Tendering loads at the last minute, making it difficult to schedule appointments, requiring carriers to reschedule if they miss an appointment… these are just a few of the ways that shippers can make life difficult for carriers. If you practice these habits on a regular basis, you might find yourself struggling to find carriers when you need them.

In today’s tight freight market, there is a distinct industry trend toward “preferred shippers.” “Carriers choose to transport products for those companies who are easiest to do business with from an operations standpoint,” explains Brad Rolland, Sr. Director, Business Development, Saddle Creek Logistics Services.

Whether they work through 3PLs or directly with carriers, preferred shippers help carriers to be more efficient and better utilize assets. (The current industry average for asset utilization is about 50 percent, according to Fleet Owner.) The more loads a carrier can haul in a day, the more productive and efficient they can be – especially when capacity is tight. Naturally, that’s better for business.

Improved asset utilization also helps to reduce a carriers’ operational costs and can extend the life of equipment and enhance performance.

While all of this makes life easier for the carrier, it can also be beneficial for the shipper. For example, increased efficiency helps to lower rates. “If you’re known to be a good shipper, you will see that reflected in your quoted rate. We see it now in carriers’ bids,” Rolland says.

Improved asset utilization also helps to reduce driver turnover. Drivers want to keep moving since they’re usually paid by the mile or activity. If they’re happier, they stay. As a result, there are more drivers readily available, helping to free up capacity when you need it.

In a tight market, carriers are more likely to choose your freight over others’ if they know you’re easy to work with. They’re also more likely to haul your freight the day you want it shipped.

Preferred Shippers Checklist:

Convinced that achieving “preferred shipper” status should be a top priority for your organization? Rolland recommends doing these five things:

    1. Plan ahead. Tender loads in advance when possible, so carriers can plan accordingly. Leverage optimization software solutions for short-term freight forecasts.
    2. Be flexible. Allow for flexible appointment times and accept trucks during “off” hours like evenings and weekends. This allows carriers to better utilize their trucks and pick up loads at less busy times.
    3. Make drivers welcome. Be friendly and respectful to drivers and make them comfortable with a spacious break room and clean restrooms. Some bigger companies even provide shower facilities.
    4. Get trucks loaded/unloaded quickly. Provide easy access for drivers with a yard that is easy to get in and out. Don’t keep drivers waiting. Load in advance, if possible, to prevent back-ups. It is also helpful to offer loading options – i.e., live load as well as drop-and-hook programs.
    5. Good communication. Communicate changes in a timely manner, so carriers can adjust staffing and scheduling. It’s also important to be informed about carrier compliance and regulatory expectations (i.e., CSA, Hours of Service, ELD mandate). Preferred shippers host regular carrier conferences and solicit feedback by conducting surveys to learn what they can do better.

Becoming a preferred shipper may take a little effort, but it can result in a remarkable ROI in the long run.