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Ad Watch: Con-way is “changing gears”

Posted by on November 11th, 2008 at 10:28 am

“There’s a new Con-way fleet on the road.”
— copy from a new ad by freight logistics company Con-way

Con-way is a $4.7 billion freight transportation and logisitics company based in Northwest Portland. I’ve long admired their large, secured, and covered “bike cage” parking area and I’ve previously covered their above-and-beyond participation in the BTA’s Bike Commute Challenge.

The other day, while perusing a copy of Portland Monthly Magazine, I came a nice ad from Con-way (see it below). I especially like the copy. Under a photo of four happy people wearing Con-way jerseys, it reads:

There’s a new Con-way fleet on the road. In the past year, our fleet of bike commuters has logged more than 4,500 trips and nearly 70,000 miles. In the process, these employees have saved more than 3,400 gallons of gas and eliminated more than 30 metric tons of CO2 emissions.

I love how Con-way has taken their stats from the Bike Commute Challenge and used them to tell a story (are any other companies doing that?).

Here’s the ad:

In an interesting side note, Con-way is also planning to completely remake 15 acres of land they own in Northwest Portland (near NW Lovejoy and the 405). The Portland Tribune reported in January that their ambitious plans call for a canal for stormwater runoff that “could recall Amsterdam”.

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  • Dave November 11, 2008 at 10:32 am

    Will Con-Way, if they are a transportation company meaning that they employ drivers, educate said drivers on road safety and road sharing, and bias their pay structure as much as possible away from pure productivity and include a safe road use index?

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  • wsbob November 11, 2008 at 10:48 am

    I agree that the stats copy is good. It’s direct and to the point, emphasizing in a way that will easily register on the people’s minds the potential for energy savings and pollution reduction that bikes as transportation can help accomplish.

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  • miguelaron November 11, 2008 at 10:57 am

    my company offers incentives for “low impact commuters” via bike/bus/walk/carpool. during the summer we had as many as 9 of 12 employees riding bikes. it really is a fantastic program.

    also, in the conway ad it doesn’t look like the bike actually changed gears. hm.

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  • Brian Johnson November 11, 2008 at 11:01 am

    I think they missed an important point: dollar savings.

    By taking a bike instead of a car, not only do they save gas but also wear and tear on the vehicle.

    This could have been translated to MONEY, which is something that everybody understands.

    For instance, when I stopped driving every day, I saved $40 on my car insurance premium; I change the oil in my car less frequently (I was changing the oil every 4 to 6 weeks); I stopped spending about $50 a week in gas.

    That’s just a few things.

    Anyway– that’s good news from Con-way. I’m glad to see big companies making positive changes like that.

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  • JohnO November 11, 2008 at 11:24 am

    My question is, what does Con-Way have to gain by advertising in Portland Monthly? Is PM’s readership filled with scads of logistics managers?

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  • Daniel (teknotus) Johnson November 11, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Encouraging people to bike more helps trucking companies like Con-way as bikers tend not to take major arterials like I5.

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  • Jerry H November 11, 2008 at 11:45 am

    I know it’s a nit but if the really are changing gears how about a chain in the big ring on the bottom right photo!

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  • cyclist November 11, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    JohnO (#5) asks “what does Con-way have to gain by advertising in Portland Monthly?”

    This is a standard PR campaign by a large corporation.

    Con-way is trying to impress city officials and NW Portland residents because Con-way would like to redevelop their property in NW Portland.

    According to the Oregonian

    “[Sam Adams] wants to create a new urban renewal district that covers the Con-way property. The company is moving ahead with plans to redevelop its vacant land near NW 23rd Ave.”


    The Portland Tribune has two articles about Con-way’s redevelopment plan:



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  • T Williams November 11, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    I’m in the auto recycling business (read: wrecking yard). We’re mandated by corporate to use a certain freight carrier (not Conway), but we’ve found that Conway costs less, is exponentially more reliable, and is a pleasure to work with.

    So, despite our occasional fistfights with the suits (we always win), we ship with Conway as much as possible.

    It doesn’t surprise me that Conway has employees that “get it”.

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  • matt picio November 11, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    Dave (#1) – Forget about “will they?”, how about “DO they?” What are their current practices?

    Brian (#4) – Also, biking employees are invariably healthier employees. Presuming that Con-Way offers medical insurance, this is affecting the corporate bottom line in a good way.

    Jerry H (#7) – That’s the kind of detail that separates the good ad agencies from the GREAT ad agencies. Good catch.

    cyclist (#8) – I’m curious to know which current URD is going away. IIRC, there is a limit on how much of the city can be part of an URD at any given time.

