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The More Things Change in Supply Chain …

Tim Voulopos grew up around transportation, majored in logistics and then worked his way up to an executive position at Cardinal Logistics Management. Today there is more technology and fewer drivers, which presents a real challenge, but the basics of trucking really haven't changed, he says.

With a father who owned a beer distribution business, Voulopos had worked in the warehouse, driven delivery trucks and managed dispatch before heading off to the University of Tennessee to earn a degree in logistics. He now is senior vice president at Cardinal Logistics Management.

Perhaps the biggest change he has seen in the industry during that time is the increasing scarcity of truck drivers. “Sourcing drivers has become very difficult and I think there are a number of reasons for that,” he says. “The truth is it is a very tough job and not many parents want their kids to become truck drivers. On top of the shrinking driver pool, we have a regulatory environment that results in fewer drivers being able to enter the workforce. This situation has really impacted companies’ supply chain networks.”

One impact is a capacity crunch “that seems to tighten a bit more every year,” he says. This trend, in turn, is driving companies away from large, centralized warehouses to smaller, more distributed warehouses that make it easier for drivers to get home every night. “Not many drivers are willing to be out on the road for a long time anymore,” he says.

Making life better for truck drivers is a key competitive strategy today, Voulopos says. “Drivers are our life blood, so we treat them like super stars.” In addition to enabling a good work/home balance, “we pay a competitive salary, make sure we communicate well, and invest in great technology to make their jobs easier. We believe if you treat them fairly they will stick around for you.”

Another change Voulopos notes is the amount of new technology that has made the supply chain far more transparent. “The technology that I think is really exciting now is the emergence of natural gas trucks and the growth of domestically sourced natural gas,” he says. “We have to wait for the equipment to catch up a bit but it has the potential to make a big impact.”

The basics of trucking, however, really are not too much different from when he was hauling beer around, Voulopos says. “Drivers were a lot easier to find back then and we are more constrained today by equipment, regulations and fuel, but trucking still is the most efficient way to move goods across the country,” he says.

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