In tight markets, shippers of choice will have drivers willing to haul for them, allowing them to stay competitive.
In the current tumult that is the global supply chain, marked by extreme congestion and a lack of assets, the relationship between shippers and freight transportation provider is more important than ever. By adopting best practices that match what truck carriers and other freight transportation providers are looking for, you can become a shipper of choice. This means that even when faced with a freight transportation capacity crunch, you’ll be able to avoid business-damaging uncertainties and find drivers more easily.
What is a shipper of choice, and why does it matter?
Businesses whose location, load, communication and practices align with what freight carriers want are considered shippers of choice. Shippers should always strive to be a shipper of choice, and the COVID-19 pandemic and the current capacity-constrained reality has only reinforced its importance. Capacity was down but demand soared, meaning carriers were more selective about choosing the shippers they wanted to work with during this time. As a result, shippers with poor reputations had trouble finding capacity without drastically increasing their rates.
Even after the pandemic and the global supply chain crunch, becoming a shipper of choice can improve your operations and minimize logistics burdens. Carrier regulations and rising equipment costs have increased competition between shippers, so you want to do everything you can to ensure carriers choose to work with you. When you become a shipper of choice, you foster a sense of carrier loyalty, increase access to capacity, reduce freight rates, and improve supply chain efficiency.
How to become a shipper of choice
Building a reputation as a shipper of choice takes time and effort, but it’s worth it. To become a shipper of choice, you should:
Have flexible pick-up and delivery times. Strict appointment times mean truck drivers might have to drive when traffic is at its worst and can’t maximize their time on the road. Instead, consider scheduling pick up or delivery during a window of time or by a specific day, allowing for early arrivals and staying open during weekends or off-peak hours. When you allow flexibility, you increase the chances that someone will cover your load, thus making it easier for carriers to quickly transport your goods.
Be respectful. 23% of 5-star ratings given to shippers by carriers were due to the presence of polite and professional staff, so it’s clear that drivers value friendliness and professionalism. Make sure you’re kind, empathetic and respectful to drivers. You should also treat your carriers like core business partners by learning about their business needs and clearly communicating with them.
Part of being respectful means offering drivers amenities while they’re waiting during loading or unloading. Providing comfortable lounges equipped with refreshments, vending machines, free wifi, and clean showers and toilets can go a long way toward building a positive relationship. To go the extra mile, offer your drivers on-site overnight parking.
Prioritize short load and unload times. Short dwell times mean less waiting, and time is money in this industry — especially with hours of service (HOS) rules and electronic logging devices (ELDs) in place. If your drivers face detention times, they’ll be less likely to haul your freight in the future, and you may end up with no way to deliver goods to customers.
To ensure drivers get in and out quickly, make sure your check-in process is efficient, and accurately documents when drivers arrive. Hire more employees, extend your business hours, reevaluate dock space, or purchase new equipment when necessary to reduce wait times.
Pay quickly and accurately. Most carriers in the trucking industry are small or mid-sized businesses. They don’t have lots of money on hand, so waiting for reimbursements can be financially devastating. Try to keep payment times under 30 days and issue correct fuel surcharges and accessorial costs.
Offer forecasts and lead time. Providing carriers with weekly volume forecasts and as much lead time as possible will enable them to plan ahead and optimize their operations schedule –from sourcing drivers to positioning trucks. Not only will giving your carrier the heads up save them time and stress, but it can also save you money, as you’ll end up paying lower rates for the same capacity and service.
To position yourself as a shipper of choice, you have to go above and beyond. Luckily, technological advances in digital readiness can help provide transparency, improved delivery times, and accurate payment methods to help you become a shipper of choice while cutting costs. While you’re at it, you can even centralize your data to gain a more holistic understanding of your supply chain, identify areas for improvement in your network, develop streamlined operations strategies, and increase sustainability across your entire supply chain.