The Transportation Manager’s Challenge: 
Do More With Less? It’s Not Just About the Money

by Mike Starling

Sometimes being a Transportation Manager is like standing at the bottom of the corporate funnel looking up. Yep, that old saying that “it rolls downhill” is certainly true, especially when you are a front-line service support manager. All too often Managers find themselves in full firefighting mode due to insufficient adequate resources, time, or depth of experience to deal with the unknown or unexpected.

Executive management is responsible for providing adequate resources to allow the front-line manager to accomplish his assigned responsibilities AND for providing sufficient resources to allow him the flexibility he needs to overcome the challenges of the unexpected. Without such resources, the front-line manager faces a dilemma:  how to provide adequate service support without compromising service and cost constraints imposed from above. The net result is often a “band-aid,” a sub-optimal solution that may have unintended consequences related to transportation spend (e.g., unbudgeted, unnecessary transportation expense) or negative cash flow implications (such as unforeseen added expense detracts from available operating cash flow streams).

The challenge of doing more with less comes in various forms down to the Transportation Manager. A typical challenge comes in the form of budgeted allocation for freight expense. The one that is seldom talked about in the trade magazines is the departmental staff budget. In an era of ever-increasing regulations and carrier rates, the demand for appropriate and experienced talent is higher than ever. But the reality is that upper management sees Transportation as a clerical function, so talent and experience are all too often dismissed as unnecessary for what they perceive as a mundane service support job. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

In reality, the Transportation Manager’s survival depends on his ability to realistically weigh the department's capability against requirements and budget allocations (and his ability to anticipate changes in service and responsibilities for a rolling 12 months ahead). THEN, the Transportation Manager must plead with upper management for resources and asset requirements in order to obtain what he needs to get the job done.

In the absence of adequate funding and staffing, the Manager must turn to outside alternatives to find ways to reduce expense and streamline processes and practices that allow mission accomplishment in times of financial and manpower constraints.

Don’t try to be a hero for a losing cause. There is no need to fall on your sword and die from a gross case of stupidity. Realistically assess the situation, and when faced with overwhelming odds against you, seek outside help. You might be pleasantly surprised at your return on time invested.

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