Nathan Myer stands in front of a company banner. (Bulky)
The world’s largest chemical shipper and one of the largest bulk carriers in North America are investing $1 million in what they say is the first digital freight-matching network for shipping liquid bulk commodities by truck.
BASF Corp. and Trimac Transportation, in a joint announcement, said the new network, called Bulky, is expected to improve equipment utilization and driver retention by making it easier to find loads.
“We are excited about Bulky as a way to greatly enhance the utility of our fleet,” said Matt Faure, CEO of Trimac in Calgary, Alberta.
Trimac operates a fleet of more than 1,400 company-owned and owner-operator tractors and 3,800 trailers at more than 100 locations in Canada and the United States.
BASF, based in Ludwigshafen, Germany, generates 67,000 loads a year at more than 100 production and research and development sites in North America and, along with Trimac, will be a part owner of the new load-matching platform.
“Each has made an investment of $500,000,” said Nathan Myer, general manager of Bulky, in an interview with Transport Topics.
Myer said the company would seek similar investments from other major industry players. Verbal commitments have been received from a number of shippers, including Ascend Performance Materials, a producer of plastic resin based in Houston, Kemira Chemical, a company based in Helsinki, Finland, that produces chemicals for paper and food packaging applications, and AOC Aliancys, a maker of resins, colorants and gel coats based in Colliersville, Tenn.
A number of other carriers, including Coal City Cob in Houston, have agreed to supply assets to the new load-matching platform, Myer said.
The use of electronic load boards to handle bulk chemical shipments has been much more limited compared with other kinds of freight, in part because the products require specialized equipment.
“We have not seen any digital network outside the proprietary routing guides,” Myer said.
As a consequence, it’s not unusual for bulk chemical carriers to run empty more than 40% of the time.
Add that to the fact that there was a severe shortage of truck capacity in 2017 and 2018 and, according to Myer, you have an urgent need for shippers and carriers to find new ways to access equipment that is already in the market, but underutilized.
At a recent industry conference, Jacqueline Bailey, the head of transportation and logistics at Cargill Inc. in Minneapolis, lent support to the idea that more consolidation among bulk carriers is needed to help address capacity needs.
“We’re consolidating our carrier base,” Bailey said in a presentation at the Transportation Intermediaries Association annual conference in Orlando on April 12. “We want to build relationships with a smaller number of carriers.”
Cargill spends $3 billion a year to ship its products worldwide and half of that budget goes to pay for truck transportation, Bailey said.
In North America, Cargill works with more than 3,000 separate carriers and generated 12,000 loads a week from its grain, oilseed and meat processing plants.
To expedite development of the Bulky platform, Myer said that the company worked closely with Cargo Chief, which offers its freight-matching platform.
“Cargo Chief is providing access to certain services,” Myer said. “One of these services is CargoSafe, which accesses insurance and Department of Transportation motor carrier [compliance] data to make sure the carrier is up-to-date each time a load is booked.”