Consolidated Freightways Hits E-Highway

Call him the steward of Consolidated Freightways Corp.'s (CF) online services.

Marty Larson has been tapped as the first-ever vice president of e-commerce and marketing technology at the Vancouver, Wash.-based trucking company. And with the new title comes the hefty task of transforming customers' experiences on the Web in an industry that has been reluctant to embrace new technology.

Patrick Brady, senior vice president of sales and marketing at CF, said the new position reflects the growing impact of technology throughout the transportation industry, its role in marketing and how companies communicate and relate to customers.

"Marty Larson will play a critical role in pointing CF toward technology that is relevant to our customers and relevant to the operations of our company," he said.

CF is a long-haul, less-than-truckload freight carrier that gathers small shipments from a number of customers, sometimes as many as 20, and consolidates them on one trailer.

According to Larson, 42, who has been with the company for 18 years, the new Web site allows customers to conduct business in a "self-service" environment.

"We want to . . . make it easier for customers to do business with us," he said. "Customers used to get information via the telephone or fax, but now they want to use the Internet because they can access information on demand."

By making the site easier to use, Larson said he hopes to draw more customers. Already, as many as 5,000 of the company's 155,000 customers log on to CF.com every day.

Once online, they can create and print a single bill of lading (a delivery receipt), download or print shipping forms and freight labels, schedule shipment pickups, track shipments in real time, receive routing-guide and terminal information, file freight claims, submit credit applications, access shipping documents and request and obtain invoicing information and account status.

Susie Van Stratten, a customer service representative at ACI - The Display People, a manufacturer of enclosed, freestanding display cases in Covina, Calif., said she often logs on to CF.com to look up and print out bills of lading, as well as to track and trace shipments.

"It's much easier and takes less time than having to make a telephone call and then getting the information faxed to us," she said. "Because it is less time-consuming, we're able to be there for our customers and we're able to tell them the last area where their shipment was and when it will arrive at the next terminal."

Peter Carew, a transportation analyst at Freightliner Corp., a manufacturer of heavy-duty trucks in Portland, Ore., said his company also uses CF.com to access bills of lading, track shipments and determine delivery status.

"It's much easier to be able to access this information over the Internet," he said. "Previously, we had to make telephone calls to CF people to get the information. It's always easier when you can look it up yourself."

Moving to the Web

Donald Broughton, an analyst at A. G. Edwards & Sons Inc. in St. Louis, said more transportation carriers are migrating existing business practices to the Web to make it easier for their customers to do business with them. However, he said, not all trucking companies are as technologically sophisticated as CF, and many transporters don't offer as many Web-based applications and e-commerce tools.

For example, many companies only allow a customer to schedule a pickup and trace a shipment. They don't allow customers to create bills of lading, submit credit applications, print labels or file freight claims online.

Broughton said Web-based tools aren't only advantageous to customers.

"CF stands to gain as much as the customer does," Broughton said. "[For example], by asking customers to fill out a bill of lading online, CF is having them do it in the format they want it in."

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