It can be challenging to find a quality truckload carrier, but having trusted partners is a pivotal part of every shipper’s logistics operation. You must choose well as their ability to get the job done directly affects your company’s service to customers and your profitability – two crucial things.
By extension, vetting carriers before you work with them becomes very important, too. A shipping operation is only as successful as it’s carrier partners. One of the issues businesses struggle with the most is understanding what to ask carriers, especially when it comes to the technology they use. It’s essential to ask the right questions because the answers you get are necessary for making informed carrier choices.
Like many others, the shipping industry is seeing constant changes in trending technology. And, progressive companies are looking for new logistics systems that can help them reduce costs and address rising consumer expectations as well as position them to manage increasing industry demands. Whether a carrier is using real-time track and trace technology, transportation management systems, or other automated processes, shippers need to make sure their carriers have the right technology to perform at the level their transportation operation needs.
Every carrier is different, which makes asking the right questions the best way to understand how a potential new carrier partner operates and how their practices will align with your shipping operation. At the same time, if you want to check in with your current carriers and more accurately measure how they’re meeting your delivery needs, you’ll also have to understand what to ask.
So, which questions deserve your focus? Here are five valuable questions shippers should ask carriers about their technology as well as the answers they should look out for to get the best service possible.
1. What kind of technology are you using?
It’s important to know what your carrier is using to manage their end-to-end transportation processes. For instance, are they leveraging tools like a TMS? For carrier operations, this technology helps manage their dispatch function, as well as other parts of their driver and fleet operations.
The operating efficiency of your carrier partners matters to you as a shipper, too. With the right systems, carriers can have more control over the data that’s necessary to develop plans and produce measurable results that help companies like yours to continue to improve. Platforms like a TMS can reduce empty miles and driver turnover, which ultimately help carriers give you better service.
2. Does your technology comply with current industry regulations?
While the topic of electronic logging devices, or ELDs, isn’t quite as present in the headlines today as it once was, it’s still something carriers need to make sure they’re carefully following. Every truck needs to be outfitted with the proper ELD technology to maintain legal logs. ELDs drive efficiency for the carrier’s operation, while also helping companies keep track of their trucks and provide real-time data that allows them to make the best decisions for you and their drivers.
Not only do ELDs increase safety and compliance, but they also reduce operating costs and enhance carrier service levels. They can further clarify the circumstances surrounding accidents, monitor driver performance in real-time, help with training, oversee HOS, and better manage fuel consumption in addition to providing shippers with significant real-time data.
3. How are you handling the rising concern of lawsuits and legal liability?
Many people in the industry today are aware of the threat of nuclear verdicts and the negative effect they’re having on increasing insurance rates. This concern is starting to spread throughout the supply chain toward shippers as well, so companies must cover all of their bases when it comes to legal liability.
For new and existing carrier partners, it is necessary to specify if they’re leveraging technology for recording and correcting any potential risky driving habits. This preventive measure can help produce safer and more efficient drivers as well as protect businesses from wrongful blame. From fraudulent claims and collision prevention to brand protection, modern technology can help everyone involved avoid unnecessary fines.
4. Do you leverage tracking technology?
Beyond monitoring driver performance, your carriers should be keeping up with the location of their equipment. Advanced tracking technology devices can instantly identify where a vehicle is at and wirelessly transmit vital information such as drop and hook event times as well as movement status.
Some tracking devices are even capable of recording more granular data points, such as the efficiency of refrigeration units and tire pressure data, among many other useful metrics. Carriers with the best tracking solutions can better manage trailer detention and leverage the information for improved maintenance efforts.
Not to be lost is the fact that asset management helps carriers control costs and offer shippers better rates as a result. Shippers who work with carriers that can provide them with real-time tracking data won’t have to worry as much about their freight because they’ll already have an up-to-date understanding.
Tracking technology like sensors and asset tags introduces more flexibility within the supply chain to help support long-term growth for companies. Asking this question will help you know whether or not your carrier can offer optimized operations, in-transit visibility, remote monitoring, and more trailer security.
5. Is your current technology maximizing collaboration efforts?
Collaboration in a transportation operation is vital for success. The industry has been moving toward building better relationships between logistics partners because transparent supply chain processes establish more trust and drive efficiency. With these qualities supporting your business, you can give as well as receive quality service.
The shipper and carrier relationship-dynamic shouldn’t be about mistrust and finding the lowest possible rate every single time. The benefits of working together have value beyond rates. Data exchange made possible by technology is a crucial part of a collaboration.
Features like load visibility or cost and operating optimization all come out of data and a shipper’s ability to connect with their carriers. Real-time data tools, such as APIs and ELDs, integrated with logistics management systems, like a TMS, are the best currently available technology the industry has for driving more efficiency. These are the instruments that will help carriers improve service for their customers and keep rates low.
Shippers also want carriers who hold themselves accountable for industry regulations and legal liability. It’s critical to work with a logistics partner who has the technology in place to record and assess what happens on a day-to-day basis accurately. Don’t wait until after an accident to verify if your carrier has the necessary technology in place to meet legal and safety standards.
What technology a carrier uses and how they leverage the information it produces help carriers provide the best service. As a shipper, it’s your challenge to identify carriers with these capabilities and ensure you are getting the most out of them, together.