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Tom Lange to upgrade transportation technology

The Tom Lange Co. is knee-deep in the process of upgrading its computer technology and expects to roll out a new system with improved efficiency within the next three months to six months.

Jeff Moore, vice president of sales at the company’s St. Louis office, said that the new software is a hybrid off-the-shelf system that has been tailored specifically to fit the transportation management needs of the well-established firm. “As you can imagine, we have built quite an extensive carrier base over the years,” said Mr. Moore. “This new system will increase our efficiency. We already think we do a very good job of managing our transportation program, but that part of our business continues to grow, and we see the need to upgrade our current technology for our future growth.”

While over-the-road, refrigerated trucks form the core of the company’s transportation business, Mr. Moore said that the Tom Lange Co. offers “multi-modal service for our customers. Out of this office, Joe Bathon is our intermodal guy. He has 20 years of experience and works that program all day long. We also offer international movement and can coordinate the freight forwarding of any international produce shipment.”

Mr. Moore said that the new computer technology will aid in all transportation managed by the Tom Lange Co.’s many offices. Working from the Midwest, he is very familiar with the transportation lanes in that region of the country and commented that 2011 has been a very trying year. “The [truck] rates we have seen paid this summer are some of the highest we have ever seen,” he said.

Loads from the Southeast and California heading to Midwest points typically command freight rates in the $4,000 range, he said. “It might be $4,200 or $4,900, but it almost always starts with a ‘4’. This year, we have seen rates in the $6,000 to $7,000 range. After the holiday [Memorial Day in May], rates started to climb and they took off.”

He said that much of the business Tom Lange books is on a consistent rate structure, but the company does have to book on the spot market, “and we did pay those sky-high rates on occasion this summer.”

Mr. Moore said that there is a trend toward booking service with a contracted rate, “but when you are building new business or have added a new customer, a new commodity or a new lane, you have to get into the spot market [pricing].”

Speaking Aug. 23, Mr. Moore said that there has been a general leveling off of rates, but it depends upon the day of the week, the transportation lane being traveled and the commodity being hauled. “You still see the rates spike on Friday afternoon if you have a load that has to get out.”

As fall approaches, Mr. Moore expects rates to continue to decline a bit, though he would not be surprised if they remain fairly strong. He is still waiting for signs that the economy is on an upward trend. While the Tom Lange executive worried that a boost in the economy might result in higher truck rates and a shortage of drivers as those employees move back to construction and other industries, he quipped, “That’s a problem we’d like to have. We’d all be better off if this economy starts to get better. It’s been down for a long time.”