Editor's note: This is part three of a four-part series looking at how fleets are seeking to diversify their businesses and reach new customers in a time of technological and commercial disruption.
A regional and dedicated dry van and reefer carrier launched in 1981 that today is operating some 1,000 company tractors and contracting with an even larger number of owner-operators is not the definition of a company afraid of change.
Indeed, Denver-based Navajo Express has been honored, including with an HDT Truck Fleet Innovator award, for several equipment innovations, some of which helped the fleet diversify its customer portfolio. For example, lightweight rigs spec’d for larger payloads in areas where they’re legally allowed has given certain customers more weight capacity so fewer trucks can haul the same amount of freight.
Recognizing that capacity in general is the bugaboo of over-the-road trucking, at the top of last year the company launched its own freight brokerage, Navajo Expedited LLC. Its mission is to help move more freight for shippers by capturing more of it to fill its own trucks and those of its owner-operator partners.
Brandon Bodine, vice president, joined the company in November 2018 to set up Navajo Expedited and oversee its rollout and continuing operations. “We’re set up so that our customers can have direct contact with our key decision-makers every single day, all day and night.” He says the thinking behind the operation is to run it so that “indecision, uncertainly, and delays are replaced with decisive answers and actions.
“My thought process going in was that [the company] staying totally asset-based can result in missed opportunities for handling transactional business,” Bodine explains. “Navajo Expedited focuses on that kind of freight; spot loads that come in last minute and may involve new lanes. It lets us fill lanes for Navajo drivers and our owner-operator partners. Navajo is not slow about reacting to opportunities.”
Bodine says the company branded the brokerage with “expedited” to not only be suggestive of the type of freight they’re after, but to express to customers that the company “sees the urgency of moving it.”
While an average-sized spot load that comes in can be processed by the Navajo Expedited team in roughly 15 minutes, Bodine says that “on a large piece of business, we’ll have a two-hour turnaround.
“Our split right now is 60% contractual, which could be for 90 days or outside our typical footprint, and 40% transactional, which are pure spot moves,” he continues. “We will touch any van, reefer, or flatbed load. We’re not always the lowest cost, but we are building confidence in our brokerage customers that we can deliver for them.”
He points out that along with access to the Navajo Express network of tractor-trailers, the brokerage has onboarded more than 11,000 owner-operators it’s working with as well.
Bodine says the genesis for the brokerage rests on how the marketplace operates. “Based on my experience, there are repetitive lanes, but not all are like that. Then there are the transactional loads at lower volume.
“Providing coverage on those spot loads appeals both to our existing customers and to new ones,” he continues. “Already, several customers have transitioned from giving us spot loads to working with us on an active contractual basis.”