Become a shipper of choice

You Can Be a Shipper of Choice

This article was written by Erik Jensen and originally published in the third quarter issue of The Illinois Manufacturer.

Upheaval in the freight market

I’ve been working in the logistics industry for more than eight years, and while the freight market is prone to upheaval, this year—with the pandemic and the months of shut-down—has proven difficult for shippers to navigate. The pandemic slowed the number of new truck drivers entering the driving market while many experienced drivers retired at the same time. This exacerbated the driver shortage that was already affecting capacity. At the same time, the manufacturing shut-down along with the growth of e-commerce and the shuttering of brick and mortar stores created a bottleneck for the distribution of goods. All indicators point to higher-than-normal freight rates and diminished truck capacity to continue into the next year.

I’ve seen many concepts and ideas come and go over the years, but when you consider the aforementioned factors, the importance of being a “shipper of choice” remains as relevant as it’s ever been and gains importance with each passing day.

Being a shipper of choice

Why is being a “shipper of choice” so important? First of all, it’s simply smart business to be considerate to carriers and their drivers. And secondly, it’s the right thing to do; after all, drivers are people too which is something we often forget. They work long, hard hours, and the pandemic along with changing regulations and shutdowns has been extremely difficult for these frontline workers. If you consistently treat carriers and their drivers right by making it easier for them to get in and out of your facility in a timely manner, it’s likely you’ll end up paying a lower rate. And you just might have the good luck to work with an incredible carrier that doesn’t have to work with shippers who aren’t striving to be “shippers of choice.”

You can be a shipper of choice too!

Becoming a shipper of choice isn’t rocket science, but it does require commitment. In my experience, if you implement the following actions, you’ll be well on your way to securing superior carriers and rates.

  • Quick Loading Times: No one likes to wait, especially drivers who deal with a number of time constraints based on hours-of-service (HOS) rules. It’s not surprising, then, that carriers are keenly aware when the shippers they work with are timely and efficient and take this into consideration when accepting a shipment.
  • Flexible Pickup and Delivery Times: Does your facility require an appointment? And if so, how easy is it to set one? The carriers we talk to on a daily basis love going to shippers that load trucks on a first-come-first-served basis. Time is everything in logistics, and the more flexible you are, the more carriers will want to work with you. As long as you’re willing to work with carriers and/or understand that accidents and delays do happen in trucking, the better able you will be to attract the best carriers to your facility.
  • Low Rate of Tender Cancellation: How often do you have to reach out to your provider to cancel an appointment for a load that isn’t quite ready? (Or for some other reason?) If this is more than a couple of times per months, it’s occurring too frequently. Capacity is tight enough, don’t let this be a reason a carrier refuses to work with you.
  • Lead Time for Shipment Booking: Planning is of the utmost importance in our industry, and the more time you offer carriers to plan their loads, the more likely they are to become a dedicated carrier. Trucking is complicated and planning a week of shipments is a difficult process, especially when you’re trying to maximize a driver’s hours of service. Don’t let slow tendering practices be the reason you’re paying a premium for that last-second shipment.
  • Parking Options: Parking is a serious issue for carriers. If you’re willing to allow them to sleep on site, you’re already ahead of the curve.
  • Amenities for the Driver: This should be a no-brainer, but do you have nice bathrooms for drivers? A vending machine or machines? Some of the best customers I’ve ever worked with have a drivers’ lounge with free WIFI and a comfortable station to relax at. Treating drivers like your customers is a great idea all shippers should live by.

Good carriers are not a dime a dozen.

You work too hard to not also work with the best carriers in the business. Cultivating your “shipper of choice” status is the best way I know to ensure you are working with superior carriers at reasonable and reliable rates. When you take care of carriers and their drivers, you show them you value them and create long-standing relationships that will serve you well into the future.

If you’d like to know more about how AM Transport can help you become a shipper of choice, please reach out to us today. With over 30 years experience in the transportation industry, we have long-term relationships with the best carriers in the midwest.