Near real-time load tracking and freight visibility ensure shippers know where their freight is at all times. However, providing visibility can be a challenge in freight brokerage. Brokers aggregate capacity from carriers of all sizes; those carriers operate different systems and have different tech-related capabilities.

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Freight brokers play a critical role in connecting shippers with available capacity, but finding the right freight broker can be challenging. Over a thousand brokers are in the market, ranging from multi-billion-dollar corporations to solo operators working from home. The right broker can create a competitive advantage, offering breadth and depth of service, optimized solutions and business insights.

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Technology can be a differentiator among freight brokers, and tech investments continue to advance. Brian Kenney, vice president of brokerage for Penske Logistics, said he is seeing an emphasis on technology that can improve automation, compliance and tracking. Advancements in those three areas can increase efficiency, streamline communication and ensure the secure movement of goods.

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Penske Logistics will once again take part in the upcoming Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) EDGE conference. Penske will be an exhibitor, topflight sponsor, and feature several experts during the conference educational sessions.

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) SmartWay program has named Penske Logistics a 2023 High Performer among mixed truck carriers in the carbon recognition category. Less than 10% of eligible fleets qualify for this designation.

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Penske Logistics is a 2023 Quest for Quality Award recipient, in the Third-Party Logistics Provider (3PL) Value-Add category. Logistics Management magazine published that Penske was the leader in two areas of the Value-Add category: Order fulfillment and logistics information systems.

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The ongoing need to speed deliveries, reduce risk and improve sustainability while managing expenses drives the need to increase efficiency throughout supply chain networks.

Balika Sonthalia, a partner with the global strategic management consulting firm A.T. Kearney and co-author of the 34th Annual State of Logistics Report, said shippers are increasingly focused on resiliency, which means they need to look at the end-to-end supply chain and optimize the entire network.

"You need to truly understand where you have a weakness and where there is vulnerability," Sonthalia said. "It doesn't mean the issue is exactly where the pain is felt."

Improving Overall Network Design

By evaluating the network as a whole — including sourcing locations and product demand —shippers can improve the overall engineering of the supply chain and increase efficiency. "You can look for opportunities to multi-source to avoid the risk associated with being single-sourced, and you want to make sure your sources are close to your customers," said Amy Ilyes, vice president of logistics engineering for Penske Logistics.

When engineering a network design, Penske relies on proprietary and off-the-shelf technology to model its customers' supply chains and find the ideal sourcing, sites, modes and routes.

Engineers run 'what if' scenarios using different ports, routes, alternate suppliers, and varying levels of inventories and modes of transportation. The models help shippers identify which channels should be served by which locations, optimal supplier base locations, the best ports of entry, and where bricks-and-mortar warehouses should be positioned.

"We've worked with customers interested in micro-fulfillment and opened smaller warehouses closer to where the demand points are," Ilyes said, adding that it is also essential to look at the availability of labor, especially warehouse workers and professional drivers, when considering the ideal locations.

Making Transportation More Efficient

By optimizing the network, shippers can eliminate miles, which Ilyes said increases efficiency, frees up capacity and improves the utilization of equipment and drivers. More importantly, it cuts costs.

Penske reviews its customers' current routing to establish a baseline when analyzing routes. "Then we run an optimization scenario and look at how many fewer miles there are. Because there are fewer miles, drivers will have more hours. Then we develop an optimal schedule and determine the number of drivers, tractors and trailers needed to run the routes," Ilyes said.

Changing business rules could create even more savings opportunities. "Take, for example, retail stores with two-hour delivery windows. If the customer widens that and allows a longer period to make the deliveries, we can usually come up with more efficient routes and increased resource utilization," Ilyes explained.

Another option could be moving to larger equipment. "Maybe right now the routes are run with 48-foot trailers, and there could be an opportunity to go to 53-foot trailers," Ilyes said.

There are also gains to be had by filling empty backhaul miles. "We manage a lot of freight besides our dedicated operations. Usually, when we're putting together any design, our backhaul coordinators help fill empty miles, which is a cost savings opportunity for the shipper," Ilyes said.

