In a freight downturn, you need to rely on people & relationships, technology & assets

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At a time when market pressures are threatening small carriers and squeezing margins on larger ones–Reno, Nevada-based ITS Logistics appears to be defying market pressures by thriving with its transportation services.

But no company really thrives in defiance of the market. Sustained success is only possible when you’ve found the formula to operate effectively and efficiently in response to market conditions, no matter how quickly they change.

Founded in 1999, the company’s transportation services now include an asset-lite transportation division ranked #23, the #11 drayage and intermodal provider and a top-tier asset-based dedicated fleet ranked #39 to facilitate dedicated and expedited transportation across North America. ITS Logistics has Fortune 100 customers in industries such as automotive, retail, health care, transportation, general manufacturing, and food/beverage.

Manny McElroy, ITS Logistics’ senior vice president of transportation and a 10-year veteran of the company, believes ITS is staying ahead of market pressures by bringing the right mix of people, technology, assets, and experience.

In a crucial strategic move, ITS continues to invest in trailers and has embraced the placement of their assets on-site with their key customers as a top priority.

“Investing in assets – trailers, trucks – and positioning them on-site is such a huge differentiator for our customers going into a downturn,” McElroy said. “You’re seeing, for example, 40 trailers at five different facilities. That demonstrates ITS’ strengths as an asset-based company providing capacity when and where our customers need it.”

But for ITS Logistics, it’s not just about having the assets, it’s also about having the people that will go above and beyond, and have been through this kind of market environment before. They know how to deploy those assets strategically to service their customers at the most optimal level. That’s the work ITS has done in advance to position itself for a solid showing during a 2023 request for proposal (RFP) season that will be tainted by an economic downturn.

“I believe we’re in the best position we’ve ever been in with the flexibility and speed we can deploy a combination of non-asset, asset-lite, and fully dedicated asset solutions with the most demanding shippers,” McElroy said. “I think the 2023 RFP season is going to be key for how companies are able to succeed and distance themselves from their competition during this downturn in the marketplace.”

Shippers will go into that process with the upper hand, McElroy believes, and will likely look to lock in low rates for full-year contracts. That makes sense for shippers, at least in the short term, and now is the time when both shippers and carriers will be able to rely on the strong relationships they’ve built through the chaos of the last few years.

“We’ve grown through the pandemic and established ourselves as a disruptor in the marketplace,” McElroy said. “Now, whenever there is volatility in the market, up or down, it’s just our nature to be ready to respond. Our investment in people—training, process discipline, and how we’ve always taught and managed our team members—is that when you’re calling your customers and asking for an opportunity, you’d better be damn sure you’re ready when they have one for you.”

That applies any time, including Thanksgiving, Cyber Monday, Christmas day, or a random weekday evening at midnight.

“You’ve got to be available, and you have to perform,” McElroy said. “That’s usually how we get in with some of these larger companies. During those disruptive times is when we’re able to come in and shine because the other carriers are saying they can’t do it. That’s when we say yes, and we find a way.”

McElroy touts a personal management style designed to encourage such readiness. It’s a style that’s heavy on trust and designed to bring out the best in people by preparing them with training, process excellence, and industry-leading technology—and then challenging them to exceed our customer’s expectations every day.

“I manage off trust a ton, and whenever I bring somebody on, I’ll sit them down and say, ‘Hey, listen, we’re going to train you and support you, and then I’m going to trust you,” McElroy said. “I feel like when you have people buy into you as a person and build that two-way trust, the management side of your career becomes much easier.”

With the team trained and ready to respond quickly and efficiently, ITS Logistics has consistently seized on those opportunities and grown exponentially with both new and existing customers.

“A lot of providers will say, ‘I don’t have a truck, I don’t have a driver, I can’t deploy a trailer pool,’” McElroy said. “ITS will come in and say, ‘Hey, we found a driver for you.’ We’ve repositioned that driver and made it work, and that allows us our opportunity to get in with a customer, which is all we need to start a long-term relationship. We make it our mission to find options for you when others can’t or won’t.”

It’s all a matter of strategic positioning. It’s one thing to have lots of assets, it’s another thing to have them in the right position, and ready to roll exactly when the shipper needs them.

“I think we’re about to see how this investment in people and purpose-built capacity is going to play out in the current freight environment. We enjoy a challenge, and we embrace adversity,” McElroy said. “It’s who we are as people and it’s also how we have built our company. We are a very diverse transportation solution provider and we are working every day to find creative solutions for our customer’s most unique challenges.”