December 2002 | How-To | Ten Tips

Selecting Core Carriers

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Choosing core carriers can be a daunting task, especially with so many carriers out there wooing your business. Here are 10 tips to help you keep a clear head when carriers come courting with all their bells and whistles, from Bob Belshaw, vice president business development and Robert Harper, product support manager, transportation, Insight Inc., Manassas, Va., and Bend, Ore. .

1. Capacity is absolutely crucial. Make sure that the carriers you are considering have sufficient capacity to serve all your transportation needs. You depend on your carriers to move shipments to their destination claim free and in a timely manner. In order to accomplish this, carriers must have the equipment and manpower necessary to meet this objective in every lane they operate for you.

2. Check financial stability. You are selecting valued business partners who will work with you toward a common goal. Select a carrier that is going to be a viable partner. You want to make sure that it is financially stable—not on the brink of insolvency—and willing to reinvest in its business and maintain the type of quality equipment necessary to service your needs.

3. Get references. Find businesses that are similar to your own that will serve as reference accounts for the carrier. Check the carrier's quality service metrics. This includes performance criteria such as on-time delivery record and damage-free delivery record.

4. Has the carrier made significant technology investments? Can your carrier provide real-time visibility of shipment status and advance warning of service failures that will allow you to respond to your customers? If your carrier has a centralized customer service center, does it have the tools necessary to quickly communicate your needs and/or problems to the proper location?

5. If you require EDI for load tendering, shipment status, delivery notification, billing and/or remittance, make sure your carrier can support those needs.

6. Look for excellent billing control. It is important that the core carriers you select have quality billing processes because billing errors can be costly. Furthermore, make sure that the carriers will be able to provide you with the supporting documentation you require.

7. Flexibility is a must. Can your carriers respond quickly to any "special" requests that you may have? If your equipment requirements change, will your carriers be able to handle it? If your customers need special handling, can your carriers accommodate them, too?

8. Check their service area. Ensure that the carriers you select provide service to the areas that you ship to. If it is an interline service, you will want to scrutinize the interline carriers used to service these points just as you would your core carriers.

9. Look for cooperative solutions. Make sure that your core carriers share a common commitment to resolving your shipping problems and are willing to find joint solutions to these problems. Furthermore, your core carriers should be partners that will work with you to improve your own operation and reduce costs wherever possible. The issues that they are willing to address with you could cover a broad range of topics, including on-time pickup and delivery service, packaging issues, and appointments.

10. Don't just shop price. Don't fall into the trap of believing the lowest-cost carrier offers the best value. You'll find the best value by considering a combination of price and service quality. Consider the lowest landed cost, which includes extra charges for expected damage, reconciliation, and invoicing errors.

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