Technology and consolidation have been key to the success of many truck brokers navigating today’s produce world, yet the old adage ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’ still applies. While operational functions have advanced, it’s still about finding quality truck service at a competitive price, and the professional handling of claims.
Yes, state-of-the-art equipment and savvy technicians play a role, but companies with a bedrock of capable and customer-friendly associates—in the office or behind the wheel—will always rule the road.
“Good people make good companies,” asserts Mike Devine, president of L&M Transportation Services, Inc. in Raleigh, NC. “If you’re able to attract and retain great employees who have a service mentality, it goes a long way in the success of your company.
Kenny Lund, vice president for support operations at Allen Lund Company, LLC, agrees: “No matter what happens with technology, the relationship is king and dependent on having the right people. This is not an industry that can be run simply with the best data systems—you must have the right people using those systems. Your word and good reputation in the marketplace are still the most important assets a broker can have.”
“The basic service we provide of matching a customer order with an appropriate truck and managing on-time delivery has not changed very much,” posits Steve Howard, president of Patterson Companies, Inc. in Plant City, FL. “The biggest change is more in how we provide the service today versus a decade or two ago.
Technology has changed every aspect of our business—what used to be phone calls and faxes is now emails, texts, and electronic GPS readings using satellites.” Truck-stop pay phones have been replaced by cell phones and tablets serving as miniature computers, providing access to the world via the internet from just about anywhere, Howard adds.
Brokers have made great strides, with few needing to “fish for loads” to stay busy. “The days of offices with a bank of phones and ‘dialing for dollars’ are dwindling,” reflects Dan Vaché, United Fresh Produce Association’s vice president of supply chain management, based in Redmond, WA. “But that’s not to say they do not exist or come and go from the market. That’s one of the challenges: here today and gone tomorrow does not create a solid and dependable business environment.”
The Times, They are a Changin’
Business basics remain constant, but there’s no disputing shipping practices have improved. “In a word, they have become more sophisticated,” observes Luis Campano, executive vice president at John J. Jerue Truck Broker, headquartered in Lakeland, FL. “A couple decades ago, technology wasn’t so crucial, the business wasn’t so complex.”