My Summer at BR Williams

Each year, it seems our world unanimously decides what new “buzzwords” are going to be used as our conversation starters- things such as the stock market, inflation, or climate change. In the past year or so, the new terms seem to have been “supply chain” and “logistics.” However, similarly to our other conversation starters, not many people get the opportunity to truly learn what these terms actually mean. I’m very privileged to say that through my internship at BR Williams, I’ve had the opportunity this summer to learn about this year’s “hot topic”- all things logistics.

In the fall of 2021, I took the chance to attend a networking/Q&A event hosted by my school, Jacksonville State University, and meet new peers in the business program and local business leaders. As it would happen, one of those business leaders was BR’s own, Kenton Sprayberry, Director of Operations and Carrier Sales. Through this event, I met Kenton and eventually obtained an internship for the summer of 2022 in BR’s Logistics division. Throughout the course of working at BR, I have received access to a whole new world that I thought I knew about (but, in reality, knew almost nothing about) and learned more than I ever could have hoped for. 

Having been taught about TMSs for several months at school, and as someone who is sometimes self-described as “technologically deficient,” I’ve gotten to know BR’s TMS very well. I have also been able to apply my knowledge of all things Microsoft. Not only that, but I’ve gained insight into nearly every little detail of how the stuff we buy gets from its origin to our hands. That new lawnmower you bought this spring? Did you know that it came to the hardware store you purchased it from packed in a steel crate, and that the company who just made the crate (not even the mower) refurbishes those crates, and that they must be shipped back to one of their facilities? Or that LTL shipments are handled multiple times throughout the pickup and delivery process, and that’s why packages you receive in the mail can sometimes arrive damaged? Most people probably aren’t aware that the number on the door of most trucks on the road is the carrier’s Motor Carrier number (I know I wasn’t), and every carrier has one. It can be used to find all kinds of information about the carrier, such as contacts and safety ratings, through a portal called Carrier411. A carrier’s MC number is so important to qualify them for use because not every business has good intentions, and using Carrier411 helps brokerages find the best carriers to haul their freight so that it will arrive at your doorstep without any issues. 

Aside from learning about the world of logistics, I also had great opportunities to expand and refine my interpersonal skills, either by working with everyone in the office or contacting carriers, drivers, and customers through email and over the phone. Although we’re taught these types of skills in the classroom, they can only be adequately taught through real-world application- and working at BR has been the perfect place to have done that. The trucking and logistics business cannot operate without communication, and it thrives best under constant communication. A bulk of my duties this summer have been to track trucks that are scheduled to pick up loads, which involves emailing carriers throughout the day, and calling when needed. Another project I had the opportunity to work on was finding a carrier to pick up an intermodal HAZMAT load out of a port in New Jersey. This involved entire days dedicated to cold calling, as well as a few weeks more of emails. Having heard tales from my generation of how uncomfortable talking to people over the phone makes them (and having had some of those feelings myself at first), I can assure those folks with that feeling that nothing will squash it faster than cold calling. And for that, I’m very grateful- it’s now something that I welcome and find exponentially more efficient than waiting for a reply to a text or email. 

As I’ve begun my final week at BR, reflecting on the summer and trying to put my experience into words, the main feeling I’ve been left with is gratitude. As I mentioned before, my coming across BR never occurred to me- I’ve lived in and around the Oxford area my entire life and had never even heard of BR Williams until almost a year ago. I went to that JSU event because one of my family mentors told me not to graduate college without having an internship under my belt; so, I went, expecting to get maybe an idea of what may interest me or to maybe talk with my peers or professors to see what might be a good idea to try and go for. I never thought going into that event that I’d walk out with what led to what may be the best work experience that I’ve had in life until now. So, as I get ready to depart BR Williams and begin my final semester of college, what I’m left with is gratitude- to BR Williams, to Kenton, to everyone who was so kind and helpful during my time, and most of all, to God, for allowing me this amazing opportunity to be a part of the BR Williams family. 

Author: Michael Sheffield.
BR Williams recently hired Michael part-time as a logistics associate.

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