Everyone remembers the collective groan the emanates from the class when the teacher starts pairing people off to complete an assignment. The whole class simultaneously glances at the one person in class they definitely don’t want to work with. Let’s call him Greg – he’s never on time, he always has an excuse and he is, more often than not, going to damage the project in some way, creating more work for everyone. Bad carriers are just like Greg; while the rest of the class are shippers just trying to complete the project on time and in one piece. As a shipper, it’s critical to your freight, your reputation and your bottom line to know when you have a bad carrier and when to get rid of them as soon as possible. Luckily, there are five tell-tale signs that it’s time to switch carriers.
From a shipper standpoint, a carrier showing up on time for their pickup/delivery appointment should be a given. Yet bad carriers will consistently miss their appointments for a plethora of unacceptable reasons. There are acceptable reasons for a carrier to miss an appointment, and every carrier is going to miss an appointment or two now and then. What determines a good carrier from a bad carrier, however, is the frequency with which they miss appointments, the manner with which they alert the shipper to the delay, their communication regarding the trucks ETA, and the options that they provide the shipper in order to recover and deliver the freight as close to the original delivery date as possible.
A good carrier will alert the shipper to the delay, provide the shipper with the location of the truck and its latest ETA, as well as provide a reason for the delay; OS&D, Driver Illness, Weather, etc. They will then provide a list of all the options that are available to the shipper in order to deliver the freight as soon as logistically possible. A bad carrier will do none of these things and will continue to operate consistently behind schedule until the issue is directly addressed to them by the shipper. A good carrier will identify that they are struggling with on-time pickups/deliveries on a given lane and address this issue internally and with the shipper in order to offer the best service and communication they can provide.
Excuses are as prevalent in the transportation industry as they are in any other industry, and they all stink as bad as a trailer full of livestock. A shipper can determine a bad carrier from a good one based simply on the excuses they offer as justification for their poor service or terrible rates. A bad carrier always has an excuse for why the truck is late or didn’t pick up/deliver entirely. No matter the time of year, there is always something that can delay a truck, and shippers have heard every excuse there is. Good carriers, however, will alert the shipper to the issue and provide solutions rather than same rinse and repeat excuses.
It should go without saying that a good carrier delivers loads on time, but more importantly, in one piece. Claims are, quite simply, ridiculously messy, potentially dangerous, legally confusing, super expensive, and bad carriers are consistently involved in them.
Legitimate claims do happen and most shippers have a specific process for dealing with them. However, bad carriers are typically involved in more claims than good carriers, and the reason is simple. Good carriers care about the integrity of the freight they deliver. Bad carriers simply want to get the freight off their truck and get paid as soon as humanly possible. Bad carriers drive recklessly and faster than is necessary in order to deliver the load and get reloaded as fast as possible. Bad carriers push their equipment harder and take poorer care of their assets than good carriers, and because of this they are, more often than not, involved in more accidents, unexpected stops, load shifts, and breakdowns than good carriers.
The transportation industry can be described as fluid at best. Whether transportation and logistics issues are going to happen in this industry isn’t a matter of “if”, rather than “when,” which is exactly why excellent shipper-carrier communication is critical. The greatest carriers on the market run into issues on a daily basis, some that affect entire logistics networks and even the availability of certain consumer products. The difference between a good carrier and a bad carrier is how well they communicate these issues with shippers.
The polar vortex of 2014 stuck the city of Chicago hard enough to temporarily cripple the nation’s largest and busiest intermodal hub. Nearly every carrier in the region was hampered by record-breaking cold and incredible amounts of snow. Millions of pounds of freight were stuck, buried or lost in the confusion that followed. In this situation, the good carriers were evident when compared to the bad.
Good carriers alerted their shippers to the numerous lengthy delays and provide updates to shippers as they were made available. Good carriers provided alternate delivery options in order to recover freight that was stuck at rail yards and warehouses across the Midwest. They made themselves available and broadened their communication to alert their client base as to not only updates to the whereabouts of their freight, but also to the availability of their capacity and their ability to assist shippers whenever possible. Bad carriers simply left shippers in the cold (pun intended) wondering about the status and integrity of their freight.
A good carrier will quote their service to a shipper and, once said quote is agreed upon by the shipper, will honor that rate for the agreed period of time, regardless of market shifts or loss of capacity. Poor carriers, when faced with a market shift or loss in capacity, will provide excuse after poorly-thought-out excuse as to why they need to charge the shipper more than what was previously quoted for their capacity. Good carriers stick to their word and honor the rates they provided, even when that rate will potentially result in a loss of revenue to the carrier. Such a loss is an oversight of the carriers’ pricing team and not that of the shippers’.
Freight markets and the availability of carrier capacity are tighter than ever before and finding the right carrier can be a lengthy and arduous process. Driver shortages and an overabundance of freight have shifted supply & demand firmly into the hands of the carriers. Regardless of the current freight market conditions, no shipper should have to settle for poor service from bad carriers, but luckily your shipping team can now identify the good from the bad and the bad from the truly terrible.
If you’re concerned about any of the issues above, it might be time to reassess your carrier network. We here at LTX help our customers not only renegotiate rates, but track carrier’s on-time percentage, damages, and customer service on a continual basis. Reach out to us today to learn how we can help!