Pandemic challenges dominate Clear Lane’s near-term outlook

Clear Lane Freight Systems has experienced exponential growth during its eight years of operations. The company got a big boost toward continued prosperity when Estes acquired the carrier in 2019.

Tom Nagel, Clear Lane Freight System’s president and CEO, recently spoke with SMC³ about how the pandemic has impacted operations and how the company uses technology to confront supply chain issues.

How has Clear Lane ensured operations continue during the pandemic?

As with many LTL carriers, we did have to lay off some employees, and the remainder of our employees had to take a reduction in pay. We are fortunate to have what I would consider the best and most dedicated employees in the industry. We examined all our loads for profitability and where appropriate, we took small increases.

One of the factors that benefited us was that many customers were focused on reducing transportation cost at the expense of faster transits. That fits our model perfectly. We’ve been able to expand our customer base; even though they are not large volume shippers, the numbers grew, and we were able to maintain our business levels to where we could absorb the losses.

The business volumes have been very erratic since mid-April. Prior to that, we were seeing the bottom of the business trough. Toward the end of April, we started to see a surge that continued into May and June and has, so far, continued in July. These surges stressed our capacity to respond to customer requests on shipment status. So we are holding firm at this point to make sure this is not just a temporary surge that might burn out given the current resurgence of COVID-19 infections. We are not adding employees at this point until we have a clearer picture of where business volumes are headed.

What kind of trucking industry are you planning for in 2021?

That’s a hard question. While I’m hoping on a more robust recovery to continue as we’ve seen the past few months, I am very cautious on spending additional funds for some tools I’d like to employ. We will continue to expand adding more customers to our base and working with our major 3PLs for additional business. Having Estes as a partner helps us considerably in providing confidence in our financial stability and capital to continue to grow and improve our technology.

How has your relationship with SMC³ changed your operations?

We enjoy the resources that SMC³ has provided with the yearly conferences that introduce a number of offerings that can help us with various issues. Recently we discovered that our customer rate base that we created back in 2012 had some very low rates in classes 300-400, and we were able to adjust those classes in an updated version that SMC³ handled in less than a week.

Is it necessary for carriers to partner with technology providers like SMC³ in the current climate?

I’ve long felt that the future and health of our industry will rise or fall based on embracing technology. We are more of a “technology” operations industry than an industry of just moving trucks and freight around the country.

To learn more about the SMC³ products Clear Lane Freight Systems uses to optimize its business, contact sales@smc3.com to talk to a sales representative about SMC³ products.

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Categories: Carrier Relations, LTL
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