Competing on Carrier Experience

In transportation and logistics service provider world, we often talk about rates and capacity. But competing on carrier and driver experience is starting to emerge as a differentiator in the industry. What does providing an enhanced carrier experience mean? How does technology help in this effort? What attributes or capabilities will separate the leaders from the laggards moving forward? Those are some of the key questions I discussed with Ben Schuchart, VP of Operations at Schneider Transportation Management, and Prasad Gollapalli, Founder and CEO of Trucker Tools, during a recent episode of Talking Logistics.

Enhancing the carrier experience

Most people know Schneider, one of the nation’s largest carriers, for its large orange trucks, but Ben notes that in addition to their truckload division they also provide intermodal and logistics services, including brokerage (known as Schneider Transportation Management) which is Ben’s area of responsibility. Therefore, I began our discussion by asking Ben why enhancing the carrier experience is so important today.

Ben says while providing a good carrier experience has always been important, it is especially so today because carriers have a lot of options and brokers have to compete by giving them many opportunities for loads, including backhauls and other ways to reduce deadhead miles.

Ben adds that transparency in rates is also important, as well as the speed with which carriers can see and book loads to reduce wasted time. This requires a digital approach.

The small carrier challenge

Prasad highlights the importance for carriers, especially small carriers and owner-operators, not to waste time between loads. He says that, “Most small carriers are focused on managing current loads efficiently to maximize profits, but if they don’t also focus on how to secure the next load, the wasted time between loads can wipe out that profit, potentially even putting them out of business in a soft market. It’s a constant struggle for carriers to maintain profits and asset utilization.”

Prasad explains that the role of technology for carriers is not only to evaluate the profitability of potential loads, but also the likelihood of reloads at the destination. He compares it to playing golf: every shot you hit should set you up for a better (or equally good) shot after it. “Technology plays a big role in keeping these carriers afloat and profitable.”

The role of technology at Schneider

To expand on Prasad’s comments, I asked Ben what role technology has in Schneider’s business. Ben says Schneider uses Trucker Tools’ Book It Now feature to make all of their available freight visible in aggregate to carriers, along with the freight characteristics and rates. Carriers can click on the Book It Now option and the load is automatically assigned to the them from Schneider’s transportation management system (TMS).

“One of the reasons we went with Trucker Tools is for their carrier base,” notes Ben. “A growing number of carriers are going digital and they want to use mobile apps to find and book loads and ease of use is a key factor. The Book It Now option makes it as easy for carriers to book a load as using the 1-Click button on Amazon.”

Prasad adds that when carriers look to book loads, they have to consider not only rates, but their equipment availability, lane preferences, and the availability of reloads to minimize deadheading (among other factors). The app takes all of this into consideration to provide carriers with a short list of loads to select from and then they can book one instantly with rate confirmation almost immediately.

Ben points out that another advantage for carriers is that the tool is integrated to its TMS so any loads they see are real loads, not the ‘will call’ loads they may encounter with phone-based bookings.

Measuring the carrier experience

If the objective is to improve the carrier experience, the question I had for Ben was how do they measure success in this endeavor. Ben says in addition to measures such as volume and load acceptance rates, they focus on carrier loyalty: Are we growing our relationship with carriers? Are we reloading them? Are carriers continuing to book with us? Are we getting more of their available capacity? “We want long-term carriers who are in deep with us,” he says.

How else does Schneider measure success, and what does the Trucker Tools carrier base consider to be success? What attributes define the leaders in this category? Ben and Prasad share some insights and advice on these questions and more, so I encourage you to watch the full episode for all the details. Then keep the conversation going by posting your own experiences and perspectives on this topic.