The Benefits of Increased Visibility

Sonthalia said visibility into inventory helps shippers make data-driven decisions and increases resiliency. "Inventory visibility helps you build resilience by either preventing something from happening or allowing you to react to it happening. Visibility into inventory allows you to pivot quickly," she said.

Knowing where inventory is located also ensures that shippers deploy it from the correct location. "You don't want to be shipping an order from California to a customer on the East Coast when there is a distribution center in the East," Ilyes said.

Making Continuous Improvements

Once the model is established, Penske runs alternate scenarios regularly to determine when an update is warranted.

Companies with seasonality tend to look at new scenarios twice a year or even more frequently if there is enough variability in the network to warrant it. Other companies typically review their networks annually.

Global volatility has continued to disrupt supply chains, and flexibility, efficiency and resilience are vital for companies throughout the logistics sector. Third-party logistics providers have played increasingly significant roles with shippers, providing data management, visibility and analytics that are helping to transform supply chain networks.

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Third-party logistics providers are now leasing more warehousing space than any other sector amid growing demand for 3PL services. CBRE's 2023 North America Industrial Big Box report found that 3PLs accounted for 41% of all lease transactions at traditional warehouses and distribution centers, with at least 200,000 square feet in 2022, surpassing retailers and wholesalers for the first time on record.

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Penske Logistics is ramping up its freight brokerage capabilities this year with increased hiring and the opening of two new locations in the United States. Penske has introduced new offices in Chicago and Edison, New Jersey.

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With a month until the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season, now is the time to get ready for potential storms, as preparation is key to keeping you and your property safe.

National Hurricane Preparedness Week, April 30 – May 6, provides an opportunity to review your safety plans and make any changes long before a storm arrives.

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The 2024 Third-Party Logistics Study survey is now live and is seeking input from supply chain professionals. Please click here to take part. It will close on June 30.

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Sustainability is taking on increased importance as companies respond to consumer trends and preferences, regulatory requirements, and environmental and climate impacts. Organizations are using their supply chains to better align with their environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals.

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International brokerage is a spot-driven market with prices changing week to week and month to month, and shippers are constantly looking to get the best value for their freight spend. At the same time, they are seeking increased visibility, seamless customs clearance and a single source of information.

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The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is transforming the nation’s food safety system by implementing best practices and requirements designed to prevent foodborne illnesses in consumers. Many of the FSMA provisions relate directly to the supply chain and keeping food and beverage products safe, fresh and enjoyable.

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Steve Beverly, Penske Logistics senior vice president of finance, has been honored by Supply and Demand Chain Executive with the 2023 Pros to Know Award. The annual Pros to Know award recognizes outstanding executives whose accomplishments offer a roadmap for other leaders looking to leverage the supply chain for competitive advantage, according to the publication.

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Food Logistics magazine has named Steve Chambers, vice president of operations for Penske Logistics, as one of the winners of this year’s Rock Stars of the Supply Chain award, which recognizes influential individuals in the industry whose achievements, hard work and vision have shaped the global cold food supply chain.

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued new requirements for additional traceability records for certain foods, ranging from nut butters to cut veggies to shrimp, under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The requirements, which take effect on Jan. 20, 2026, create new traceability record keeping requirements beyond those in existing regulations for certain foods. All entities in the supply chain will be subject to the Food Traceability Rule.

The FDA said the changes, which require entities to share information with others in the supply chain, will allow for faster identification and rapid removal of potentially contaminated food from the market, resulting in fewer foodborne illnesses and/or deaths.

The list of foods includes some cheeses, eggs, certain vegetables, including cucumbers and leafy greens, some fruits, including melons and tropical tree fruits, fresh-cut fruit and veggies, some fish, nut butters, and ready-to-eat deli salads, such as egg salad, potato salad, pasta salad and seafood salads.

In preparation for the new requirements, which are less than three years away, it’s essential to start evaluating current warehouse management system (WMS) capabilities now to be best prepared for the near future. Since traceability in our food supply chain is essential to providing better service to our customers and end consumers, and a detailed record-keeping system is important for all the foods we handle in our food chain, making updates now will lead to a seamless transition when the new requirements become mandatory.

