With the increasing popularity of online auctions, finding a convenient transport solution is more important than ever. This has not gone unnoticed at McNutt Auto Transport Service. Owner Tom McNutt realized several years ago that the online marketplace was poised for dramatic growth, so his company began gearing up for less-than-truckload service. “Most buyers online are buying one or two cars here and there, rather than truckloads,” he explained.

McNutt has been transporting cars for a number of years when he decided to take his company in a new direction in 1995. After spending a lot of his time finding other transporters to take care of his own excess freight, he realized there was a need within the industry for a company that could work with both dealers and transport providers to offer a convenient solution for the timely delivery of cars anywhere in the country.

Today, the company has an established transport base of over 2,000 providers, creating a network of between 15,000 and 20,000 trucks. “We understood our dealers’ point of view and what their real needs were,” said McNutt. “Their need was to hook up with a company that had a national footprint, [so] no matter where they bought a vehicle from, they knew they could get it home timely and at a fair price.”

The company averages about 2,000 transports each week. McNutt estimated 90 percent of his company’s business is made up of partial truckloads resulting from online purchases. On an average day, the company will receive orders to pick up 150 cars from a single auction, and those cars may be going to 120 different dealers. “The only way that works is because of our computerized dispatch system and the fact that we know where the trucks are that can get in there, get that car and get it home quick,” McNutt said. A dealer isn’t limited to relying on a single transport provider and waiting for that provider to send a truck somewhere after he calls. At a dealer’s request, McNutt can even pre-position trucks at auction locations.

Through their computerized dispatch system, nine dispatchers know the locations of all trucks within their network of transport providers at any given time and can quickly determine which one has space available, is heading in the right direction and can get a dealer’s auction purchases to him the quickest. “We understand the only reason a dealer buys a car is to sell it, and we understand that he can’t sell it until he gets it,” said McNutt. “The dealer didn’t buy the car for it to sit on somebody’s lot for three or four days. He’s got a lot of money tied up in that asset and he wants it.”

Transport providers working with McNutt are expected to adhere to some very strict policies and go through an extensive qualification process, which, of course, includes meeting all federal requirements for licensing and insurance. In the event of damage to a car, McNutt Auto Transport will act as a liaison between the dealer and the transport provider.

Chances of damage are minimized by the fact that McNutt does not allow transporters to drop cargo at terminals to be picked up by another truck. Once a vehicle goes on the truck, it stays on that truck until it’s delivered to its final destination. A carrier will not be paid until McNutt confirms that the dealer has received his shipment, damage-free, and is satisfied with the quality of service. McNutt handles all invoicing, which eliminates the hassle of dealers cutting a check when a transport arrives on their lot.

Now that more dealers trust the vehicle information provided by online sellers and are more comfortable making purchases online, McNutt says it’s his job to solve the rest of the inventory purchase equation for them: “What’s it going to cost to get it home and how long is it going to take?” Dealers bidding against other dealers online must be able to obtain a quote quickly, so McNutt’s Web site provides dealers with the Price Quote Generator. Dealers can input the source and destination and receive a quote in less than a second, quickly giving them the information they need to make a buying decision. For added convenience, several online auction sites provide a direct link to McNutt Auto Transport.

Mike Peck, general manager of the company, said they are using the current slowdown in the market to focus even more on customer service. Their biggest effort at present is educating dealers on the transport services available to them and encouraging them not to be afraid to expand beyond their local area to find inventory.

McNutt said they understand that the current market makes it difficult for dealers to find the inventory they need, so he encourages dealers to “broaden their comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to look farther away from home for the inventory that you need. You need to understand that there is somebody there that can get it home to you.

Special Finance Insider Vol. 3, Issue 2