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Drivers Are New Faces of E-Commerce

September 19, 2000

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For-hire carrier drivers who deliver evenings, carry packages upstairs, hook up ovens and install new computers? That’s what some big Internet retailers are looking for and, to an extent at least, beginning to find. The possible new face of parcel and LTL transportation emerged during an e-commerce session at the fall meeting of NASSTRAC (National Small Shipment Traffic Conference) in Baltimore this week.

Presenters included representatives from Amazon.com, UPS, Fedex, Roadway and Yellow Freight. among others.
Cayse (pronounced “Casey”) Roy of Amazon.com said his well-known company had branched out from books into many other products that require different kinds of delivery service. The person making the delivery is the face of Amazon.com to the customer who orders from a Web site, he said.
Roy said Internet retailing is still in its infancy and there are many opportunities for carriers willing to perform customer-friendly home deliveries. "But you have to really want the business," he cautioned.
Apparently, Fedex does. Ed DiSalvo, a Fedex sales VP, noted the new Fedex Home Delivery division, designed specifically for residential work. For example, Fedex’s home group delivers up to 8 p.m. and on Saturdays when many people are home from work.
Doug Zahour, a presenter and VP for Hub Group eLogistics, said he had assembled a network of 435 carriers to handle e-commerce deliveries. Most trucks have lift gates and two-man crews, he said.
UPS introduced UPS Returns, a specialized e-commerce service targeting returned merchandise, a process sometimes called reverse logistics. Joe Monteleone of UPS said that Web retailers experience a returned merchandise rate of 10 to 12 percent, far higher than the standard retail rate of 4 percent. Most customers must call the e-retailer for return authorization, wait for a label to arrive by mail, then send the goods back.
Monteleone said UPS has been working with retailer Buy.com and has developed a one-stop return service. A Buy.com customer can now go to the Buy.com web site, fill out a form, then print out the necessary label on his own printer. UPS, which is tied into the Internet system, automatically schedules a pickup.
Monteleone said Buy.com has cut return-related calls to its service center by 40 percent without any promotion, merely by placing the option on its Web site. UPS Returns will be officially rolled out within a month or so.
Attendees also got a glimpse of trucking’s e-future from Yellow’s Systems Development VP Cheryl Billington. She said the LTL giant was adapting the company’s Web site for access over wireless devices, such as Internet-ready phones and small computers, or PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants).
Billington also said Yellow would be deploying voice recognition software so customers could call in normal transactions – pickup requests, for example – and be understood by Yellow’s computers.

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