Learning even more at the Sylectus conference

| February 11, 2012

I learned today why a man who owns a small expedite carrier and a truckload brokerage business prefers to book big trucks on backhaul loads instead of headhaul loads. Learned by sitting with him at the dinner table at the Sylectus Annual Conference 2012, and listening as he explained it to me.

I also learned today how a Mexican carrier and freight forwarder is developing business in the United States by using the Sylectus network to put outbound freight from Mexico onto U.S. expedite trucks at the border and ship it straight-through to U.S. destinations. Learned by listening to him explain it to me while he and I sat together at lunch.

I also learned today how some of the provisions of the highway bill that is now making its way through Congress reach into the daily business of trucking companies and truck drivers in ways that seem far beyond the notions of free enterprise and due process that I learned in public school civics classes. Learned by listening to a presentation by a former DOT official, now a motor carrier consultant, and by talking with him later in the day.

I also learned today that Bradley Jacobs prefers to be called Brad. Learned when I addressed him as Mr. Jacobs and he let me know. And I learned why this multimillionaire who recently acquired Express-1 likes the expedite business. Learned when he answered the question I asked during the Q&A that followed his keynote address.

I also learned today how Landstar agents use the Sylectus network and how network members use Landstar agents. Learned by talking to someone from the Landstar office who explained it to me and by talking to the owner of a small carrier who sometimes does business with some of the same Landstar agents Diane and I work with (we are Landstar BCO’s).

I also learned today that Sylectus-networked carriers had 2011 revenue growth rates that greatly exceeded those of companies on Transport Topics Top 100 list. Learned by seeing the numbers displayed in a presentation.

I also learned today how trucking industry journalists gather information about Sylectus and other aspects of the trucking industry. Learned by being included with them in the media itinerary (breakfast and a private meeting with top Sylectus people) that the Sylectus conference organizers arranged, and by watching those journalists work.

And I learned much, much more as I spent the day and evening attending conference presentations and mixing and mingling with conference attendees.

I am not a journalist. I am a truck driver who writes this blog and happens to write occasional pieces that get published in trucking magazines. It felt presumptuous to wear the same media badge that real journalists were given to wear at this event, but not so much that I hid it in my pocket or refused the special access that journalists were given.

Wearing that badge was like being given the keys to the trucking industry information kingdom. I put it to full use, interviewing as many people as time allowed at this event.

The event continues tomorrow but I am done tonight. I could write full-time for a month about what I learned. I have reached a mental saturation point. I’m going back to the house tomorrow to decompress and flesh out my notes while the event remains fresh in my mind.

Special note to Landstar BCO’s: Diane and I are Landstar BCO’s. I learned nothing at this event about Landstar’s use of Sylectus that would trouble us. In fact, I learned nothing at this event that will change in any way how Diane and I run our one-truck business.

As a truck driver, I am continually curious about the greater trucking industry. In that regard, participating in the Sylectus conference was a wonderful romp in the industry information park. But this is a motor carrier event, attended mostly by the people who own and operate expedite carriers with fleet sizes ranging from 10 to 400 trucks. In our business, Diane and I live and work closer to the asphalt.

While my industry big-picture perspective improved by an order of magnitude in the last few days, it remains the case that Diane and I are perfectly positioned in the industry to live and work as we choose, and to accomplish what we seek to accomplish. We will continue to lease our truck to Landstar Express America and get the freight we haul from Landstar agents. I learned nothing at this conference that suggests we would be better off doing anything else.