One FedEx Ground Contractor Group Disbands, Another Forms

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After making a lot of noise this year with a list of grievances including poor management practices and bad peak season forecasting leading to the brink of insolvency for many, an association of FedEx Ground contractors has disbanded, taking a shot at the founder on the way out the door.

At the same time, a separate group made up of contractors with more than 100 years of collective FedEx experience has formed an entity called ThinkISP. Labeling itself a think tank, ThinkISP plans to create analytical tools and share anonymized data from ISPs with FedEx in order in order to address operating challenges in a mutually beneficial way. It has also partnered with a consulting firm with offices in Washington DC and Albany, NY, to lobby lawmakers on behalf of ISPs.

A release from The Association of Logistics Professionals (TALP) said the group was dissolved as of Friday, upon the resignation of its officers and committee members. Embattled TALP founder Spencer Patton resigned on Oct. 25, and the group’s actions took him by surprise. The group’s efforts had even drawn interest from FedEx activist investor D.E. Shaw.

FedEx has maintained it is open to working with contractors on an individual basis and steadfastly refused to meet with Patton or TALP, accusing him of spreading misinformation based on self-interest. One of Patton’s companies does consulting work on behalf of delivery contractors for FedEx, Amazon and others. The company sued Patton in August and terminated his contract, while warning TALP members they could be in breach of contract.

TALP leaders denounced Patton’s calls for a Black Friday work stoppage, which he referenced in blasting FedEx Ground. They called it “unproductive [and] self-destructive to our collective businesses and contrary to our agreed-upon contracts.”

“My past commentary around Purple Friday was in regards to my own fleet, and I no longer have trucks to park this coming week,” Patton said in a statement. “I am not interested in conflict, I am interested in progress. I will continue to provide FedEx Ground and the logistics industry with strategic ideas for better outcomes.”

TALP leaders said they had been encouraged by recent meetings nationwide between FedEx Ground executives and ISPs, and management’s willingness to work with contractors to address issues. They also remain optimistic and committed to working with the company.

“Success for FedEx Ground and contractors is dependent on engaging in good-faith dialog to unleash the entrepreneurial potential inherent in our business model,” the group said.

FedEx Ground said it remains committed to creating opportunities for service providers to thrive in a challenging market. “We also continue to leverage data-driven research and analysis, including engaging in information-sharing projects with industry consultants such as ThinkISP,” a spokesperson said.

Founding members of ThinkISP said it was “unprecedented” to have an organization made up of contractors working with FedEx to collaboratively address issues such as network optimization. They said they were “weeks away” from their first deliverable data tool, but couldn’t provide specifics due to an NDA.

Founders also noted that typically, all data and analytics comes from the carrier itself, not from its independent contractors. The value-add is what gives ThinkISP a seat at the table, they said.

“This is a huge deal for us, and working with FedEx is a great win-win,” said Steven Johnson, president and CEO of Custom Delivery Services, an ISP with 120 routes in Mississippi and Louisiana. “As they plug data into different areas, they can say, this is what we need to do, these are the things we can tweak. That data collection and presentation piece is a huge part of what we’re doing.”

ThinkISP has also partnered with consulting firm Envision Strategy that has deep bench strength in government relations, in order to lobby on behalf of contractors with members of Congress and policy makers.

“We’re about more than projects with FedEx,” said Patrick Fitzgerald, a former SVP of strategic communications for FedEx Ground who left in 2020 to start his own consultancy. “A lot of work is being done, meeting with Congress to get to the right place and help advocate more broadly for the interests of ISPs. It’s a very positive sign we have this agreement in place, and we can grow from there.”

Founders said they didn’t want to announce their work with FedEx, which began in June, while TALP was still in play. They added Patton and the defunct association have made it somewhat difficult to get ISPs on board, which is why they’re taking pains to differentiate their mission and goals.

Clint Crossno, who runs an ISP in Arkansas focused on linehaul routes for FedEx Ground, said ThinkISP wants to be known as a “data-driven organization, not an association.” He’s worked with FedEx since 2007 and pivoted from delivery to linehaul in 2019.

“The whole team has a lot of experience with FedEx, and we thought it would work best to put this all together and communicate with FedEx in the right way,” Crossno said.