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Shippers and forwarders in the eastern US are experiencing a sense of deja vu as a relatively new player is currently rolling out an expedited, time-definite LTL network. Associations with BAX Global, the US logistics outfit that used to run an overnight freighter network, are virtually inevitable – the company is called BX Solutions, is based at the erstwhile BAX hub at Toledo Express Airport in Ohio, and is led by a group of former senior managers from BAX Global.

BX Solutions took off in late 2011, when the management team obtained the old BAX sorting facility at Toledo. Under an agreement with the Lucas Country Port Authority, which manages the airport, the fledgling company is authorised to manage and maintain the cargo facility while marketing it for intermodal transportation services with the port authority.

In preparation for the venture, the authority obtained a $2.8 million loan from the Ohio state government to modify the 300,000 sq ft sorting hub into a cross-docking facility to serve an LTL-based operation. The airport authority and regional government were eager to put the facility to use again and create jobs in the area after DB Schenker, which had acquired BAX in 2005, shut down the overnight network six years later.

BX Solutions chief executive Chris Marshall said the team saw a niche to offer customised solutions to the transportation and distribution industries. These are based on the company’s IT platform and the ability to scan at the package level, a legacy of the former BAX hub, which is unusual in an LTL environment.

Many of the initial customers were former BAX/Schenker clients., and these customer-specific services developed during the first year of operations laid the foundations for a broader network now being rolled out.

The network drive kicked off in mid-January with the launch of a time-definite trucking service that connects 31 markets in the US, stretching from Minneapolis/St Paul and Omaha to Miami. Ten more cities will be added in the second phase of the roll-out, scheduled for February, followed by 12 further points later that month. Phase four, slated for May, will see the westward expansion of the network with nine more cities stretching to the West Coast and other points like Denver, Phoenix and El Paso.

Other cities may be added to the network later, with a possible expansion across the border into Canada, Mr Marshall said, but there are no firm plans for that at this stage.

While the operation centres on LTL activities, BX Solutions does not itself own any trucks. “We are not a motor carrier,” Mr Marshall said, describing the IT platform, management and network connectivity as the company’s core elements.

In US press reports, the LTL network has been described as an airport-to-airport trucking operation, which is slightly misleading. “It does not mean that we are on-airport in these cities, but the distribution and consolidation activities are typically located around an airport,” Mr Marshall noted. “We can move bonded imports and exports; not only LTL traffic.”

Longer term, trucking will be just one of several transport modes in its portfolio, but given the background of the management team and the current clientele, who used the BAX air network in varying degrees, it is not surprising that the BX Solutions management has ambitions to add air freight to the mix.

However, the objective is not to build a domestic freighter network again. Instead, the focus is on international connections that can feed into the ground network. Mr Marshall points to past intercontinental freighter flights operated by Atlas Air and Qantas that connected over Toledo with the BAX air and ground networks.

“We are very focused on how we get involved in import and export flows of goods from major entry points. There may be an opportunity to use flights to Toledo to bring cargo into the network,” he said.

He added that there have been initial talks with some carriers but that it is too early to say which sectors may be opened.

Ultimately the BX Solutions team envisages a multimodal concept that brings in air freight as well as rail, utilising lines from Ohio to Mexico and the northeastern coast of the US. This year, however, the focus will be on the expedited trucking portion of the intermodal network.

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