Developing robust relationships with your LTL carriers can be challenging, but it’s essential to establishing well-defined expectations. Almost 2 decades ago when Cerasis started out, before we ever completed our first version of our web-based transportation management system, the Cerasis Rater, before we ever first offered our now robust managed transportation services, we knew we had to go about building relationships with several carriers. We knew this because one of our unique selling propositions are making it easier to have LTL rates, negotiated expertly by our carrier relations team, serve up from several different LTL carriers, allowing the shipper to have full control and choose what best fits their freight.
After 16 years of building and maintaining great LTL carrier relationships with several over our carrier partners, we also have seen many capacity crunch times over the years, had to deal with thousands of freight claims, and worked with carriers on millions of shipments. It is in these powerful relationships where we have been able to thrive as a company and are a highly regarded third-party logistics partner by some of the biggest carriers in the business.
We are passionate about our relationships with carriers and drivers because we know that without them our business wouldn’t exist and our shippers’ freight wouldn’t reach its destination!
So, it is with that expertise we share with you in today’s post 5 best practices to develop strategic and stronger relationships with your less-than-truckload carriers so that you too may sustain and scale as you build your business. A disclaimer however, if you are not in it for the long term or feel you don’t have the resources to build the relationships you need to build effectively, reach out to one of our Account Executives for a consultation today so we may help solve the need you may have by us working with carriers on your behalf.
5 Best Practices to Start Building Long Term Effective Relationships with LTL Carriers (and all Carriers for that matter!)
Capacity crunches, like the one we are seeing at present (and expected to get worse in the next few years) and other carrier-related service issues, like freight claims or accounting variances on freight invoices, will inevitably occur, so you and your less-than-truckload carriers and other carriers must work together to sustain a mutually beneficial relationship when times get tough.
The following best practices can help you maximize value and build sustainable long term relationships with not only less-than-truckload carriers but carriers of all types:
#1. Establish trust and credibility with LTL carriers
This will not happen overnight, nor will it happen with all LTL carriers and service providers. The key is to identify and align yourself with carriers whose cultural values closely match those of your organization. You can then reinforce these relationships through reliable volumes, open communication, and opportunity development.
#2. Communicate specific expectations
Conveying your strategic requirements to the carrier’s executive leadership and operations team will develop a collaborative atmosphere. Less-than-truckload carriers often respond favorably and will build unique service offerings for valued shippers or share solutions they have developed with other clients.
The carrier should know what you consider a service failure or outstanding performance, as well as the respective penalty and reward. It is no longer enough to enforce service performance with punitive measures and a paycheck. You can set your company apart with a set of unique, credible benefits and rewards for excellent performance.
#4. Measure service parameters through agreed-upon metrics
Using a standardized scorecard for LTL carriers helps align their goals with your requirements such as on-time delivery/pickup, freight invoice accuracy, and order automation statistics. In addition, obtaining feedback on how carriers feel about their relationships and opportunities with your company can uncover areas where you can become more efficient and drive a higher level of customer service.
#5. Create opportunities that maximize carrier networks while minimizing supply chain costs
The relationship between a carrier and shipper is about more than service expectations, capacity, and rates. It is also about maximizing the carrier’s network value and efficiencies.
Third-party logistics providers, like Cerasis, traditionally have a more complete transportation network that both carriers and shippers can utilize to drive operational efficiencies. Working together to understand how their collective behavior impacts the supply chain will reduce the cost of landed goods, enhance service, improve the carrier’s margins, and often improve your overall rate structure.
A Focus on Long Term Relationships with Less-than-Truckload Carriers Begets Lasting Results
The nature of business relationships does not always allow a win-win, but creating an atmosphere where everyone obtains something of value can evolve into a lasting business alliance.
If the various representatives from LTL Carriers, shippers, and 3PLs can develop a non-adversarial relationship during critical or challenging interactions, they enhance trust and allow more opportunities to present themselves, advancing positive outcomes for all parties.
This give-and-take is no different from any other type of lasting relationship. Strong relationships survive the good times and the bad, and continuously improve through transparency, sincerity, and direct and open interaction. In fact, it is so vital at Cerasis to have long term good sustainable relationships, it’s part of our logistics philosophy and approach as well as a core value.
Instilling these values as a core component of the shipper-carrier relationship can result in a unique alliance built on integrity and a commitment to successfully serving mutual customers.
Sound shipper-carrier relationships establish an understanding of what both parties want to achieve. Knowing how to effectively work with your LTL carriers, and realizing the impact of what each of you wishes to achieve, will help deliver tangible and sustainable results.