Lakeville Motor Express
Spearheaded the creation of a seamless LTL network across North America by working with five other regional carriers to create the Reliance Network.
As 2007 came to an end, Pete Martin faced a grim scenario. To date, Lakeville Motor Express had enjoyed an 87-year record of consistent, profitable growth. But in March 2008, about 25 percent of the company’s revenue would walk out the door – literally overnight.
To stay competitive over the years, Martin says that he and other executives of LME – a Roseville, Minn.-based less-than-truckload carrier – had understood that the company had to be more than just a traditional truck line. During the past decade, the company has invested heavily in “any and all technology assistance to help shippers or consignees to manage information flow,” says Martin, the company’s president.
“We have consistently made capital investments in training personnel, expanding the density of our terminal networks, and ensuring that we have the best, most cost-effective people and equipment that we can put on the highway.”
To be a player in today’s competitive LTL market, Martin says that LME also has focused on maintaining a level of customer service that exceeds the demand in the marketplace. But even with all of its ongoing improvement efforts, 2008 was not shaping up as planned.
LME operates 385 tractors and 30 terminals to provide daily morning delivery throughout a 10-state Midwest region. In November 2007, LME announced it would end a 12-year strategic alliance called ExpressLink with two LTL carriers to provide expanded LTL coverage. Estes Express provided pickup-and-delivery services in the East, West and South, while TST Overland Express provided coverage in Canada.
The ExpressLink agreement came to an end with Estes Express’ decision to expand its terminal network to all 48 states. The company joined the ranks of national LTL carriers such as FedEx Freight, Old Dominion and YRC Worldwide. Estes now would be a direct competitor for LME’s regional operations.
The ExpressLink alliance officially ended on March 1, 2008. From November 2007 to March 2008, Martin worked quickly to create another strategic alliance that not only would replace lost business but also propel the company’s future growth.
“We began looking for other strong, profitable regional LTL carriers that would allow us to form a new network,” Martin says. To be considered, carriers had to have the same or similar values as LME: a commitment to superior service, dependable on-time delivery and a solid reputation within their own territories.
Martin first met with Averitt Express, a large regional LTL carrier with coverage in the South and Southeastern United States and Mexico. When meeting with executives from Averitt, Martin talked about growth and other mutual benefits the companies would enjoy through a strategic alliance with other strong regional LTL carriers.
“That’s the way the process began,” Martin says. The Reliance Network quickly grew to include four additional carriers: Canadian Freightways/Epic Express (Canada), DATS Trucking (West), Land Air Express (New England) and Pitt Ohio Express (Mid-Atlantic and Central States).
The technology edge
The new alliance was designed to provide seamless LTL, truckload and supply chain freight services across the North American continent. The original agreement for the Reliance Network is a five-year term, but Martin describes the agreement as “evergreen.”
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