A collaboration announced this month between the two industry groups, the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) and the National Strategic Shippers Transportation Council (NASSTRAC) is taking direct aim at building and enhancing trust between shippers and carriers. Entitled “The Strategic Shipping Program,” this collaboration’s main objective is to help shippers and carriers augment their interactions with each other and foster and maintain trusted relationships, ultimately providing shippers with what the CSCMP and NASSTRAC labeled a “Shipper of Choice” distinction, which they said has, up to this point, has received more talk than action. We discussed this topic in a previous blog which can be reviewed here.
In last year’s article we stressed the importance of making the effort to become a "preferred shipper” to ensure equipment availability in a shrinking equipment market. If you are a shipper relying on for-hire carriers you certainly should be aware of the looming issues conspiring to make it more expensive and more difficult to get your goods delivered. The factors affecting equipment availability are not expected to ebb so it may be a good idea for shippers to review their shipping protocols to address their shipper status in the eyes of their carriers. The changes are not difficult or expensive to initiate and the payoff will likely justify the time and expense. CSCMP and NASSTRAC noted that The Strategic Shipping Program will form a shipper-carrier collaboration, in which shippers will agree, on a voluntary basis and of their own volition, to a code a conduct that they will follow in managing their carrier and driver relationships. Let's revisit some fundamental keys to becoming a preferred shipper:
Improve Your Relationship With your Carriers
This is very basic but it's a good starting point. There should be a culture shift in vendor relations, particularly when it comes to carriers. Historically, truckers have been treated as second-class citizens when it comes to driver accommodation and respect for one’s time and asset allocation. A reasonably comfortable waiting area for the driver is an inexpensive and easily implemented enhancement to the driver experience. Enforcement of loading and unloading times is another far reaching issue that should be another easy fix. Time management has never been more critical for the driver, as well as the equipment he is managing. Ever-increasing government regulation is significantly affecting the hours per day that both driver and truck can generate revenue. It is incredibly expensive to have equipment sit idle. The cost of detention and the difficulty in collecting those charges is something carriers would prefer to avoid all together. Also, a critical component of the preferred shipper status is adherence to payment terms. Nothing will put you at the bottom of the dispatch list like being a chronic late payer. Tardy payment has a dramatic effect on a carriers cash flow and collection efforts consume vital personnel time performing unnecessary work.
Load planning can sometimes be a real guessing game for carriers. To some degree, being able to anticipate a shippers’ daily or weekly needs is very helpful in labor planning and equipment positioning. Shippers who can schedule repeat and repetitive shipments on specific days and at predictable weight breaks will help load planners with both equipment availability and lane balance expectations. The profitability of a trucking company is greatly impacted by empty miles and partially loaded trucks. This is just another area where shippers historically do not utilize much planning. When equipment was plentiful, they didn't have to. But, today, predictability is increasingly more important in maintaining a consistent and reliable level of service. An entire science has been built around predicting the needs of customers based upon historical data.
Treat Drivers Well
Drivers greatly appreciate others appreciation of their time and comfort. In addition to a relaxing driver waiting area, here are some worthwhile tips for improving driver experience, published by the US-based Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) and National Industrial Transportation League (NITL):
Maintain reasonable hours for loading and unloading according to the volume of shipments.
Tender cargo with all paperwork in order and promptly load and unload trucks that arrive within the scheduled time.
Make reasonable efforts to be flexible in loading/unloading trucks that arrive early, or late, or without an appointment.
If dock space is unavailable don’t make drivers wait in line. Direct them to a comfortable driver lounge and contact them when a space becomes available.
Have a guard station in the yard so that information is readily available.
If using a drop and hook program, ensure that empty trailers are available as needed.
There are several options for shippers to maintain a preferred shipper status and help to ensure equipment availability and timely service. Shipper-carrier collaboration can be very beneficial when needs from both sides are identified and protocols are developed to ensure those needs are met.
For assistance in developing a preferred shipper program contact one of our logistics professionals today at Land-Link.com. We'll help you design a system that will ensure the integrity of your supply chain.