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Mission Possible: Alaskan Logistics Challenge
Visiting Juneau, Alaska, requires the average traveler days to make the voyage. Nestled on the base of Mount Juneau, surrounded by water on the Alaskan panhandle, there is no way to directly drive into Juneau from the United States on four wheels, let alone 18. The only possible way to get to the capital city of Alaska is by air or by sea.
Wheels on Water
When independent agency Crosson Logistics was approached by its customer, V-3 Transportation, to make that trek by truck, to pick up a load in Juneau and deliver in Washington State, the agency team turned the “impossible” challenge into a solution.
“Our approach at Crosson Logistics has been to solve customer needs and find the answer. We gladly accepted this challenge to get an expedited truck to Juneau to pick up the customer’s freight,” says Ray Hoyle, Crosson Logistics director of operations. “This route required a very unique logistics solution, one of the most unique in my experience. And, from what I understand, it was a first for Landstar.”
Hoyle says planning this haul required daily communication and close interaction between the agency, Landstar staff and the customer to find the right route by studying various maps and exploring the possibilities.
“Whenever we need a solution for an unusual or challenging move, we turn to Landstar. Specifically, our relationship with Crosson Logistics, which dates back at least 15 years,” says Timothy Cashman, V3 Transportation operations manager of the carrier’s Chicago office. “With their diligence and the available capacity at Landstar, we knew they’d get the job done.”
The decision was made to board a straight truck and its owner-operator, Greg Vinson, on the MV Columbia, a ferry vessel that operates on the Alaskan Marine Highway System. The ship would take him and his truck on a seven-day journey from Bellingham, Washington, to Juneau and back.
“Because of the freight being picked up, we needed an expedite lift gate truck, with approximately 24 to 26 feet of space, to do the move,” explains Cashman. “Getting the freight would require the owner-operator to board a ferry empty, pick up the freight in Juneau, then board the ferry back to Bellingham with the freight for delivery.”
“When Ray at Crosson Logistics called me about this load, he said, ‘We have a weird load to throw at you and also, you get to go to Alaska’,” says independent Landstar Business Capacity Owner (BCO) Greg Vinson who leased on as an owner-operator in 2015. “Then he said, ‘You can’t drive there though, so we want to put you on a boat.’ Well, it’s not every day you get a call to go to Alaska, so of course I made this happen.”
The BCO says, when he leased his straight truck to Landstar four years ago, he liked the idea of being able to go anywhere, with the freedom to see new places. After nearly 20 years as a professional driver, Vinson says, this opportunity to see Alaska was like a dream.
“When this trip presented itself, it was full of firsts for me and my truck,” says Vinson. “It was the first time Landstar put a truck on a ship to Juneau, Alaska. It was the first time I rode on a giant ship and it was my first time going into Alaska. In my experiences as a professional truck driver, I have never been offered an opportunity like this.”
When Vinson arrived in Juneau, he and his truck disembarked the vessel to meet the customer at the pick-up point, while 302 boxes weighing nearly 13,000 pounds were loaded on the truck for transport back to Bellingham.
“When I arrived at the loading location in Juneau, the customer met me there and stayed with me throughout the entire loading process,” says Vinson. After just a few hours sightseeing and some fresh Alaskan seafood, it was time for Vinson to drive aboard MV Columbia for the return trip to Bellingham.
“It was supposed to be a quick load, then back on the boat for the three-day trip to Bellingham,” explains Vinson. “But midway, the boat lost power and we couldn’t go anywhere until a part arrived from Norway to fix the vessel.”
Suddenly, the one-week voyage turned into two weeks. Vinson immediately alerted Crosson Logistics and the customer about the situation, but there wasn’t much he could do, except wait.
“After the breakdown, I gave the customer hourly status updates from the ship. I even went as far as to introduce myself to the ship’s captain so I could give the customer specific information about the breakdown,” says Vinson. “I believe that made a difference for the customer and eased concerns about the delay in delivery.”
Four days later, the much needed part and a technician from Washington State, were flown out to the ship.
“Obviously being stuck on a boat for an additional week was not part of the plan,” says Vinson. “But, if you’re going to get stuck anywhere on a load, being on a beautiful boat, making new friends on the Alaskan Marine Highway is the place to be.”
The Last Leg
After traveling 5,700 miles at sea, taking hundreds of photos and making some new friends, Vinson arrived back at the Port of Bellingham, disembarked the vessel and made a short drive south for delivery.
“Despite the hiccup with the ship breaking down, this was a successful move,” says Cashman. “We received constant communication and information from the owner-operator until he was at the delivery site.”
“We were proud to take extra steps to make this move happen,” says Hoyle. “When it comes to logistical challenges like this, we always say ‘yes’ and then exceed the customer’s expectations.
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