What Carriers Look For in Shippers

A phrase that found its way back into the headlines last year, as shippers became more concerned about truckload capacity, was shipper of choice (or its variant, preferred shipper). Being a shipper of choice means that if a carrier has to choose between you and another shipper, you get the capacity. But what attributes do carriers look for in a shipper to designate them a preferred shipper?

“What we learned from our survey and workshops with carriers is that two things are important to carriers right now: operating their network more efficiently and retaining drivers,” said Ben Cubitt, Senior Vice President of Consulting and Engineering at Transplace, when he was my guest on Talking Logistics. He also discussed four important attributes that carriers look for in shippers:

Carriers first look at the overall rating of a shipper. What kind of volume potential is there? Are the rates attractive? Is the fuel surcharge attractive? Are the accessorials fair? How well does the freight of that shipper match up with our network?

The next thing they look at is driver productivity, and dwell time is part of that. When my driver gets there, if it’s a live unload, are you getting him in and out quickly? If it’s a drop trailer, is the drop trailer ready? The worst scenario is a carrier comes in with an empty trailer and there’s no loaded trailer ready for pick up…One thing that came up [in our conversations with carriers] is how important weekend loading and unloading is. A 24/7 facility is very important for carriers, and that came across over and over. So when you talk about driver productivity, being able to load that driver at different times and keep him moving is important.

Driver-friendly facilities is another factor that carriers look at. When a driver gets to a facility, can he go to the restroom? Are there vending machines? Equally important, is there parking for the driver? That’s really a big issue. If the driver gets to a facility early and the load is not going to be ready for 4-5 hours, can he park in the lot and take a break? It’s really a challenge for the driver and the carrier if there is no parking on-site and the driver has to go 5-10 miles down the road to a crowded truck stop and use some of his available hours, and with Hours of Service, that’s more of a challenge.

The fourth thing a carrier looks at is relationship. How is the carrier treated? Are they brought additional opportunities? Many carriers today, in addition to having over-the-road capabilities, also have intermodal capabilities and dedicated fleet. Do you as a shipper let the carrier get opportunities in all of the services they offer?

Going back to efficiency, Ben made the point that “there’s a real opportunity for shippers and 3PLs, as we look at engineering our network, as we look at how we tender freight, as we look at which carriers we match up with, to help carriers improve their efficiency.” He gave a couple of examples:

We talked to a shipper who had one of the best carrier-friendly programs and they had engineered their lanes so that as it got later in the week, they were giving carriers longer hauls; so if you tendered the freight to a carrier on Friday, the carrier could get maximum driving over the weekend. Instead of tendering them a load on Friday that only has to go 200 miles, you tender them a load that has to go 1,800 miles. The carrier can pick it up Friday afternoon, and if the driver has the hours, he can drive and get 2-3 days of productivity over the weekend.

In the same way, if you ask a driver to come into Atlanta or Los Angeles to pick up a load at 8 a.m., he’ll be in traffic for hours. You have to look at that. If you’re tendering freight that’s going to put a driver right into congestion in places like Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, that’s really really going to impact driver productivity and the hours they have available. So instead of driving 55 miles per hour, they’re stuck in traffic.

I encourage you to watch the rest of the episode for additional insights and advice on this ever-important topic, including best practices shippers can implement to help them become shippers of choice. Then post a question or comment and keep the conversation going!

Note: Transplace is a Talking Logistics sponsor.