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Freight Forwarder Keeps Cargo Moving in Right Direction

By Van Williams, published in The Associated General Contractors of Alaska magazine, Winter 2015
 
In the shipping world, you're only as good as your last delivery. The service keeps them satisfied, but the customer service keeps them coming back.

Alaska Traffic Co. doesn't just take orders - no sir, this freight forwarder and consolidator takes responsibility for every delivery as if the employees were handling their own shipment.

"I think that the people who work for us take it personally if we don't get it right, and so because of that it's not just a 9-to-5 job where people come in and do a little piece of work and then they go home," said Nick Lohman, vice president and general manager. "It might be that each person may be involved in a shipment from start to finish, and if it doesn't go right it upsets them, and I think that is why we do a better job - we are more emotionally invested in getting it right."

Just ask Jacob Petersen, president of Commercial Contractors Inc. in Anchorage.

Petersen is in the commercial glass, metal and flooring business and has relied on Alaska Traffic for 20 years to consolidate orders from companies all across the Lower 48 and ship them to the Port of Anchorage.

The orders can be a logistical nightmare, yet they always come together at the right time, on time, thanks to Alaska Traffic.

"The reason we use them is because they will answer their phone on the first ring, and they'll answer an email back in 10 seconds, so they are constantly communicating with us and making sure they are getting us the information we need with pricing," Petersen said. "The time frame nowadays for contracting is so incredibly short. We only work with people that are available immediately and can get us answers on pricing right away. I've used other shipping companies, and nobody is faster than Nick and his people."

Alaska Traffic was formed in 1956 and is one of the oldest freight consolidators in the state. These guys specialize in getting cargo from the Lower 48 to the Last Frontier and providing all levels of service for all types of cargo.

The company is owned by United Warehouses, a Seattle-based warehouse corporation that is based out of Kent, Washington. That location makes it convenient because cargo shipped to Alaska by sea comes through the ports of Seattle and Tacoma.

"Aside from air freight, which might come from other parts of the country, most of the steamship freight and barge freight comes through Seattle and Tacoma, so that is where, historically, shipments have been received and containerized or put on flatbeds or whatever it is to get on the vessels to get to Alaska," Lohman said. "It's a natural consolidating point."

The company is "all Alaska" in more than name, doing 95 percent of its business in the state. Alaska Traffic has also been a member of the Associated General Contractors of Alaska for 20 years.
Being an AGC member has many benefits, Lohman said.

"For us it's a good source of information about the type of work that is going on in Alaska, so we have an appreciation of upcoming projects in the state and what the level of activity is," he said. "It's also an opportunity to network with various people in the industry."

Alaska Traffic has arrangements with most major carriers and buys transportation in volume, a benefit that's passed to the customer. This allows the company to be involved in every step of the shipping process, serving as a representative for its customers.

In other words, Alaska Traffic can take a lot of different shipments from a lot of different companies, combine them and find the best way to ship the cargo to Alaska. Those relationships with the vendors across the country allow Alaska Traffic the flexibility to stand out.

"When we make an order, we'll tell him that it's probably gonna be ready about this time," Petersen said of Lohman. "When he knows when it's about to be ready, he starts calling the company and he's like, 'Are you ready yet?' It's awesome.

We don't have to do as much work as we should be doing because he will do a lot of it for us."

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Van Williams is a freelance writer who lives in Anchorage.

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Alaska Traffic Container Ship
One of the fast container ships used by Alaska Traffic is making its way from Tacoma, Washington, to Alaska.
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