Transportation Innovators Association

Robert Voltmann
President & CEO
Transportation Intermediaries Association

One of the blessings (curses?) of being in any one place for a long time is you remember things. In 2001, myriad media reports discussed how internet-based companies were going to disrupt you right out of business. TIA organized its Capital Ideas Conference that year as a symposium on transportation intermediaries in the internet age.

While these dot-coms got a lot of press, and a lot of venture capital money, they did not gain a lot of success. In fact, Armstrong & Associates estimates that of the dot-coms at the turn of the millennium, only two have survived. These companies forgot that the industry was already disrupted by you.

Fast forward almost 20 years, and we’re hearing a lot from a new breed of digital brokers who are telling anyone who will listen that they are going to disrupt the industry. Like their brethren a generation before, they are forgetting a few things. As a result, my money is on your continued success.

Many of these digital brokers forget that just building a better mousetrap does not mean shippers are going to reinvest in the time, talent, and technology necessary to engage with them. Shippers want to reduce their investment in logistics, not increase it. The digital brokers forget that technology is a tool, not a differentiator. They also forget that you’re not the taxi industry. You’re not going to stand still and watch others innovate while you carry on blithely ignoring them.

As long as 80 percent of truck capacity is controlled by companies with five or fewer trucks, as long as shippers view logistics as a cost instead of a strategic investment, and as long as you innovate, the 3PL industry will continue to thrive.

Innovation is happening. Companies are looking at ways to use artificial intelligence to streamline and fully automate getting a truck under a load. Who wouldn’t want to get a truck under a routine load with little or no effort, allowing you to focus on problem loads and your shipper customers? Others are figuring out how to automate paperwork. TMS providers are innovating every day. The load boards, too. And, they are all at the TIA Capital Ideas Conference & Exhibition because they know you are innovators in the industry. You are the disrupters. You have the customer relationships. You’re looking for the latest and greatest that you can plug into your system to improve service, expand your offerings and reduce cost.

Angel Pu of Warburg Pincus may have summed it up best when she said, “Incremental improvements by existing companies, will lead to revolutionary change.”

As in 2001, we at TIA believe the future is wide open to your future success, but you can’t stand still. More than ever before, size matters. Investment in technology will become more and more important and expensive. The need to keep up with changes requires you to have a growth strategy. That’s why TIA has acquired TranStrategy Partners and launched TIA Consulting Services. We can help you chart a path for growth.