Industry Insights & News

Today’s Volatile Market: 3 Ways to Source Carriers

August 9, 2022

With everything seemingly up in the air these days, sourcing quality carriers for today’s freight is no exception. In an effort to understand how to tackle sourcing carriers, we have discovered three best practices: establish lanes of communication, understand carrier needs, and be as flexible as possible. These are key in terms of getting loads covered with quality service and at a fair price. According to The Logistics Managers’ Index, a reading of 65 was registered for the month of June. This is a 2.1 percentage point decline from May and the lowest level recorded since July 2020. It has been a quick descent from the record high of 76.2 in March. With capacity growth on the decline and even a potential contraction, it is more important now than ever to source the right carriers and build relationships with them. 

1. Establish Lanes of Communication

Conveying a message to a carrier may seem like an unchallenging task. However, it is difficult in the industry because of the communication in a shipper and carrier relationship. To establish a strong connection with a carrier, the shipper must be transparent and honest to the individual. For instance, letting the driver know the marketplace situation and the activity of the area the driver may be inbound or outbound. Furthermore, having a strong communication relationship will benefit the carrier in knowing the whereabouts of the driver and the freight during the trip. If an incident happens on the freeway, the carrier will be more inclined to let the shipper know and warn of any possible delays. An individual must establish communication with the carrier to avoid any confusion and continue a reliable relationship with one another. 

2. Understanding Carrier Needs

Most people lose sight of the fact that these carriers are not robots but humans. It is crucial to be aware of what the carrier needs to result in a successful trip. For instance, having the types of lanes they prefer. Most drivers appreciate having a backhaul load back to see their families or go home for the weekend. Other carriers prefer hauling a lighter weight or a specific type of freight. Also, keeping in mind the next available lane the driver could run a couple of days after one job. The carrier will want to continue the relationship knowing they have another lane to do. Additionally, the carrier will be fortunate not to receive any unpleasant loads or lanes and will want to continue working with the shipper. Keeping in mind the carrier's needs will establish a commitment and trust to one another.

3. Flexibility - The Give and Take Relationship

The word, flexibility, can be a little ambiguous, but we have narrowed it down when it comes to being flexible with carriers. As a shipper, it is important to maintain your quality and pricing stance in order to keep your business going, however, there are times when some “give” will be necessary to get better service, get the shipment on the way, or build rapport. Those who give a little with their carrier often are able to “take” a little when needed at other times - a symbiotic relationship. The second part of flexibility is asking the right questions. Do not get stuck on trying to cover one load, but be open to having the carrier take other loads. Asking them what they are looking for or giving them other options can be helpful. Finally, there are specific aspects to the load carriers look for and we could all use reminders. Carriers are more likely to take loads that are recurring, lighter weight, fits into their planned schedule, does not have a long deadhead, or has first come first serve (FCFS) appointment windows. There are many parts of the shipping process and by making parts more flexible, cost can be reduced, and coverage and service can be increased.


The decline of carriers in the industry can be daunting for many if not for everyone. It is critical to establish a strong connection and relationship with a carrier. Having a strong sense of communication with the carrier will provide ease of knowing the whereabouts of the driver and freight. Also, understanding the carrier's needs will make the carrier more inclined to continue running lanes with the shipper. Lastly, being flexible with the carrier will conclude in cost being reduced and service increasing.

This blog was written by Emerge interns, Kaylee Pham, a student at Arizona State University, and Trenton Murdock, a student at Brigham Young University, Idaho.

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