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  • Lenny Anderson November 11, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    Conway seems to get it that bicycles are a key piece of any strategy for keeping freight moving. 2 SOVs = 1 Semi, so when two peak hour trips switch to bikes, there is room for one more truck.
    On Swan Island Daimler Trucks NA headquarters had 75 riders in the Bike Commute Challenge and came in a respectable 13th among the larger employers. And…Swan Island bike commute options range from the sometimes muddy Waud Bluff route to the always illegal “Cement Road” with Going Street and its sidewalk as the only legal, all weather route.

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  • Christopher Redmond November 11, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    I am a Con-way employee (not a manager with any influence on this or many other topics) and a regular bike commuter (avg. 4 days/week). The covered “bike cage” which Jonathan Maus points out is only one of two bike parking facilities available to us. We also have many other “perks” available including free “Con-way” bike jerseys after just 4 bike commutes in a single month, free assigned lockers, showers, monthly drawings for multiple bike related prizes such as helmets, gloves, fenders and a Globe commuter bike as the 2008 BCC grand prize. In response to Dave’s comments (#1), Con-way has a four star value system in which the last three values (Integrity, Commitment and Excellence) are consistent across the enterprise. The first value is unique to the character of each of the three major component companies. For Con-way Freight, the trucking company (where all of the drivers work), the first value is Safety.
    This value is not just a simple word thrown out to the employees, Freight spends millions each year training the drivers on safety. As a result, Con-way Freight regularly recieves Safety awards year after year from various trucking associations and government entities at the national level and in nearly every state of the union. I could go on with many more details on just the subjects of safety and employee support provided by Con-way. Suffice to say, Con-way is a great employer to work for and is commited to its staff and the communities it serves while balancing this with its commitment to its customers and stock holders.
    BTW, I think the “changing gears” was a play on words refering to truck gears vs. bike gears. It would have been cool if they had the chain on a different sprocket in the second image. But then only bike nuts like us would probably notice! 🙂

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  • Pete November 11, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    On a wet and miserable day last week, I lost my saddle bag and its valuable contents somewhere between northwest and downtown.

    Thank you to the Conway employee who found it and turned it in to Conway security who used my lost cell phone to notify me.

    Thanks, too, for supporting cycling…and safety…generally.

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  • dgc November 11, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    “. . . bias their pay structure as much as possible away from pure productivity and include a safe road use index?”

    I understand your question, but, when you think about this, IF a company is focused on productivity, one of the activities of that focus is safety. There is nothing that destroys productivity more than safety issues, whether they be traffic tickets or major/fatal collisions. Any safety violation costs time (=dollars!), involves insurance companies (=dollars!), possibly some kind of repair (=dollars!), and perhaps public relations (=dollars!).

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  • Kevin Wagoner November 11, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    This is great. I worked at Con-way for roughly 10 years (I left in March). It was a great place to work with lots of great people. They have a wonderful cycling culture there and the local office has done a lot in the last several years to support and help develop it. I still ride with a lot of the folks that work there and like hearing how they do things that support Portland’s cycling culture. Kudos to Con-way!

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  • just an ordinary joe November 11, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    That ad in PMM? On a subtle level,it adds one more voice recognizing the importance of transportation cycling. I also agree with Lenny Anderson that each single occupancy car left off the road frees up the roads for commerce.
    If Conways ad encourages more employers to provide incentives to encourage more sensible transit ( including carpools,transit, and telecommuting and flex hours) then hey, go for it. Im not gonna complain.

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  • John Russell November 11, 2008 at 9:44 pm

    If they get enough cyclists on the roads instead of SOVs, they might also be making the gas they use cheaper, or at least it wouldn’t be getting more expensive as quickly.

    And as a side note, Jonathan, I’ve never heard anybody up here say the 405. I guess that must be a bit of your Californian sneaking back in. 😉

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  • matt picio November 11, 2008 at 9:57 pm

    Thanks Christopher(#12) and Kevin (#15) for letting us know what the current culture is regarding bikes at Con-Way. Nice to know that this isn’t just a bit of greenwashing!

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  • Maculsay November 12, 2008 at 5:11 am

    I’ve been a repeat offender of employment at Conway (CNF, Emery, Menlo) starting back in 1994. Of course there is some element of “greenwashing” involved, especially with the redevelopment plans. I think it’s important to remember that the great bike perks are a result of the great folks that work there, who helped “guide” the company towards these types of measures. It really can start with just one person with a vision of improving the environment around us. Personally, I enjoyed commuting by bike to Conway – it was often the highlight of my day buzzing along at 5:00am, clearing my head, getting a nice hot shower, and knowing my bike was safe. In fact, it was the facilities at Conway that helped guide me towards more than a decade of being car-free.

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