Transportation capacity is tightening up, and carriers can afford to be pickier about which shippers they favor. Ben Cubitt, senior vice president of engineering and consulting with Transplace, offers some tips on how to be that preferred customer.
Transplace’s customer advisory board asked it to develop a survey that would help to define what it means to be a preferred shipper today. In response, the 3PL posed in-depth questions to a large number of carriers, says Cubitt.
Elements to be examined included rates and accessorials, how drivers were treated by shippers, and overall levels of efficiency. One key question to carriers was what caused them to offer or withhold capacity. They were also asked whether they kept scorecards on shippers, and if so, what criteria they considered. Carriers’ metrics tended to center on the financial attractiveness of the account – did it pay good rates, including fair accessorials and fuel surcharges? Did it pay on time? Was its freight desirable?
In addition to the financial aspects, carriers assessed whether shippers treated them well, and whether they provided additional opportunities for freight.
Many key measurements centered on how shippers treated drivers. What did they do to help make the network more efficient? Did they have flexibility in their pickup and delivery times? Did they unload the trucks? Did they help the driver to get into and out of the facility more quickly?
During the economic slowdown, shippers tended to have the upper hand because there were relatively few freight opportunities. Rates plummeted and carriers were forced to take whatever business was available. Now, with the gradual recovery, rates are on the rise and carriers can afford to be more selective about which shippers they serve. As a result, they need to take more care about such elements as providing sufficient parking, restroom facilities and vending machines for drivers. Carriers can also be pickier about choosing loads that provide the most profitable opportunities.
Today, “if you want to be a shipper of choice, you need to look at these things,” says Cubitt. “We have a shared responsibility to be more efficient.”