Firm Offers Express Rate For Partial Loads

May 17, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — Universal Traffic Service Inc. (UTS), which calls itself a provider of third-party logistics, last month introduced a service that it says gives many manufacturers a new in-state shipping option.

Ray Chester, the president of UTS, says the name of the service pretty much tells the story: Less-Than-Truckload Express (LTX).

He said the new service fills a gap between two primary transportation options that common carrier trucking companies offer.

Chester said that manufacturers who use common carriers can ship product across the state using either Less-Than-Truckload (LTL) service, where delivery occurs the next day, or expedited service, where a truck picks up only the partial shipment and immediately drives it to its destination.

The problem with expedited LTL service, Chester indicated, is that its cost usually is about five times that of ordinary LTL.

Enter Less-Than-Truckload Express, which, Chester says, offers same-day freight delivery at a significant discount from the cost of expedited delivery.

Chester explains that rather than dedicate one truck for each partial shipment, his firm arranges for a carrier to consolidate multiple shipments from one metro area onto a single truck, which then drives them to a second metro area where it disperses them to their several locations.

UTS owns no trucks of its own. Rather it brokers freight hauling, dealing with up to 1,000 carriers a week and scores of thousands during the year.

The firm’s vice president of operations, Bill Klotz, told the Business Journal that the firm has toyed for years with the notion of providing LTX service. But with the recession and the impact of Sept. 11, many of the firm’s shipping clients began feeling a serious cost pinch.

“So we decided to try it,” he said. “It more or less grew out of necessity.”

“We believe there’s a distinct market for manufacturers who have urgent shipment requirements, but who want to pay less than the expedite rate,” Chester said.

“By waiting a little longer for delivery, these manufacturers can save $100 or more.”

Klotz explained that the company designated one of its staff as its LTX coordinator, and it’s the coordinator’s job to watch the company’s Load Board — a display which lists carriers, loads and destinations — for opportunities to consolidate partial shipments.

“He keeps his eye on the board when information starts popping up on the board early in the morning. And when the opportunities arise, he gets carriers to move around to consolidate loads.”

Klotz said the board reflects loadings on both sides of the state, so that UTS can arrange shipments from each side of the state to the other.

Currently UTS offers LTX service between the Grand Rapids metro area (which includes all the lakeshore communities from Muskegon to Holland) and the Detroit metro area.

Klotz explained that while first consolidating a full load and then later dispersing it to disparate locations makes each shipment’s transit longer than if it were expedited service, it nonetheless enables UTS to price LTX service significantly below expedite rates.

He also said that if some manufacturer notifies UTS a few days ahead of time that it will have a partial load, then it’s often possible to work out an even better rate.

“We’re in the business of buying and selling transportation,” he said. “So the earlier we have that information, the better we can do.”

Chester said UTS guarantees delivery before 8 p.m. the same day on all LTX shipments that are called in by 10 a.m.

Though headquartered in Grand Rapids, UTS operates regional service centers in Atlanta and Denver.

What now is UTS was founded in 1979 as a transportation auditing firm. It became a logistics operation nine years ago and currently is doing about $30 million in business a year.

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