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It is the new 21st century version of the "Big Three." No, not the top three unionized LTL carriers. Rather this is the high-margin Big Three -- Menlo Worldwide Expedite, Con-Way Now and FedEx Custom Critical.
Two -- Menlo Worldwide Expedite and Con-Way Now -- are relative newcomers in their first decade of operation. Both are units of CNF Inc., where top executives grew tired of hearing about the lack of competition at the old Roberts Express, which invented the emergency shipment niche while a unit of the old Roadway Services. Roberts since has been rebranded Fedlix Custom Critical after being bought by FedEx Corp. as part of its acquisition of Caliber System, which was the new-old name of Roadway Services Inc.
The story goes that CNF officials, upon listening to a Roberts Express executive virtually gloat about the lack of competition in that niche at a Council of Logistics Management seminar in the early 1990s, immediately returned to CNF headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., and set about to copy the Roberts' formula.
They have copied it -- twice. Both Menlo Worldwide Expedite and Con-Way Now are solidly profitable, as is FedEx Custom Critical (which more than a few folks in transport still refer to as Roberts Express).
If one wants a peek into where the technology arms race is headed in freight transportation, one only has to look at the innovations of these carriers in their race to see who has the newest, fastest tools for solutions to offer shippers.
These expedited carriers are benefiting from the downturn in the tech sector, which has made very sophisticated, cutting-edge technology relatively inexpensive.
"Expedited companies not participating in technological advances will not be here in the near future," predicts David S. Quin, president and CEO of Menlo Worldwide Expedite.
Ed Conaway, president and CEO of Con-Way Now, said his five-year-old company continues its market growth and has …