The online news magazine of Atlas® World Group.
March 22, 2024

Atlas Intelligence

  • Atlas Van Lines


Last year, Atlas® World Group subsidiaries and Agents both at home and abroad celebrated milestones of

longevity as preeminent service providers in the transportation industry. So, now must be the time to sit back and relax, right? Not even close. In fact, Atlas® has never sat back and waited for the industry to dictate which direction it should go. Instead, the company’s mission is to maintain perpetual forward motion and carve out its own path for the future.

One such path is Atlas® Pathways, a rebranded update on the former Vision 2025 strategic plan. Spearheaded by Atlas World Group Chairman and CEO Jack Griffin, Atlas Pathways honors the strengths and strategies of the Vision plan while simultaneously positioning Atlas toward current and future goals and priorities.“Vision 2025, now Atlas Pathways, started back in 2015, and it is hard to believe we are almost 10 years in,” says Griffin. “There have been a number of deliverables that have come out of it, like the pricing reset, the RMC compliance, and numerous technological innovations. It not only fundamentally changed our company—it fundamentally changed the industry.” Atlas Pathways, Griffin says, is the company’s way forward. “The ownership, the Board, and the management team, we are all as committed as we have ever been.”

Transportation companies know better than most that there are multiple routes to get you where you need to go. While the early part of this decade presented unique challenges that compelled the industry to rethink its approach to operations and procedures, Ryan McConnell, President and COO of Atlas® Van Lines, says it also opened a door for Atlas® to examine how it could increase efficiencies as it moves into the future. “For us, the question is how and where do we find productivity? Especially from a technology viewpoint,” says McConnell. “We need to utilize technology, and the process within that technology, to find the benefit for our future. As we evaluate solutions that use things like artificial intelligence (AI), we will determine how those tools enhance our internal processes and phenomenal teams that are already in place. That is how we lift the entire enterprise.” McConnell says that for Atlas leadership, discovering how to continue folding AI-powered systems into their processes is a top priority. However, the tool must be the correct solution to the right problem, not simply a shiny new object. Whether these solutions are in alignment with current processes or shift them in a new direction will only make Atlas more sophisticated as a leader in the industry. These phases of research, development, and implementation for new technology take time—and they also take people. “Over the next 12 to 24 months, we are going to find the efficiency in the tools that we have, but it will be done through our people who make it all possible,” says McConnell. “AI and technology do not mean we do not need people. It means we need people who are reskilled and, in many cases, adopting a business technologist role. That business technologist role takes them from a pure customer service person to someone who now uses technology to deliver customer service at a level that everyone needs. It truly grows the value in every person that we have at Atlas.”

Whether Atlas implements technology created in-house or via a third-party vendor remains a case-by-case basis. Both Griffin and McConnell sing the praises of Atlas’ IT Department, and leadership has witnessed it develop or implement products that have greatly benefited the company, its Agents, and customers. But rather than trying to build everything from the ground up, the IT Department also has the foresight to know when to partner with a software vendor that has a viable solution that can be seamlessly integrated into the Atlas tech stack.
“We will benefit from the products vendors offer and those our IT Department develops on its own. We have incredibly talented in-house developers here building code and creating solutions,” says Griffin. “That will not be interrupted because it is one of the main reasons we are attractive to a company like Suddath Moving & Storage LLC. They love our culture and our people, but they really love our technology and what we are doing here.”

The speed at which technology advances is turning what once was years into months, weeks, or days, with cloud-based software that can roll out updates in minutes. Hardly the new kid on the block but certainly one of the most popular, AI is taking the front seat in driving technology into a new frontier with limitless possibility.
AI-powered systems that aid in processes from safety and compliance to dispatch and routing may already be making their way to Atlas®. In-cab elements help make the road safer for both private citizens and Professional Van Operators (PVOs). Other tools help collect and analyze valuable data that optimizes fleet management. All these solutions share the ultimate goal of driving Atlas’ culture of safety and maintaining compliance with governmental regulations.
But what about autonomous trucks? Driverless cars still seem like faraway destinations as pilot testing has encountered major hurdles— so are driverless 18-wheelers too far beyond that to even consider?
At CES 2024, an annual consumer- technology trade show, several autotech companies unveiled models of Class 6-8 autonomous trucks, with plans to begin pilot testing in 2024 and manufacturing them as early as 2027. However, as exciting—and soon—as this may sound, significant roadblocks exist.

