Monday, April 16, 2012

Another Problematic and Inadequate Moving Alternative: Atlas' Smart Move Program

As someone whose firm has helped over 100,000 customers with shipments less than 2000
lbs, moving from one state to another (interstate moving), I was shocked and surprised to see that one of the nation's leading Van Lines, Atlas, chose to embark on a unique Small Shipment
Program, aptly named, Smart Move.

I can't find anything smart about it.

As the first firm in the nation to actually interact with the Less than Truckload Freight Industry,
Box Brothers simply created a system that allows for small shipments to be transported across state lines, by utilizing the existing infrastructure of the United States Freight system.

At the time, everyone in the moving industry, simply felt that they had nothing in common with the freight industry, as plain and simple, the movers were specialists and the freight guys were just haulers. As is often the case, there has always been more synergy between these two industries than anyone in either industry has admitted.

After all, about 25 years ago, it was a railroad, Norfork Southern, who owned North American Van Lines, and who decided it was foolish to have drop frame trailers, as someone there theorized that if they had equipment and orders but not the right equipment to haul freight, even if they were going in the same direction, they could not capitalize on it, due to the fact that
drop frame trailers were not suitable for palletized freight shipments.

Conceptually, this was not a bad idea, but it never worked and North American Van Lines, never seemed to get up to speed hauling a lot of freight. It could be that the Moving and Storage Industry is sometimes, decentralized with agent drivers and agents, who did not want the freight and of course, there were those who argued that it would be penny wise and pound foolish
to have a van line driver miss a job to load 5000 lbs when the freight firm needed 400 lbs picked up and delivered in a few days--something that the household driver and industry was simply not prepared to work out--then.

So here comes Atlas with this idea to create these heavy duty plastic type containers, similar to what we call a lift van, but much sturdier, and I suspect, as a very high cost. Never mind the carbon footprint so often discussed today.

But then, Atlas did something new in its program, it announced that it would not use the Atlas
over the road fleet to help facilitate the movement of these units, instead, deciding to put the
whole program onto a freight platform, to most likely obtain the benefit of quicker delivery dates than the moving industry can deliver, due to its structure of utilizing owner operators for interstate service.

Of course, the problem here is the same problem with all of the other small shipment solutions
the van lines have come up with in the past, merely addressing the need to offer a small shipment alternative, but with nothing compelling to the customer or nothing that moves the service and price quotient any closer to giving the customer a good and valuable transparent service, which is just what the industry is lacking today.

How does one size fit all a good solution. If you have 200 pounds to move, it will cost over $10.00 a pound just to ship it through their system. How come they can't tell the customer that the coverage they claim to provide to the customer that is included with each shipment,
is bogus. I think you would need to have a spaceship land on your container for you to be able to make a claim, as the whole issue here as with all of these new alternatives, is that the customer, becomes self insured and two, he moves himself, but pays as much as he would for a
full service move and does not have insurance to cover any losses.

This is the crap we get from one of the nations largest van lines. No transparency, no value in pricing and they do not tell anyone that their coverage will not cover the customer for self loading or packed by owner boxes. If this is a do it yourself service, how come they can't just tell you the truth? Why do they need to lie. Do you go to the market and buy fruits and vegetables, do you have to pay for 5 lbs of carrots, if you only want to buy one lb?

How does this help the moving industry, to promote a non transparent and one size fits all service, when the entire industry is about being able to deliver good service for a fair price. In
this day and age of renewed called for more regulation, not less, do we get a service that only promises an 11 day transit, over the freight system.

Maybe someone should tell Atlas and their "Smart Moving" program that Fedex, for example,
will take LTL freight from my dock on Monday, 4/16/12, and have it delivered to someone's
new home by this Friday, in New York, on 4/20/12, with standard freight delivery.

I might be wrong, but when we created our Small Shipment Services Program at Box Brothers, over 20 years ago, we set out to create an environment that leveled the playing field for the
smaller loads and their customers: We gave them certain dates and specific times for our crews
to do the pick ups; we took professional inventories; we packaged their possessions like they were our own, utilizing more and better packaging (air cushioning, void fill, eps foam sheeting, ethafoam for very heavy and breakable items like stone, glass, and statues, piano's, etc, and we boxed everything in customized cartons that were made to fit the item, not the other way around, and finally, palletized the shipment so that the only way that the shipment was moved, was with a forklift or a pallet jack--so that no item would be moved individually.

We also worked to obtain a mutually beneficial insurance program with a third party insured,
who specifically covers all items which need to be declared and valued prior to the move. We offer different deductibles, replacement cost protection and in the event of a claim, 99% of them are closed within 30 days after a formal claim form is submitted by the claimant.

But the biggest factor in our continued success is that we have a top to bottom commitment to the customer and to rendering top quality service, no matter how small the job is. You turn your lemons into lemonade and and you do not mislead your customer, nor do you convince him or her that a one size solution is best for all.

Atlas is a fine van line, one of the best, but I think this program, including suggesting the use of stock boxes, not official moving boxes is also a mistake by Atlas here, as on the one hand, they tell people that dish packs should be used for packing dishes and glasses--the standard for many decades in the moving industry--and they encourage the use of a single wall carton if you do it
yourself. Why?

I just wish that sometimes, large firms do their due diligence correctly, as we seem to forget what we have learned over the years, that we need to be service oriented and we need to provide good solutions for our customers, not something that is only a partial and not a complete
solution for their current and future small shipment customers. At the same time, these efforts only ensure that firms like Box Brothers will continue to play a part in this segment of the industry.

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