October 5, 2023

Estes opens online portal for customers as cyberattack drags on


Estes Express, still suffering the impact of a cybersecurity breach, has set up an online portal to communicate with the company.

The page is a sign that the less-than-truckload carrier has at least one small facet of its website running, as the page is under the normal estes-express.com URL. But there is little else on the page except a form to be filled out by customers and other entities doing business with Estes.

At the top of the page is a declaration that Estes is “Open for Business.” And In largely a verbatim repeat of what the company said Tuesday via its feed on X, formerly known as Twitter, Estes said its “terminals and drivers are effectively picking up and delivering freight while we work through this event. We’re working as quickly as possible to resolve this issue and to return to business as usual.”

The form on the web page asks for the usual information: contact name, email, phone, subject and a description of the freight to be picked up or dropped off.

Responses to the Tuesday tweet by Estes confirming that the technology outage Monday was a cybersecurity breach showed the hurdles Estes must climb to service its customers.

“With the outage in our online tracking system, we are unable to track and trace freight currently, but our Operations team is working diligently to deliver freight to your customer,” the company posted multiple times in response to a customer query.

“We are making every effort to continue to follow normal procedures,” Estes also stated.

Estes also expressed sympathy for beleaguered customers. “We understand your frustration,” the company wrote. “Response times for the form vary depending on the inquiry. We appreciate your patience during this challenging time.”

It asks also that customers send a direct message via X to communicate with the company and noted that its representatives can still be reached on their cell phones, though the company phones are out of service.

Given that Estes is a privately held company, there will be no way to know the financial impact of the cyberattack.

The only public guideline that might be looked to for perspective is Forward Air (NASDAQ: FWRD), also an LTL carrier — though with a specialty involving freight moving out of airports. It was the victim of a cyberattack in 2020.

While there are significant differences between the two companies, looking back at the Forward Air hack might provide some degree of reference for what Estes could be facing. 

When Forward was struck, as a public company it needed to disclose to the Securities and Exchange Commission the possible size of the hit on its finances.

Just before the company released its fourth-quarter 2020 earnings report, it filed a report with the SEC saying its expected net income would be 53 to 55 cents per share. That was down from a forecast of 71 to 75 cents. The number came in at the high end of the range, 55 cents. That marked a decline of about 27% from the high-end forecast of 75 cents.

The bulk of the Forward Air cyberattack was fixed in about a week.

Deutsche Bank, in its daily transportation notes, weighed in on the Estes cyberattack for a second consecutive day Wednesday. 

“Based on our discussions with industry contacts, we believe this is causing significant disruption to an already disrupted LTL market, as tens of thousands of additional shipments per day need to find new carriers,” Deutsche said in its report. “While it’s uncertain how long it will take to get back online, we believe this is creating further volume opportunities for other LTL carriers, that will likely be reflected in October numbers. To the extent this increase in volume is sustainable or not will depend on the extent and length of the outage.” 

More articles by John Kingston

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The second annual F3: Future of Freight Festival will be held in Chattanooga, “The Scenic City,” this November. F3 combines innovation and entertainment — featuring live demos, industry experts discussing freight market trends for 2024, afternoon networking events, and Grammy Award-winning musicians performing in the evenings amidst the cool Appalachian fall weather.

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