6 Things Shippers Should Consider When Working with Carrier Partners

After 25 years in the transportation industry, I’ve learned that some things are simply out of our control. Sometimes, we have to trust our supply chain logistics partners. That can be a scary proposition, considering the many ever-changing dynamics in the freight shipping process. After all, the company’s bottom line is at stake… along with jobs, customer relationships, business partnerships and more if things don’t pan out.

So what’s the best way to find a trusted, reliable supply chain logistics partner?

Many of us simply learn from experience. Along the way, we collect a few “interesting” stories and even life lessons. Some shippers have decided that they can’t have it all, so they tend to choose the lowest priced carrier or the trucking company with the most capacity at the moment or simply the biggest 3PL name they can nab. I believe that there’s more to it than that.

I’ve come to realize there are a few key things that stand out when looking for a reputable carrier partner, including:

1. Transparency.

We’ve all heard the adage: “What you see is what you get.” But that’s not always the case when it comes to asset and 3pl providers. Transparency is critical, from the RFP to the loading dock. Choose a partner with the transportation management technology to share critical details about your load, including where it is, who’s driving it, when it’ll arrive and more. A trusted supply chain partner has nothing to hide. In fact, they’ll want to engage with you more often to ease your concerns — and achieve favorable KPIs on your next carrier scorecard.

2. Asset + 3PL Services.

If you’re in the industry long enough, you’re going to be burned. Whether it’s inclement weather, a frenzied produce season, petulant drivers or even a flat tire, there are a lot of reasons why a shipment may not arrive on time. But, when you can partner with a 3PL provider with its own fleet of trucks, as well as direct access to a wide range of other assets, you can significantly reduce problems and mitigate risk.

3. Book of business.

Change is inevitable. Watch how your supply chain partner responds to routine everyday changes. Do rates fluctuate significantly every time capacity tightens? Are trucks available only if you pay more? A trusted partner will want to earn a book of business from you, not just the max amount for the day or week or even month.

4. Consultation.

You conduct your own forecasting. You research what’s going on, even what freight lanes are open. But an experienced partner can open up even more opportunities for capacity. Consider your supply chain partner your personal consultant. After all, they should be constantly trying to earn your business — so they should be looking out for what works best for you.

5. Proactive communication.

You don’t want surprises. And you don’t want to settle. Your carrier partner should be able to foresee upcoming issues and provide insights and suggestions to help you navigate a dynamic marketplace. Share that information with your team, including procurement, executives and other key stakeholders, to make more informed decisions for your organization.

6. Above and beyond.

Simply put, look for a carrier that makes your job easier. You have enough to worry about without wondering whether your carrier partner is going to come through on promises. Obviously, you’re always looking at the bottom line. But at what cost? And what about service and on-time delivery? A true partner will find creative ways to meet your service expectations and your budgetary concerns — while freeing you up to perform other important tasks.

 

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Michael Bilton is a seasoned veteran of the supply chain industry, with more than 25 years of experience managing shipments and vendor relationships in a wide range of roles, including category manager, procurement manager, consultant and operations manager. Visit Michael’s LinkedIn page to learn more.