Shipper members of NASSTRAC, who represent a wide range of industries with varying transportation needs, were recently surveyed by the association to identify emerging trends in transportation management, says Everett. The study was statistically valid, with more than 130 shippers participating, he reports.
A key finding of the survey was the degree to which today's shippers rely on collaboration to gain efficiencies, Everett says. "Certainly collaboration is not new to the shipper community, but it is really gaining momentum as a trend." Companies are particularly focused on how to get past barriers to collaboration, such as legal issues, non-disclosure agreements or corporate cultures that simply don't like the idea of openly sharing information with outside parties, he says.
The benefits of collaboration are helping dissolve these barriers, says Everett. "Many of our shipper members who responded to the survey say they are realizing very good productivity gains from their collaborative initiatives." These activities include joining with other shippers to consolidate shipments and otherwise share capacity on common lanes. "Some amazing things are going on there."
Another strong area of productivity gain, cited by 32 percent of respondents, was in network optimization, he says. "The trend seems to be for shippers to have less centralization of distribution centers and more locations closer to customers," he says. "We also are seeing folks work on consolidation and overall shipping patterns within their supply chains so they can do more truckload moves."
In other areas, shippers continue to be concerned about capacity issues, says Everett. "The driver shortage is a big part of the capacity challenge; as there is less of something and more demand, price will be impacted," he says. In response, shippers are trying to figure out different ways to work more closely with their carrier partners. Everett notes that one of the topics at the NASSTRAC annual conference in April was how shippers can become more carrier friendly, which might include changing dock practices or the way freight is packaged to make their business more attractive. "We are finding that the more carriers share this type of information and the more shippers respond, the easier it is negotiate long-term rates and contracts," Everett says.
NASSTRAC hopes to repeat this study in coming years to develop comparative information, Everett says. "This year's study will be a benchmark and we certainly want to see changes year over year, perhaps looking at somewhat different angles on trends."
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