Shipper — Best Practices
Whether a shipper is considering incorporating intermodal transportation into its supply chain for the first time or is already using intermodal, finding the right provider is important.
Whether a shipper is considering incorporating intermodal transportation into its supply chain for the first time or is already using intermodal, finding the right provider is more than half the battle. Yes, cost, capacity and service must be key considerations, but they’re not the only factors that spell success. One strategic element often overlooked in the selection process is whether they are an asset-based versus a non-asset-based provider.
Owned assets present reliability that is hard to come by from a non-asset-based provider, keeping day-to-day operations from being derailed. All benefits combined, the advantages asset-based providers offer can put a shipper’s business on the fast track:
Asset-based intermodal providers invest significantly in their own chassis, containers, tractors and drivers in order to provide safe and functioning equipment for shippers’ loads. Having owned assets provides more reliable service to shippers, and carriers have the ability to accommodate capacity surges more adeptly. This is because equipment is readily available and the provider doesn’t have to rely on shared pools. Providers also seek to source the safest and most innovative equipment on the market, and ensure the proper maintenance of that equipment, to maintain optimal condition and performance.
Innovative and well-maintained equipment means nothing if there’s not a strong driver base to move the loads. A provider with an available pool of drivers has more control over capacity.
When the U.S. experiences an extreme cold snap, the big chill can mean big problems for shippers. As experienced in the 2014 polar vortex, weather-related delays caused loads to sit, eliminating capacity and available assets for servicing containers. By investing in those assets, costly setbacks are minimized for shippers because containers can keep moving in and out of the intermodal terminal. Mother Nature unleashed her worst, and Schneider responded by fully investing in its own private chassis fleet, containers and company dray drivers. No matter the elements, Schneider can always weather the storm.
When owned, assets are configured to provide consistency and reliability regardless of the load. With the variability of different equipment eliminated, shippers can use the same weight calculation, weight distribution and loading configuration. Contrast that with providers who use a variety of assets. They have to assess the load, its setup, and the available box size and make the appropriate accommodations to get the load moving. If the available equipment doesn’t work for the load, and if the right equipment isn’t immediately accessible, this can delay the shipment and negatively impact the bottom line (or worse, put the shipper in an overweight situation).
When a shipper knows exactly what it is going to get, it can optimize that load and achieve more capacity, lowering the number of shipments needed and the costs for those shipments. With a non-asset-based provider’s equipment, the shipper typically does not ship to full capacity because it has to assume the worst-case scenario to avoid going overweight.
From the initial planning until the load has been delivered, all of the logistics of an asset-owned shipment are controlled under one roof. There’s visibility from start to finish, with a full team ready to manage unexpected needs. Non-asset-based providers frequently need to use multiple providers to accommodate a move, which can interfere with a shipper’s visibility into the load and reduce the effectiveness of the communication between shipper and provider. On top of that, asset-based intermodal providers work closely with the railroads to enhance opportunities for shippers.
This can include early access and priority loading, allowing shipments to be loaded and unloaded first. These benefits help keep cargo with a tight deadline on schedule and give customers an advantage when moving shipments via intermodal.
In today’s competitive market, using the right transportation provider is essential. Working with intermodal transportation providers with owned assets will help shippers gain reliable, predictable and even increased capacity from an end-to-end asset-based solution – keeping shipments moving and costs in check. To learn more about how Schneider Intermodal provides efficient, truck-like reliability that’s built around a shipper’s business, visit Schneider.com/our-services/intermodal.
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