at you guys as partners, not customers, not shippers, not a dime to be made, we look at the partnerships and the value because as they grow, we grow. They succeed, and this sustainable method, you know, there's plenty of others out there that would rather make a quick buck. And that's never been our philosophy is customer first? How can we make that experience, something that they want to come back to? And to reinforce that with our team members internally as well, to sell that statement? And create that experience?

Patrick Escolas:

It's, I don't think that's ever going out of style?

Curt Kouts:

I hope not.

Patrick Escolas:

Doug, do you have anything for it's kind of a last shot?

Doug Potvin:

A shot for Trinity itself. I mean, we're people centric and provide a great methodology or people centered freight centric, say focus on the people, the relationships across the board, from team members, to the agents, to the shipping customers and carrier customers that we have. And that's what we want to focus on is continuing to maintain and building relationships with people. We don't want to be the biggest, that's not our goal. But what we want to do is deliver the best, deliver the best to all people in these relationships that we have. And that's what we're trying to do is about, we've grown dramatically over the last several years, but we've never lost focus on the people.

Patrick Escolas:

Hey, you guys have said some great things in ways that I couldn't say it's that's why I sit back here and let you do the work for me. And I really appreciate you joining us today, Doug. Thank you so much. Thank you, Kurt. You'll be hearing from us to do our next commercial. And that's right, well contact your

Doug Potvin:

Thanking me!

Patrick Escolas:

Thanks again guys. Thanks for watching another episode of Tire Tracks and we'll keep at it!