Schneider National, one of the largest U.S. trucking companies, reached a 75-year milestone this week not just by surviving tough times but changing with them.
It’s a process continuing today as the second-largest truckload carrier reinvents itself again, transforming from a long-haul trucker to a more regional and intermodal carrier.
For years after deregulation transformed trucking in 1980, opening the gates for the growth of interstate truckload carriage, Schneider was a prototypical long-haul trucker. Three years ago, the $3 billion Green Bay, Wis., company didn’t even have a regional division.
Now trips under 500 miles account for more than 25 percent of its truckload business, and it’s hoping to increase that to 35 percent by the end of the year by hiring more than 2,000 regional truck drivers.
Eventually, Schneider Regional is expected to haul half the company’s loads.
“Historically, we’ve been a very good long-haul carrier, along with our logistics offerings,” Marc Rogers, vice president and general manager of Schneider Regional, told The Journal of Commerce as his division expanded into the Northeast in December.
But that trucking market is history, thanks to the regionalization of distribution, led by companies such as Wal-Mart, which could be called “everyone’s biggest customer.”
“It’s an evolution, though many customers are already there,” Rogers said. “Wal-Mart proved it’s possible to get stores closer to customers and reduce costs.”
Many of Schneider’s competitors are already there too, whittling their average length of haul down from 1,000 to 1,200 miles to the 500 to 600 mile range and under.
At the same time, intermodal companies, especially in the East, are pushing into the medium-length-of-haul market, especially J.B. Hunt Transport Services.
Schneider is on top of that as well, expanding its intermodal business and converting its intermodal fleet to domestic containers from 2006 to 2009.
Those are the kinds of trends Schneider National has proved adept at riding since Al Schneider sold the family car to buy his first truck in 1935.
Those who can’t adapt … well, there’s a long list of companies and brands once as well known as Schneider National that didn’t survive deregulation.
--Contact William B. Cassidy at firstname.lastname@example.org.