Thanks to tight capacity and a booming U.S. economy, being a ‘Shipper of Choice’ is once again relevant. Carriers are looking for the best shipping partners to work with and expect to be treated properly. Often overlooked but still vitally important to maintaining carrier relationships, Shippers of Choice take the time needed to address inefficiencies in their operations head-on, all while treating carriers with respect and communicating clearly.
Starting with their RFP, shippers can leverage their process to establish the right expectations with carrier partners from the beginning to set everyone up for long-term success. Building a portfolio of reliable carriers is about creating mutually beneficial relationships and creating a pattern of behavior – setting the right expectations on how working together will function.
Here are seven tips to help position your company as a shipper of choice in the eyes of carriers.
1. Establish Expectations
When supply is limited, and the market is saturated with shippers willing to pay whatever it takes to get space on a truck, being transparent and thorough with the information you share with carriers can be the difference between a carrier accepting your load over someone else’s. By preparing a timely, organized RFP that details your shipping data and informs bidders of exactly what they can expect when transporting your freight, shippers will align expectations and make their freight a lot more attractive to carriers.
2. Track Key Performance Indicators
Tracking Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) is a great way to vet your transportation partners and plays a crucial role in quantifying accountability and enabling continuous improvement for everyone. Shippers who use carrier scorecards to define and rank specific metrics such as tender acceptance rates, on-time pickup/delivery and billing accuracy, will help carriers better understand what they value and how a carrier’s performance measures up to their expectations.
Likewise, shippers can also track carrier-centric KPIs (ex: load cancellations, dwell times, etc.) that show how they’re complying with contract requirements to build trust, strengthen partnerships and secure more capacity over time.
3. Communicate Consistently
This past year has thrown the logistics industry one curveball after the other, revealing just how sensitive supply chain operations are in the wake of pandemic-driven disruptions. Sometimes, missing an appointment can’t be avoided when you’re dealing with intense traffic congestion, severe weather conditions or unanticipated equipment delays.
But, when shippers consistently communicate with carriers and immediately notify them of unexpected hurdles, it allows carriers to respond in real-time and stay on top of any changes. Developing an open dialogue with carriers also offers visibility into your day-to-day shipping processes, which helps both parties identify solutions to increase efficiency and lower costs.
4. Minimize Detention Time
Drivers and carriers make their money on the road, but with constant interruptions from roadside inspections, highway traffic, weighing loads, loading/unloading and refueling, their operating hours are pretty limited. So, if your carriers are spending a lot of idle time held up at your facility, you’re going to end up being labeled a “Shipper to Avoid.”
To prevent this from happening, shippers need to work on minimizing driver detention time by optimizing their dock operations. While investing in these operational improvements may require some time and energy upfront, the amount you’ll save on detention fees, plus the advantage you’ll gain over other shippers, will help immensely in the long run.
5. Provide Accurate Forecasts and Ample Lead Time
Are your service expectations realistic? It’s critical for shippers to do their part in managing orders and capacity by focusing upstream and increasing the accuracy of their demand forecasts. Carriers want shipping schedules they can rely on because it provides the structure they need within their freight networks to manage capacity effectively.
Further, try avoiding last-minute loads as they are not as attractive to carriers. Leaving ample lead time (when possible) for your transportation providers will allow them to plan accordingly and better accommodate you.
6. Be Flexible
A lack of flexibility within your scheduling or trucking contracts could end up costing you. For example, if you offer limited shipping or receiving hours to your carrier base rather than open windows of time, you’re making it more difficult for drivers to service your freight.
Inflexibility reduces the efficiency of your shipping operations — instead, try giving a range of appointment times to your carrier. Giving your transportation providers more options for pickups and deliveries will increase the likelihood of them accepting your loads.
7. Pay on Time
3PLs and truckload carriers value consistent cash flow, and they definitely notice every time you fail to pay an invoice within the set payment window. Delays in invoice payments have real consequences and give shippers a bad reputation of being unreliable. If you want to stand out, don’t make your carriers chase you down for being late.
Shippers can also benefit from implementing electronic billing to instantly send payments to their carriers, simplifying and automating the payment process. This kind of digital readiness will help you increase operational efficiency and highlight your technology capabilities to your transportation partners.
Back to the Basics
Tight trucking market conditions and ongoing capacity limitations have increased the need for long-standing, mutually beneficial partnerships. Shippers looking for a solution to securing consistent freight should focus on increasing their operational efficiencies and bettering their transportation provider experience.
Becoming a Shipper of Choice takes time and continuous energy, but the results this label generates for both shippers and carriers make the effort worth it. Capitalize on tips like the ones listed above to help get this process started — you’ll be glad you did.
Ready for more? Learn how Emerge’s advanced Digital Freight Marketplace can help facilitate long-term, mutually beneficial relationships between shippers and carriers; click here.