Brickbats and Bloodbaths

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By Jim Best

Brickbats and bloodbaths – what place do these unusual have in your supply chain?  To find out, read more.  

Few will debate, at least, within earshot – a distance that is quickly decreasing for me – that I was subjected to a reasonably good public school education.  So it surprised me when, in my first month of gainful employment long ago, I heard this strange word for the first time: 


A critical comment, typically insulting 

One of my more mature (he tried to brand himself as refined) associates used it to describe the unfavorable reaction he was receiving for something that morning.  Obviously, it stuck with me, no doubt in large part because transportation is a business where brickbats are often tossed.  

Why is this so?  As a young conscientious rookie, I pondered this question.  Until it came up with the daughter of an owner of a business that shipped no small amount of freight. 

“It’s easy,” she replied to some clumsily worded question I posed, “The more we pay you, the less we get to keep.  You say you’ll stick with us long term, we’ll be there for you baby, but that’s the same thing we tell all our customers when the low-price birds sing their sweet songs.

“And we mean it – just like all the truck lines do – until a better deal comes along.  Then, TTFN.” 


Ta-Ta for Now; also, goodbye 

Okay, so this may be the only time you will ever have the term “brickbats” seamlessly interwoven with an expression of Tigger’s.  But, that’s us – extreme cutting edge, no words barred. Enjoy the romp.  

Now, bear with me as I bring this home; one thing you will learn to love about me is I wander and ramble but eventually get to the point.  

I read an article recently – you may have seen it, too.  It was from a very reliable, insightful source. And though the piece appeared actual and factual, something else caught my eye; the term “bloodbath”.  

It said that, because of the dramatic drop in line haul rates since 2018, many truck lines were at risk, and things (for the industry) were going to get bad.  Now, the “bloodbath” may have been referring to the fate of some unfortunate truck lines, but you and I know that using a word like “bloodbath” (always an inflammatory term) is meant to affect the thoughts, actions, and yes let’s talk about RATE BEHAVIORS of others, in this case, the shipper community.  

I don’t think it is an unreasonable point of view. I do think it’s a little dramatic.  For a start, there were some truckload carriers that entered the arena in 2018 because there was money to be made – and some say it was pretty easy money.  Now, nobody goes out of their way to lose money – it’s easier to just give it away. But trucking for profit is tough, hard, and challenging, and true performers deserve proper respect AND rates. 

And there were some shippers that, by their own poor planning, paid rates that, looking back, make them feel that their carriers took undue advantage of them.  Can I understand the temptation to take advantage of a soft market? Sort of. Do I think it’s wise, long term? No. 

I won’t naively suggest that

  1. We all get along 
  2. We all work together
  3. We let bygones be bygones 

I am suggesting that we all need to focus on capacity strategy, customer service, and rate behaviors that are LONG TERM SUSTAINABLE.  

This includes intentional collaboration, as well as strategic partnerships, supported and secured by intelligent technology. 

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