January 2014 | How-To | Ten Tips

Building a Core Carrier Program

Tags: Trucking, Partnership, Transportation Management, Transportation

When developing a base of reliable core motor carriers, customer service and on-time success typically drive the selection process. But don't overlook factors such as company stability and labor quality. Streamline your carrier program to a select few using the following tips.

1. Look beyond cost. When selecting partners, don't focus solely on cost-cutting strategies. While reducing costs is important, you are looking to establish a long-term relationship that offers value. Performance will be key to that success. Review on-time performance percentages and claims rates, then examine overall return on investment, rather than just price.

2. Evaluate the carrier's capacity. Compare your lanes to the carrier's lanes. In order to move freight to a destination, the carrier must have enough trucks and drivers to assign. Tour its facility, and ask for references who can attest to the breadth of coverage, as well as the carrier's ability to regularly deliver on time and claim-free.

3. Demand flexibility. Ensure the carriers in your core program can accommodate change—especially if your company tends to switch direction often, frequently introduces new product lines, or plans to expand. Can the carrier's staff handle special requests? Does it have enough labor and equipment to accommodate your peak seasons or new product launches?

4. Meet the players. You may be tempted to sign on the dotted line because you were impressed with the carrier's executive team and sales reps. But get to know the front-line staff, too. Meet the company's drivers—they are the people who interact with your customers.

5. Consider the carrier's insurance coverage. Ask to see the trucker's certificates of insurance, and understand how much and what kind of coverage it carries. You also want to have your company name listed as "additionally insured," and verify that the carrier retains liability limits proportionate with the value of your largest anticipated shipment.

6. Insist on a dedicated contact. While a 24-hour centralized service department is helpful, you need a single point of contact within the carrier organization—someone dedicated to your account who understands your business. While others can assist, it's important to have a liaison for troubleshooting.

7. Check financial stability. Find out how long the trucker has been in business, and check its references, as well as its credit and Dun & Bradstreet ratings. You want to partner with a carrier that has resources and can invest in the proper equipment to deliver your goods.

8. Assess geographic coverage. Compare your company's delivery requirements against the carrier's geographic coverage. Can the trucker easily reach all the destination points you require?

9. Confirm technology resources. The carrier should have invested in electronic data interchange, satellite truck and trailer tracking, and a bar-code solution. These tools help provide vital shipment visibility.

10. Don't be afraid to switch. The hardest thing to do is end a relationship with a longstanding partner. While comfort level and relationships are important, you should continually evaluate the carrier's performance vs. your expectations and costs. Create and monitor key performance indicators. If the carrier is not meeting your criteria, address the problem, or consider switching to another provider.