The nation’s supply chain is mired in challenges that are making front-page news, as consumer demand continues to climb and drive up inflation.
The American Trucking Associations estimates the industry is short by approximately 80,000 truck drivers, up from an estimated shortage of 61,500 drivers before the pandemic. This level of driver shortage puts even more pressure on an industry that lacks the capacity to transport goods.
While these are just two of the roadblocks recently gaining the most attention, problems have existed in the industry for years. Add in the facts that carriers have substantial backorders for new equipment, and warehouses have limited space, and there are bottlenecks across the board.
The myriad of challenges throughout the supply chain has made it extremely difficult for shippers to move goods from ports to distribution centers and, ultimately, to store shelves. As demand for their products grows, shippers will need to work with carriers who have capacity to complete deliveries. That’s why in this tight market it has become so important for shippers to reach the level of being a “shipper of choice.”
Being a shipper of choice means that carriers want to work with that shipper because of the value the partnership provides, not because they have to. It means the shipper’s load, location and business practices are in line with what carriers consider desirable. Carriers want to make sure that they’re protecting the bottom line and not losing precious time. This is a status that is achieved by showing carriers respect, and committing to a long-term strategy that enables best practices.
Carriers are in the driver’s seat right now, and can decide which companies to work with, putting the pressure back on shippers to ensure their operations are efficient and convenient for the carriers — in particular, the drivers who have to access the shippers’ facilities.
Why Being a Shipper of Choice Matters
Being a shipper of choice could be the difference between ensuring that carriers want to work with a shipper versus turning down jobs. But the designation is about more than that. It’s about creating a partnership with carriers to better facilitate the transfer of goods.
While the industry tends to operate on contracts between shippers and carriers, there are times when demand spikes and a shipper needs more capacity. So when a shipper goes to tender a load, being a shipper of choice helps it to secure a truck at a competitive rate. It used to be true that having a large volume of freight is what makes a shipper desirable to carriers. While that often doesn’t hurt, it’s not enough anymore. No matter the volume of freight: if drivers constantly have to jump through hoops to move it, they’ll likely turn elsewhere for business or charge more.
Carriers are especially keen to the conditions in which they work. Much like diners use Yelp to review restaurants, truckers use Google Reviews and other dedicated facility-reviewing apps that help them communicate and access information about loading and unloading times, parking, security, dock conditions and all the other variables that go into making a business a shipper of choice.
How to Become a Shipper of Choice
It’s all about working conditions. There are already so many regulations in place that drivers need to follow, and being on the road and away from their families makes the job more difficult. So anything that makes their job that much more challenging impacts whom they choose to work with.
Detention and dwell times, flexible deadlines, parking options, clear and efficient processes, and treating drivers like people are just a few of the things that most impact the driver’s job. Make processes smooth and efficient by:
Even when working with carriers to contract out a load, shippers can forecast jobs further in advance, have competitive shipping rates, optimize shipping routes to cut down on travel time, limit the number of stops, and be flexible with deadlines to improve the working relationship. These seem like pretty basic things to do, but the industry still lags in implementing solutions.
By looking internally at their operations, shippers might also find that making some of these changes could benefit their company. That’s why it’s vital for shippers to work with the carriers in their network to figure out where more efficiencies can be created, as well as how they can benefit one another. Shippers just might see a boost in their bottom line in the long run.
Brian Belcher is co-founder and chief operating officer of Vector, a contactless pickup and delivery platform.
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