Let’s face it, people do business with individuals and companies that treat them well and with those they like. In transportation, relationships between shippers and their various carriers and vendors hasn’t always been easy.

In recent years, however, industry forces—tightened capacity, increased regulations, driver shortages as well as road and traffic conditions—have transformed shipper-carrier relationships into a more collaborative partnership, out of necessity.

Carriers and shippers have to keep up with dynamic business conditions from changes in sourcing to just-in-time fulfillment and faster deliveries. And the situation becomes more complicated when you consider the regionalization of U.S. distribution which has lowered haul lengths and added stops in many cases, increasing reliance on LTL versus TL.

If you are a shipper who seeks to gain better treatment by your freight carrier or broker, here are ways to raise the service bar:

• Give your preferred vendors the benefit of long lead times.

• Avoid last-minute or frequent changes to your load availability and changes in load requirements such as the type of cargo or requirements to move the load.

• The greater flexibility you can give your vendors around pick-up windows and appointments allows the carrier more flexibility with scheduling and stops.

Your freight, your business requirements shared. As suggested above, the more predictable you can be as a shipper, the more attractive you will be to the carrier or broker. Relationships are a two-way street. When you respect the relationship, share information and tender loads as specified, your freight is more likely to become priority.

Be reasonable. Think twice before asking for outrageous payment terms or unnecessary, excessive insurance or other operating requirements. If you do, be aware that delays in payments or excessive requirements could result in the carrier requesting a new arrangement altogether in order to take your loads. Carriers incur direct and indirect costs in arranging and accommodating unreasonable requests of this nature.

Acknowledge good drivers are in short supply. Hours-of-service (HOS) rules affecting the duration of driver shifts and mandated rest breaks, along with safety initiatives such as CSA 2010, make good drivers in short supply. For more than 15 years, the trucking industry has dealt with shortages of semi-truck drivers, according to analysis by the American Trucking Associations (ATA). Many carriers continue to struggle to find qualified drivers, estimated at a shortage of 48,000 by the end of 2015, according to ATA.

By regarding the drivers you encounter with respect, especially those who arrive at your freight docks, you are helping to foster their loyalty to the industry or carrier. This means not keeping the drivers waiting for loads when they need to be on the road making money.

Build trust. The level of service you provide your customers affects your bottom line and brand reputation. If you beat down your carrier for the lowest price possible, the service could end up not being there when you need it most.

Finally, the market keeps changing with more driver shortages ahead. By having a solid relationship with a carrier or broker who understands transportation and your needs, you’ll be better prepared to meet these challenges.

Resources featured in this blog:
Truck Driver Shortage Analysis, ATA, October 2015

About the author: Mark London is VP, Sales & Marketing at G&D Integrated