We periodically profile the men and women who make Bulk Connection a trusted freight partner. In this article, the company’s founder James Cordock talks about his history in the bulk freight industry, as well as Bulk Connection’s role as a bulk shipment specialist.
You’ve been in the bulk transportation industry for nearly 50 years. Where did your career start?
It’s hard to believe it’s been so long but, yes, I entered the industry in 1974. I started out as an overnight dispatcher with Matlack Systems, which – at the time – was one of the biggest liquid bulk trucking companies around.
I stayed with Matlack for many years, and held several positions. I became a lead dispatcher and then eventually a terminal manager in California.
So how did you get from Matlack to founding Bulk Connection in 1987?
I stayed with Matlack until the mid-1980s, when I went to work for Quality Carriers as a terminal manager. That brought me back to New England as an area manager.
It was around that time that a friend and I started to realize that there were a lot of freight brokers in the US, but very few that specialized in bulk shipments. We had the bulk expertise and the relationships – and we had contacts far and wide that needed bulk transportation.
We matched the need in the marketplace to our knowledge of the business and founded Bulk Connection 35 years ago.
Were there growing pains?
Fortunately, not in terms of attracting business. In our first hour as a company, we booked 32 loads going from New England to Wisconsin, and really haven’t looked back since.
What’s changed the most in the last 50 years?
Our industry always changes, and it changes right along with the economy. We’re always the first to feel the headwinds of whatever economic trend is emerging. That’s because we handle the parts or ingredients that go into everything. If there’s a lot of activity in our bulk world, that means that manufacturers are producing lots of stuff, and the economy is healthy.
When there’s a slowdown in our world, we know that consumer spending has declined, which never bodes well for the economy.
Are you feeling those headwinds now?
Sure. Activity has certainly slowed from the frenetic pace of the past two years. But I would say that we’re almost approaching normalcy – at least what normalcy used to be like before the pandemic – rather than hitting a drastic slowdown.
How did the pandemic change your business?
From a business perspective, there was obviously a lot of uncertainty. But the biggest challenge for us – like many companies – was the uncertainty around keeping our employees healthy. Companies need to ship products, and we need to help them do that. But we need to make sure our people are safe and healthy. So, that was the scariest part about the whole thing.
What hasn’t changed about bulk transportation?
It’s a relationship business. Always has been and it always will be. You can dress it up with all the technology you want – and we do embrace technology as a company. Technology is vital for driving transparency, efficiency and accountability. But at the end of the day, it’s about our people working with their counterparts at shippers and carriers to move products on time and in full compliance.
Are there still things that technology can’t do?
Absolutely. When we work on a load, we work through it from beginning to end. We’re asking a million questions and processing the responses to recommend the best solution. There’s a back and forth that happens that allows for every detail to be covered, for critical thinking to occur, and for consequences to be anticipated.
That’s different than simply filling out form fields and checkboxes. Yes, you can convey a lot of information that way. But not everything. And, unfortunately, you won’t usually know what’s left out until you’re staring at a big problem.
If you don’t ask the right questions in the beginning, the missing info will come back to bite you.
35 years of Bulk Connection – what’s the secret of your success?
There’s no secret at all – it’s our people. I don’t care what kind of business you’re in, if you had the same employees we have, you’d be successful.
We have some of the most dedicated people in the industry working at Bulk Connection. They love what they do, and they take great pride in the service and value they provide. There’s hardly any turnover, and we have people that have been with the company for decades.
To learn how Bulk Connection can support your bulk freight operations, contact us today.