airhunters wants to increase the load factor
Airhunters is a young company originally situated in Velp, Gelderland, that exactly does what its company name implies: hunting for air. Air in semitrailers that is, because the 15 per cent air left over in trucks is an eyesore to entrepreneurs Erik Roelevink and Hans van Wieringen. “Cargopooling offers a solution and an advantage to shipper, haulier and the environment.”
After talking for an hour, Erik Roelevink suddenly bends forward and says: “do you know where the name ‘airhunters’ actually comes from? From Ikea. They have a special department for organising their transport as efficiently as possible. That’s why all the boxes are flat and the mattresses rolled up!”
Erik Roelevink and partner Hans van Wieringen both have ample experience in the transport sector. They met at Wim Bosman’s in ‘s-Heerenberg, a small place in the Netherlands near the German border. But why would you start a new company when you’re working at one the largest transport companies in the Netherlands? “Exactly”, responds Roelevink quickly, “large transport company. The transport sector is increasing due to mergers and acquisitions. Mega companies arise where the management do not have any feeling with the customer, the shipper. They are constantly in meetings, trying to reach targets and filling in KPIs. Nowadays, the larger transport companies are production machines: there is no creativity or personal attention for the customer. I didn’t enjoy that anymore.” Van Wieringen adds: “At one of my previous employers I was mainly busy with trouble: damages, violations, absenteeism. Only 20 per cent of my time was devoted to the customer. This created a distance between the customer and I that I didn’t enjoy.”
End 2013 airhunters was born. The company is based on a fact that almost everybody in the transport sector knows: the load factor of a truck or semitrailer is hardly ever one hundred per cent. “On average, trucks lack a minimum of 15 per cent of cargo”, depicts Van Wieringen. “That’s absurd of course. Our experience, however, is that transport companies take that as given, they do not actively search for cargo to fill the semitrailer. That’s where we come in: there are many shippers with small shipments. These small shipments easily fit in the available space.” But there are already freight databases such as Teleroute and Timocom? “Correct”, answers Roelevink, “but shippers aren’t always welcome.”
At Bekker Transport plastic tubes are loaded on top of pallets.
In order to offer shippers transport space, the widest possible network is necessary. And that is exactly what Roelevink and Van Wieringen have built up over the years. “In our network we have over 50 hauliers who also have many connections of their own. This is important, because I don’t like selling no. That’s something I just won’t do”, says Van Wieringen. How a commission works? Alright, this is an example. Recently a Spanish customer phoned us requesting a shipment from Poland to La Coruna, in the north of Spain. We dove into our network, thought, discussed and found a transport company specialised in shipments to Portugal. They could easily deliver the goods on their way to Portugal. Shipper happy, haulier happy. It really is very simple.” Airhunters works, in their own words, with an all-in price, but is cautious mentioning actual rates. Roelevink: “It also depends on the type of shipment, of course. The fact is, we can arrange ad-hoc shipments and rearrange an existing transport route. We take all transport possibilities into account, such as rail and airfreight. We don’t care much about prices, making money, we care about our customers and want to offer them the best possible solution. It’s simpler than you’d think. The haulier is on the road already and happy with the extra income and the shipper is happy with his quick transport solution. And we get our margin too, of course. Ultimately, the bottom line consists of more efficient transport. Furthermore, not only the load factor increases, but CO2-emissions decrease significantly when there’s less traffic for the same transport in goods!”
Airhunters’ network seems to benefit from the widest scope possible. Can transport companies, perhaps TTM.nl readers, sign up to airhunters? Roelevink and Van Wieringen look doubtful. “We work demand-driven, searching for a solution. That’s been working perfectly. We also prefer working with smaller transport companies that have a fleet consisting of twenty to fifty trucks, because personal contact is extremely important when arranging the right trip and the right deal. That means immediate and direct contact with planners and drivers. This kind of work is often ad-hoc, so we basically only use mobile phones. Really, it doesn’t work to dial a transport company’s landline late at night or, e.g. at Pentecost Monday. It’s important to be on top of things and personal contact works best.”
That’s why Roelevink and Van Wieringen made several ‘business trips’ to national and international transport companies. Van Wieringen: “One of our customers wanted to ship tubes to Germany on a regular basis. Not too wide, plastic tubes. Through our network we came into contact with Bekker Transport in Emmerich. They drive to the same locations our customer needs to deliver to, so the tubes can hitch a ride on top of the pallets.”
No matter how you look at it, airhunters’ concept is simple: find excessive space in a semitrailer and use it. Why has such a concept not been developed sooner? Roelevink: “We can find the cause in the attitudes of many transport companies. They focus purely on their most important task: transportation. But be truly a logistics service provider, with the emphasis on service. Again: there is so much potential in that load factor. Think about it: even if you raise the load factor by only 10 per cent, that means an efficiency and yield improvement of 10 per cent! It would be an unknown development for the Dutch transport sector!” Airhunters wants to create more sympathy for making the transport sector more efficient. Roelevink: “That is really our goal. Not our own gain. Really. At the moment, it’s just the two of us, and we shouldn’t grow much bigger. Small-scale, personal contact, direct communication with all parties, no difficult contracts or SLAs, only then can we perform our jobs successfully. I challenge other parties to follow our lead. If there’s someone in Amsterdam who wants to start airhunters tomorrow, he already has our blessing! Cargopooling has so much to offer the Dutch transport sector, that it has to be practised as much as possible to achieve the greatest results.
Text: Arjan Velthoven
Translation: Judith Oudkerk
TTM, magazine voor beroepsvervoer juli 2014