Logistically Speaking: How to make your freight more attractive

Last month I moderated a panel at the annual National Industrial Transportation League (NITL) show in Anaheim. I mention this because one of the advantages to being a moderator is that I can "prime the pump" ahead of time by encouraging the speakers to address the topics that are of most interest to all of you, based on the questions and comments you pass along to us.

So I alerted the speakers ahead of time that they should be prepared to answer the question: "What does a shipper need to do to get the best price and service from a motor carrier?" Each of the panelists did a great job of answering that question, based on their unique perspectives, and although the session was standing-room-only, based on our latest circulation numbers that means more than 85,000 of you weren't able to attend, so I'll attempt to recreate the highlights here.

It's no secret that with capacity as tight as it's been lately, carriers are in the rare position of being able to turn away some business. Chip Smith, president and CEO of Twin Modal Inc. (www.twinmodal.com), a transportation intermediary, confirms that carriers often grade shippers on various metrics, which helps them determine who gets the equipment first:

• Volume — How much business are you offering a carrier?

• Profitability — Can the carrier expect to turn a reasonable profit from your business?

• Payment pattern — Do you pay your bills on time, every time?

• Claims — Carriers prefer to see their customers on the docks, not in the courts.

• Year-around vs. seasonal — Can the carrier depend on your business throughout the year, or do you just come calling during peak season like everybody else?

• Ease of handling your business — Is your freight more trouble than it's worth?

• Tenure — Are you a long-term customer with a carrier, or just looking for a one-time spot buy bargain?

Although most of the headlines about capacity tend to focus on the national, brand-name carriers, in fact the majority of the capacity in the U.S. is with the momandpop carriers, reminds

Chris Hayes, national sales manager with Advantage Transportation Inc. (http://atilog.net), a provider of load brokerage services. These companies rarely advertise and are little known outside of their communities, and yet most of the freight in the country moves on these trucks.

One way to find available capacity, from trucking companies of all sizes and types, is through what's called a load board, such as GetLoaded.com (www.getloaded.com). Charlie Myers, president of the company, explains that a load board is a serverbased platform accessed through the Internet to match existing freight with available capacity in a public forum.

Hayes suggests shippers can keep their transportation costs down by investing in strategic programs that will help reduce their logistics spend. He offered several examples:

• Use flex spacing for warehousing.

• Forward inventory placement to close proximity to your markets.

• Develop reverse logistics programs.

• Employ third-party logistics providers (3PLs) to find capacity.

All three speakers agree that carriers very much want your business — but market conditions have changed to the point that shippers have to be smarter about selling themselves. Just as no two loads are alike, neither are the carriers. Your goal as a shipper, Chip Smith notes, should be to make your freight as attractive as possible to a carrier. Some ways to do that are:

• Be realistic — Agree to pay the carrier a competitive rate.

• Be thorough — Have the complete load information ready when the driver arrives.

• Be efficient — Have the load ready when the driver arrives to facilitate a quick turnaround.

• Be reliable — The more credible you are, the more coveted your business will be.

So there you have it — some inside information on what you can do to move up to the front of the line for available capacity. Good luck.

And on behalf of all of us here at LOGISTICS TODAY, we'd like to wish you happy holidays and best wishes for the new year.

Dave Blanchard
Editor-in-Chief
[email protected]

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