Next-generation logistics

The shiny new offices of Schneider Logistics at Kietzke Lane and Neil Road don't look like the idea most folks have about the trucking industry.

Thirty-three workers, many of them in their 20s and 30s, quietly work the phones. A couple of them take a break to putt a golf ball across a carpeted expanse that soon will be filled with dozens of additional desks.

Nowhere to be seen is a truck. Or a truck driver. Or even a Merle Haggard tape filled with songs about white-line fever.

Think instead, says Schneider Vice President Greg Sanders, of a commodities market that buys and sells freight capacity a commodities market in which Schneider National of Green Bay, Wis., expects to see rapid growth.

Schneider, whose orange rigs are a common sight on the nation's interstate highways, has a 70-year history of hauling freight and providing logistics services, mostly for big retailers and manufacturers.

The Reno office, which opened this summer, is non-asset-based a fancy way of saying that it doesn't rely on trucks, trailers or loading docks to turn a buck.

Instead, its employees spend their days matching up companies looking to ship freight with truckers who are seeking a load.More often than not, the load doesn't end up in a Schneider National truck, as the parent company gets only 10 to 15 percent of the business brokered by the logistics unit.

Schneider Logistics turns a profit on the spread between the cost it pays to purchase freight capacity and the price it charges when it sells the capacity to a user.

The company, Sanders says, brings both financial capital and industry knowledge to a freight brokerage industry that historically has been dominated by small companies.

Unlike many brokers who specialize in one type of freight refrigerated trucks for produce shippers, for instance Schneider Logistics handles all types of trucking freight, including intermodal traffic that travels part of the way by rail.

As the company grows in sophistication, it can move beyond merely matching up loads into a business that looks like the creation of a market.

If employees in the Reno center learn, for instance, that a trucking company expects to unload 100 trailers in Los Angeles a week from Thursday, they can get on the phones today to find manufacturers who might need that much trucking capacity when it's available.

Upping the sophistication of freight brokerage requires lots of computer horsepower.

But even more important, says Sanders, is the ability of the company's staff to develop long-term relationships with shippers and freight carriers alike.

And the ability to recruit good staff members brought Schneider Logistics to Reno.

Among the nearly three dozen workers it initially hired are many recent graduates from the University of Nevada, Reno. Some completed the school's heralded program in logistics management but some come from marketing backgrounds, and one completed a degree in biology.

"We concentrate on hiring the best and the brightest," Sanders says. "It's about acquiring talented people to go out and execute the plan."

He uses a profile to determine who is likely to succeed. Top performers, Sanders says, almost always come from a background of competition, whether it's athletics or debate. They've learned to work as a member of a team. And they bring high energy to the job.

Sanders' team is scouting hard for new staff. The company expects to have 40 employees by the end of this year, another 45 by the end of 2008, and nearly 200 by 2010.

With those growth plans, the company expects to recruit young professionals and other staff members from northern California as well as Nevada. That job, Sanders says, will be easier because of efforts by the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada and others to help sell Reno as a place where young professionals want to live.

Recruiting them is only half the battle. Schneider pays a lot of attention as well to retention. A DISH network connection in the break room broadcasts ESPN. The golf putters in the unused sector of the building are well-used at least until the company grows into that space.

"You have to create an environment where people want to be," Sanders says. "You have to keep them energized and excited or they get bored."


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