How to Become a Shipper of Choice

For decades, the American transportation industry has battled to attract and retain drivers. From volatile freight volumes impacting available miles and pay to increasing regulations negatively impacting productivity to a changing workforce in which most do not aspire to embrace the lifestyle … there are many reasons. Shippers know that this long-term plague has a very real impact on load acceptance and costs.

The bottom line: Today’s drivers have choices, and loads that take too much time to pick up or drop off will be passed over for more appealing options. Every hour counts, and drivers want that time spent on the road earning their living.

Drivers Cannot be the Flexible Link in a Rigid Supply Chain

Maximizing driver time – every minute – not only moves a shipper’s freight more effectively, it also positions that shipper as more favorable to drivers. That position makes the acceptance of future loads easier and more efficient.

Driver shortage forecast

The Hours of Service rule permits no more than 13.5 consecutive on-duty hours within the “driving window” for drivers. While the amount of time may seem like more than enough to keep loads moving, there are many tasks that fall into the definition of on-duty:

  • Driving a truck
  • Loading or unloading a truck
  • Supervising or assisting in loading or unloading a truck
  • Inspecting or servicing a truck, including fueling it and washing it
  • Waiting to operate a truck at a shipper’s facilities
  • Waiting to provide or receive receipts for shipments loaded or unloaded

Many of these on-duty items can be made more efficient by the shipper, getting drivers on the road in a more timely fashion. In turn, they can use their on-duty hours to keep freight moving.

Widely Accepted Standard Shipping Practices Need to Evolve

“Normal” shipping practices must be redefined. For greater load coverage, shippers need to assess key areas of their supply chain to become a shipper of choice.

Not surprisingly, time at the dock and time at the gate are two big areas that can reduce a driver’s productivity. While time in traffic due to congestion and time spent due to mandatory breaks and inspections are beyond the shipper’s control, there are many elements that create a driver-friendly freight environment.

time at the dock and time at the gate

Shifts in these areas – some simple and some more involved – can make a difference in how carriers, intermodal providers and drivers view and ultimately select and price the freight.

How do Drivers Rate Your Locations?

Rate shipper locations

When asked, drivers can provide great insight into how shippers can achieve this soughtafter status. Carriers and shippers who value drivers are listening to the valuable feedback that these professionals share.

Schneider’s custom-built mobile driver app, Compass, has a feature to rate shipper locations and the experience (e.g., employee helpfulness, state of the facility and amenities available to drivers) associated with pick-ups and deliveries. The Rate My Location feature captures over 4,000 reviews per month from Schneider drivers and the feedback is considered invaluable by shippers.

The data shared with shippers can raise awareness of delays, productivity problems and other issues. Schneider customers are diligent in seeking this data and leverage it to make improvements that create smoother future experiences for drivers.

Make Your Freight More Attractive to Become A Shipper of Choice

  • Provide driver amenities. Providing restrooms, break areas or parking for drivers can make a location more desirable. Treating drivers with respect and as trained professionals will also improve work environments. Tools like Schneider’s Rate My Location app provide helpful feedback on these aspects of a shipper’s facility.
  • On-time payment. This is most often the number one request for becoming a preferred shipper. Although there may be other factors preventing immediate payment to carriers, shippers should ensure that they are making payments within the agreed upon timing with the carrier.
  • Open pick-up and delivery times.When shippers can have fl exible appointment times, it provides a greater pool of available drivers, often resulting in productivity gains for carriers and drivers. Appointment times exist in three ways:
    • At: An appointment with a specific time on a specific day
    • On: An appointment with only a date
    • By: A specific time and day delivery requirement that allows for early delivery
    Shippers who expand appointment time options to those that are “on” or “by” will increase the likelihood their freight will be accepted.
  • Weekend pick-up and delivery. If pick-up and delivery times are available daily – especially on weekends – shippers will be far more likely to have their loads covered. Although drivers are available on weekends, shippers may consider this dead time. Shifting operations to allow for weekend service increases capacity options.
  • Drop and hook freight. Driver-friendly freight is drop and hook freight. If a shipper has the volume and facilities to support trailer/container pools, converting to drop and hook freight can increase “curb appeal” for drivers, making it easier to have your freight accepted.
  • Preloaded containers. As with drop and hook, preloaded containers keep drivers moving. Live load and unload require a lengthier stay for the driver and, ultimately, more difficulty in scheduling for the intermodal provider.
  • Efficient check-in and check-out processes. The moment a driver enters a shipper’s yard, there are opportunities to streamline the process to get them moving freight as quickly as possible. At-the-ready gate guards, clearly marked signage for both drivers and docking spots for the trailers, staged loads and prepared paperwork can all do their part to make a driver’s time on-site more efficient.
  • Create and share delivery requirements. Giving clear direction on facility and load requirements, and sharing that information will make deliveries easier on drivers. Sharing documents on or web links to all pertinent delivery information will allow for better communication and understanding between parties.
  • Forward visibility. Shippers who communicate early and often secure capacity faster. With 24 hours or more advance notice of a pick-up time, most carriers and intermodal providers will be far more likely to accept and move a shipper’s freight. Shippers who are able to accurately forecast anticipated surges and spikes with their carrier will also win. They may receive priority in capacity allocation over other shippers.
  • Avoid load changes. Frequent load changes, cancellations and short lead times can impact carrier planning significantly. Allowing carriers to suggest alternate pick-up or delivery times will free up capacity options.
  • Flatten the week. For intermodal shipping, the majority of activity takes place on Monday (deliveries) and Friday (pick-ups). With a 50 percent increase in volume movement from Wednesday to Friday, this large swing in activity can be costly for carriers and, ultimately, shippers. Shippers who can flatten the week – pushing pick-up or delivery to midweek instead of at either end – will secure more capacity and may realize cost savings.Shippers can flatten the week
  • Regional networks. Consistent time at home is high on the list for driver satisfaction. Shippers should take a fresh look at their supply chain network (or work with a carrier that can provide that expertise) to see if any freight patterns can be optimized for a more regional haul. Capacity frees up considerably with regional networks.
  • Consider alternate modes. Shippers should consider complementary capacity solutions to meet their supply chain needs. A multimodal provider can transcend the transportation complexities of various businesses. (Learn more in Schneider’s Keep Freight Moving Within Today’s Capacity Crunch white paper)

When a Driver is on the Clock, So is Everyone in the Supply Chain

Every hour counts when trying to keep freight moving. With a limited number of driving resources available, shippers must take a fresh look at their current supply chain practices to find areas for improvement.

Ever-evolving conditions will continue to tighten the capacity vise. When it comes to finding greater efficiencies to improve freight movement, we’re all in this together.

Published April 2018

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