What’s the Deal with The Freight Industry?

Jun 1, 2024 | Toolbox

For all its complexities, the shipping industry is the cornerstone of the salvage arena.

By Tony Jenkins

I spent 25 years in the building products industry in sales and marketing roles. Before that, I grew up in two small family businesses (one was a salvage yard). One thing that the family businesses and the 25 years I spent in building products have in common was that in all the roles, customer service was extremely important. In 2020, I left my past behind and came to the freight and shipping industry. One thing I was not prepared for was how un-customer friendly this industry is and can be. So, what’s the deal with the freight industry? Why is there so much attitude?

To peel back this onion, and I do mean onion, we need go back in time; before there were planes, trains, and automobiles. The persona of trade in the world has always been one of a tough, callused, and a corrupt sort. The Silk Road, which was the notorious trade route between Asia and Europe, was one of the most corrupt ideas, starting around 200 BC and continuing  through the 1600s. The two famous figures of the Silk Road were Marco Polo and Kublai Khan.

Have you heard of, or ever played, a video game called Red Dead Redemption, set in the late 1800s to early 1900s America? How did things get from point A to point B in that period? There is a lot of corruption and scheming, of course that’s why it’s now a video game. Companies like Wells Fargo and Pony Express were always being schemed against during this period. It worked then the same as it did when Jimmy Hoffa oversaw the teamster’s unions in the 40s and 50s. By that time, Uncle Sam had given the shipping industry a lot of power. By the 1970s, with the initial help of Jimmy Hoffa, the mafia was skimming their casinos and putting the skim into the truckers’ union pension funds to cover their tracks. That’s some corrupt stuff. 

Like the world, the shipping industry has been corrupt as long as there has been trade. With government involvement in the good ol’ US of A … we the people gave the shipping industry power a long time ago; to keep democracy strong. Because of this, the shipping industry doesn’t have to play nice, the past has given it all the corruption, power, and government sympathy it needs to be omnipotent.

I was surprised that our government let YRC Freight go quietly into their “good night” this past summer and didn’t bail them out of their problems (like they have done with them and other carriers for so long). But that’s just it … YRC had lots of things in their past that affected its future. YRC couldn’t bale the water out of the sinking ship fast enough. A lot of people, including YRC employees and YRC customers, got the short end of the stick when YRC went out of business, but it hasn’t changed anything. The shipping industry is what it is today because the concept of trade is as old as time and losing YRC didn’t do anything but make other companies in the industry bigger and with fewer companies – they are now bigger bullies.

So that’s my take on the deal with the shipping industry … it’s not about anything and it’s about everything. Your motor, transmission, bourbon, wine, siding, house wrap, logoed merchandise, labels, electronics equipment, handrails – your “whatever it is” that is getting moved from point A to point B – is nothing and it is everything in the scheme of things. Things are going to have to be moved no matter what, so companies in this business can continue to not give a damn about your stuff because the business of trade is too big to be concerned about you and your business. Without the shipping industry and its tough, callused, and corrupt exterior – we wouldn’t be who we are today.

To park this topic once and for all, I love what I do in this industry. If the shipping industry hadn’t become what it is today, I definitely would not be having as much fun as I do learning how to work in it. For me, I’m going to believe that the shipping industry exists so that I can get my own redemption by helping people traverse it. In a world where you must watch out for yourself, especially if you ship, you, as a salvage dealer and you, as a shipper, need all the help you can to navigate it. If you do not use a trusted third party to help your business navigate the world of shipping, you should be looking at the options that are out there through your associations, networking group and business partners.

Tony Jenkins grew up in the salvage business (Birmingham Auto Parks, Birmingham, MO) and his family still owns a salvage yard in Kansas City. After spending 25 years in corporate America, in 2020 Jenkins started InXpress 308. Today, the majority of the business for InXpress 308 is with salvage dealers and other related industries. InXpress 308 is the only place where you can ship blinker fluid, flux capacitors, and muffler bearings for free. To learn more about Jenkins and his background, visit https://www.linkedin.com/in/asjenkins.

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