TRUCKERS TO GAIN MILEAGE IF THEY KEEP IT PERSONAL

TRUCKERS TO GAIN MILEAGE IF THEY KEEP IT PERSONAL

The explosion of Internet sales will lead to a huge increase in delivery of goods to residential addresses.

This in turn will lead to a need for much more finely tuned and personal service from carriers and shippers moving consolidated cargo in the less-than-truckload industry. That was the message from panelists on Tuesday at a round-table discussion on logistics operations in the new century at the spring membership meeting of the National Small Shipments Traffic Conference.''Internet sales may well be the fastest growing part of direct marketing sales,'' said Stu Slifkin, director of transportation at Tiffany & Co., Parsippany, N.J., and current president of Nasstrac.

Latest reports indicate that Internet sales will soar, to a projected $48 billion this year from $485 million in 1995, he said, increasing the demand on carriers dramatically.

Home delivery is set to rocket, and residential service will have to become a lot more customer-friendly, carrier and shipper executives on the panel agreed.

''The really big thing will be time-sensitivity, both at home and at work,'' said Bob Fasso, president of USFreightways Corp. of Phoenix, referring to the need for more predictable deliveries.

''Customers insist our stores are open seven days a week,'' Mr. Slifkin said. ''We have to be able to get the goods delivered to them when they are home.''

In the new age, that may mean Sunday delivery. And customers getting delivery appointments more specific than ''sometime Tuesday.''

''I believe the company that can arrange a residential delivery appointment system will dominate the coming boom,'' Mr. Slifkin said.

The way to make it happen is exchange of information - and the more detailed the better, the panelists agreed.

''The greatest development is the advance in communications,'' said Bill Huie, assistant vice president of corporate transportation at NCH Corp., Irving, Texas. ''Information is power.''

''We are at the stage now where we can't attract business by just offering the lowest price,'' said John Fain, executive vice president of sales for Overnite Transportation Co. in Richmond, Va.

''We can't just swap freight between us. We have to grow the business.''

Adding value to what's offered means personalizing service.

The U.S. Postal Service, for instance, recently established a separate division for packets with its own dedicated distribution network.

Carriers hope to be able to track more accurately the exact location of a particular package.

But the trouble with technology in the information age is that it still must be used well. ''If the system's broke, information isn't going to fix it,'' Mr. Fain said.

''The danger is of doing the same dumb things faster,'' said one of the delegates during a question and answer session.