“The technology is there,” says Griffin, “but the government needs to get comfortable with putting a 50,000-plus-pound rig barreling down the interstate at 70 miles per hour with no one driving it. And it does not matter which administration or party is in power, they will not let autonomous trucks on the road until they are safe. Those regulations and rules at the state, local, and federal levels will take some time.”

One question that looms large around autonomous trucks is: What happens to the PVO? As with any AI-powered tools, the human’s greatest fear is being rendered irrelevant by a machine. But both Griffin and McConnell emphasize that will never be the case at Atlas.

“There will always be the need for our PVOs at the local and long-haul levels,” says McConnell. “When they are at a residence of origin or destination, the PVO is the crew lead. They are our on-site customer service rep who works closely with the trailing spouse or transferee who is about to move. So, as long as people need to move their goods from one place to another, the PVO is a key, critical component in every order, every job, and every move.”
Says Griffin, “We will continue to value and build upon the PVO role. They make it possible for Atlas to be here regardless of any technology.”

Although capable of unlocking a huge potential, technology remains vulnerable to hackers. The trucking industry is the ninth-most-targeted for cyberattacks, so cybersecurity is of paramount importance for Atlas® and its Agents.
“Atlas has developed an extensive Information Security Program,” says Ann Heathcott, Chief Security Officer for Atlas® Van Lines. “This includes security-protection best practices and a Security Operations Center team that consists of both internal and external security professionals highly skilled in battle against cybercriminals.”
Heathcott adds that with 95% of cyberattacks involving human error, Atlas continually promotes security awareness for employees, contractors, Agents, and PVOs and offers a Security & Privacy Awareness section of resources on AtlasNet® to help subsidiaries and Agents protect their organizations’ data.

Atlas data is not the only information under strict protection. Customers and clients also have requirements the organization must meet to remain compliant with current security and privacy rules and regulations.
“Most of our clients and accounts require compliance as a condition of retaining their business,” says Amanda Edge, Corporate Counsel for Atlas® World Group. “It is crucial for Atlas and the Agents to remain compliant with all applicable laws and regulations to ensure our customers’ information is secure and protected.”
Edge notes that the legal landscape surrounding data privacy and security is constantly evolving. Thirteen U.S. states currently have comprehensive data-privacy laws and at least 11 more have introduced legislation. The international landscape is also developing in the European Union, Canada, Brazil, China, and beyond.
“As these laws change and evolve, our Legal Department, in conjunction with our IT Department, will continue to monitor and adapt Atlas policies and practices to ensure compliance,” says Edge. “We are always available to assist with questions regarding data privacy, protection, and best practices.”
Heathcott says that open and frequent communication about security is critical to improving Atlas’ security posture. And Griffin agrees, adding that it truly is a team effort.
“When people think about cybersecurity, they assume it is one department doing all of the work,” says Griffin. “In reality, it is all of us. This is why we do so much cybersecurity training all the time. It involves all of us because it takes a village to keep our data and privacy protected.”

From the beginning, Atlas® has always remained ahead of the industry curve because it keeps its sights set on improvement and innovation— whether that is strategic planning, operational efficiency, or technology. And it is that spirit of forward momentum that will push the company boldly into the future.

“We are planning for three, five, seven, and even 10 years from now. We know we do not have all of the answers that are out that far, but we are asking the questions." Ryan McConnell, President and COO Atlas® Van Lines
“When you look at the people inside of our organization, there really is a passion for what we do,” says McConnell. “And our Agents drive that. They are out there every day committing on the sales side and delivering on the service side. We want to provide them peace of mind in every decision Atlas makes around AI, security, or any tool of the future so they know we are considering what the benefit is in the end to the person whose goods we move.”

In any decision, everything is viewed through the lens of Atlas’ strategic direction. “It all comes back to Atlas® Pathways,” says Griffin. “The deliverables Ryan set when he was the vice president of marketing for the van line, such as the pricing reset, changed the whole industry for the better.” Griffin says it is innovative thinking like this from leadership and others across the organization that make Atlas the thought leader it is within the industry. Others will always look toward it to see what it has planned for tomorrow.

But Atlas is not planning for tomorrow. “We are planning for three, five, seven, and even 10 years from now,” says McConnell. “We know we do not have all of the answers that are out that far, but we are asking the questions. We are changing when we need to change, oftentimes before we need to do so. And we are putting new programs and technology in place that respond to the needs of the market, our Agents, and our customers. We have all of the pieces we need to drive this company forward for the next 75 years.”