Get to Know TOTAL’s Mack Nelson and The Logistics Department.
Hi Mack, thanks for your time. What do you and your department do here at TOTAL?
I’m the director of Logistics. That’s our non-asset side of the organization. We’re responsible for hiring outside carriers to help service the needs of our customers that are not being used on our company assets.
How does that directly impact our drivers?
Outsourcing loads that are short runs or outside of our usual network area to local carriers allows us to give the longer and more easily serviced loads to our drivers. This allows our drivers to maximize their clock and make more money while preventing dwell or having to lay a driver over while we search for freight to bring them back into the network.
Are there other ways drivers would see your impact?
A lot of people don’t realize that we do have an intermodal division. We partner with all of the major rail freight companies and we move freight on the rails daily. I’m sure most drivers are aware that we’ve recently started purchasing brand new Hyundai trailers. Those are manufactured in Mexico. We take them from the trailer plant to one of our Mexican based shippers. The trailers get loaded and driven to the rail ramp in LA. Then we rail them from California to the Memphis ramp and then truck them down to Jackson, MS. That way we’re able to move our trailers across the country and reposition them for our needs all while making a profit. A lot of companies move new trailers empty just to position them into their network. We’ve moved 500-600 trailers at this point and will continue to do so into 2019. Additionally, we have customers who don’t want to pay truckload rates. So we are able to go to them and broker a deal between them and the rail company because the rail cost is lower in this example. We’ll move this in a traditional intermodal container from point A to point B, outsource it completely, provide a cost savings to our customer and not have to give this freight to a competitor. We keep that revenue in-house by using our intermodal function. A lot of people don’t realize that we have an intermodal division. We do.
What are your short term objectives?
Recently, we hit a $1M week in our department. That’s a huge accomplishment. Now moving forward we’ve got to maintain it. 6 years ago we had just 3 employees. Now we are about to hire our 22nd. Our goal is to add around 1 a month with a goal of 36 by the end of 2019. With a staff of that size tour realistic goal is to exceed $55 Million in revenue. It’s possible we get close to $60 Million. I know that’s a huge jump but we have the momentum and we have everything in place now. Additionally and more importantly, we’re seeing some alignment with the assets side; we’re able to play in the same sandbox essentially. There’s a lot of crossover between me and my counterpart, Brett Wilburn, who’s the director of Customer Service. We’re starting to see some buy-in from both sides of the team which is essential to our success. So a lot of things moving in the right direction and a lot of positive momentum going on across the board.
The collaboration with the asset side, specifically Customer Service and planning, is a huge contributor to our numbers. We could not do 45-50 Million $ without our alignment with the asset side. So yes, on paper we have 22 employees, but secretly we have another 15 on the other side that are helping us accomplish these goals.
What’s your biggest challenge?
Being able to identify swings in capacity, being able to plan ahead for seasonal changes with our customer base and being able to consistently provide solutions at a high level. In the last couple of years, we’ve seen some significant market swings, both in the favor of the customer and then in the favor of the carrier. Sometimes we are not properly prepared for the impacts that the swing in market capacity can present, so education and staying out in front of potential capacity situations is my immediate daily challenge.
What are your strengths?
The experience and tenure of our team. We have some Operations and Account managers that have several years of experience which is extremely important in growing this business segment. Having the right people in the right places IMO is more valuable than anything else. Our department is only around 13% of the TOTAL family but represents 22.5% of TOTAL revenue.
We’re also able to adjust to market conditions a little bit quicker than the assets side. We don’t have to reposition equipment to take advantage of offers. We just need to have partner carriers in those areas.
Long term plans?
We currently have offices in Jackson and Olive Branch, MS and one in Charleston, SC. We are firm believers in growing this brand and growing this division. That growth is going to require us to expand into other markets. So we intend to grow our headcount with the right people and there are no limits as to where we are going to open offices. If we have a customer presence, a carrier presence, and if we have the right people in the right places, we’re going to expand across the nation.
How does your department reflect the company culture?
One phone call and we can have 5 loads we didn’t have 5 minutes ago. There is a sense of urgency in the office and a competitiveness. It’s friendly competition, it’s healthy competition and that’s what drives the non-asset mentality. We do not own trucks. We do not have a driver we can call and say, “We need you to do this”. We must have relationships with outside carriers in order to accomplish our goals. As a result, the logistics agents, also known as freight brokers, are very competitive in nature trying to build relationships and volume. Frankly the best brokers out there are the ones that move a high volume of freight each day because they have these relationships in place and therefore are successful.
What do you like about the trucking industry?
I’m an old salt. I started in this industry in 1999 driving a fork -lift. I came up through the ranks. I understand the challenges of the warehouse employee, I understand the challenges of the driver, I understand the challenges of the shippers and receivers, and everybody in between. I like being part of the solution. I enjoy being hands on with the delivery of goods from point A to point B. I’m a firm believer in trucking keeping America moving. To me, being a part of that is a very rewarding career. I can’t imagine doing anything else until retirement. I love this industry top to bottom and I say that genuinely.
What do you love about Total?
In my opinion, TOTAL is one of the best trucking outfits in this country. In my previous life, I worked for a fortune 500 3PL. We worked with 10’s of thousands of carriers every year. So I understand what makes a good carrier and what challenges carriers have, specifically in customer service. TOTAL has the right leadership team, has the right values, and we understand what it takes to grow this company. That’s important for the employees, their families, and it’s extremely important for our drivers. We all know there’s 100’s of thousands of truck lines out there. But in my opinion, if given the opportunity, I would choose TOTAL again, and again, and again.
What do you do for fun?
My number one hobby is duck hunting, oh and raising a 5 year old. The 5 year old takes the edge these days. I’m an avid duck hunter. I genuinely enjoy the camaraderie and fellowship of standing around a fire at night and blowing duck calls and being out in nature during the day. That’s my passion. My secondary hobby would be bowling. I’ve never bowled a 300. I’ve bowled a 269 4 times, and my bowling average is currently a 201. I do enjoy bowling but like I said, the 5 year old, she’s moving her way up the chart, she’s getting all of my time and rightfully so. I look forward to seeing her every day of my life.
Mack also served as an infantryman in the United States Marine Corps before starting his trucking career. His immediate family includes wife Kelly Nelson and 2 daughters, Madison 21, and Hartley 5.