Between the driver shortage and ELD Mandate, carrier capacity has shrunk over the years. Many say it’s resulted in a “carriers market,” where shippers must vie for trucking companies to take on their business. This means you have an opportunity to decide which shippers you want to work with. After all, the shipper and their operations play a big role in your profitability.
But you still must position yourself to win the best business. Read on for tips on both.
The following are key factors when choosing a shipper to work with:
- Low detention and minimal delays. With delays directly impacting HOS, it’s critical to understand a shippers’ operational efficiency. What’s the average dock wait time? How common is detention? How quickly are trucks loaded and unloaded? Look for shippers with low delays - as it eats away at profits - and make sure you understand any limitations of docking areas and operations.
- Uses technology for efficiency. Just as you’re expected to provide real-time visibility with GPS fleet tracking, shippers should use technology to run efficiently. Look for shippers who use yard and dock management technology to ensure trucks know where to go and when. Also ensure their technology can be easily integrated into yours, for easy and accurate data transfers.
- Drop and Hook method. Many agree this is one of the most effective methods. If a truck can arrive, drop its trailer and pick up another fully loaded one without waiting for loading and unloading, there’s no cutting into drivers’ HOS. Just make sure the shipper has enough equipment to actually accommodate this.
- Is flexible in operations. With traffic congestion and HOS, not all carriers can or want to work within typical hours. Shippers with flexible receiving windows can help your drivers’ extend miles traveled in the same amount of time. Also, for smaller shippers, flexibility in receiving and delivery schedules is key to ensuring you’re not doing one or two stops for LTL.
- Provides thorough data. Look for proof of quick and fair pay. Make sure the shipper is transparent and has data about lane and tonnage data, monthly volumes and consistency or seasonality of demand so you can accurately forecast and plan your own business. Shippers also often create a network of several carriers to choose from and, sometimes, only work through brokers, so having insight into this data is helpful in those scenarios, too.
Once you’ve identified a shipper you want to do business with, here are ways to make yourself look like an attractive partner to win that business:
- Be able to fulfill. If you’ve told a shipper you can do a job, certain monthly volume and meet SLAs, ensure you have the equipment and driver bandwidth to take on that contract. If you don’t, you’ll risk future business with them and your reputation with their peers.
- Prove performance and credibility. At a minimum, you’ll need to provide proof of insurance, show you’re FMCSA-registered and are in good standing with the Better Business Bureau. Being able to provide a track record of on-time deliveries without damage can help you differentiate, as can highlighting strong safety scores and any measures you take to ensure positive and safe driver behavior.
- Highlight the visibility and end-to-end communication your technology provides. Being able to provide not just real-time insight into HOS, but also the location of drivers is a win-win. It brings you efficiency and extends that efficiency and visibility to shippers. With supply chain communications so complex, an open line of communication from shipper to carrier to the end customer is a valuable differentiator that sets carriers apart from the competition. Our customer Pointdirect Transport, Inc., shows how impactful this can be, saying, “We’ve been growing at just over 20% each year since I started the business. A big driver behind this is how the fleet management technology has helped improve our customer service and communication… When a shipper is trying to provide us with freight, our up-to-the-minute elogs ensure we’re assigning a driver that can complete the job without running into HOS issues. With GPS fleet tracking, we know exactly where a vehicle is and provide customers accurate ETAs.”
- Bid competitively. Lastly, money always talks. While many shippers these days are willing to pay more for customer service, peace of mind and fast LTL deliveries, pricing still needs to be competitive and informed by what’s going on in the market. If you can double end a lane by bidding lanes that allow you to backhaul, that’s another good way to drive down operational costs while still being able to demand a strong rate.