Key Data Elements and Critical Tracking Events

As part of the rule, those who manufacture, process, pack or hold foods on the Food Traceability List (FTL), must maintain and provide to their supply chain partners specific information — called Key Data Elements (KDEs) — for certain Critical Tracking Events (CTEs), in the food’s supply chain.

For example, if a distribution center (DC) receives the repacked fresh cucumbers from a produce processor, it must keep records on the receiving KDEs of the fresh cucumbers. Since the DC will be shipping the cucumbers to a retail store, it must maintain KDEs related to the shipping of the cucumbers to the next point in the supply chain, the retailer. The DC must also send the KDEs to the retailer.

Records must be kept regarding where the shipping event began and where it ended, meaning where the food was received. Still, the FDA said it is unnecessary to have records of the food's route, including any instances where it may have been moved from one carrier to another. Also, for cross-docking situations where food is arranged for transport from point A to point B but is briefly placed on a loading dock at point X at the DC to be transferred from one truck to another, records don’t need to be kept for point X.

Key Data Elements for those receiving food include:

  • Traceability lot code for the food
  • Quantity and unit of measure of the food
  • Product description for the food
  • Location description for the immediate previous source (other than a transporter) for the food
  • Location description for where the food was received
  • Date the food was received
  • Location description for the traceability lot code source or the traceability lot code source reference
  • Reference document type and reference document number

Key Data Elements (to maintain and provide) for those shipping food include:
  • Traceability lot code for the food
  • Quantity and unit of measure of the food
  • Product description for the food
  • Location description for the immediate subsequent recipient (other than a transporter) for the food
  • Location description for the location from which the food was shipped
  • Date the food was shipped
  • Location description for the traceability lot code source or the traceability lot code source reference
  • Reference document type and reference document number (maintain only)

Traceability Plan

All parties covered by the rule must create a traceability plan, and several are specific to those holding the food, such as a DC. The plan must include a description of the procedures used to maintain the required records, including the format and location of the records. It also needs to have a description of the procedures used to identify foods on the FTL and a statement identifying a point of contact for questions regarding the traceability plan and records. Traceability plans must be updated as needed to ensure the information reflects current practices and previous traceability plans must be maintained for two years after an update.

The Importance of Equipment, Technology and Training

There are several layers to the FSMA, which was signed into law in early 2011, and several requirements apply to the transportation and storing of food. All parties in the supply chain need to ensure they’re complying with current requirements and prepared to meet upcoming compliance dates.

FSMA includes requirements surrounding vehicles and transportation equipment, which must be “adequately cleanable” to allow the sanitary transport of food and “must be stored in a manner that prevents harborage of pests or becoming contaminated in any other manner that could result in food becoming adulterated.”

The ability to track and trace products is at the heart of several requirements, making the right WMS a vital resource. Tier 1 systems provide information on where products are stored and have embedded algorithms that can find ways to maximize productivity and the movement of product in and out of the warehouse.

It is also important for those transporting and storing food to be current on the latest requirements and best practices. Penske Logistics has earned Cold Carrier Certification, adding to its strategic approach to safety. The certification, which is the first of its kind, recognizes cold trucking carrier companies that comply with the Refrigerated Transportation Best Practices Guide from the Global Cold Chain Alliance, a trade association representing all major industries engaged in temperature-controlled logistics. Additionally, Penske associates undergo regular training to ensure food safety.

Foods on the Traceability List

Foods that will be subject to greater requirements in 2026 include:

  • Cheeses, other than hard cheeses
  • Shell eggs
  • Nut butters
  • Cucumbers
  • Herbs (fresh)
  • Leafy greens (fresh and fresh cut)
  • Melons
  • Peppers
  • Sprouts
  • Tomatoes
  • Tropical tree fruits
  • Fruits (fresh cut)
  • Vegetables (fresh cut)
  • Finfish
  • Smoked finfish
  • Crustaceans
  • Molluscan shellfish, bivalves
  • Ready-to-eat salads

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Effective supply chains require agility, and freight brokerage offers the flexibility shippers need as they respond to market changes, surges in demand, and planned or unplanned growth. Supplementing existing transportation modes or lanes is common for shippers, especially with the supply chain challenges we face today, and brokers can help find additional capacity when it’s needed.

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