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Carriers seeking stronger ties with reps while embracing digital future

Freight being booked more often digitally, but reps remain essential

Image: Echo Global Logistics

The emergence of digital freight technology has largely been met with open arms by carriers, intrigued by the thought of simpler ways to book and manage loads. 

For dispatchers especially, the opportunity cost that enhanced freight visibility, among other upgrades, presents is too great to pass up. 

Echo Global Logistics’ annual carrier satisfaction survey shows digital load booking and management is gaining steam.

The survey found that carriers are booking a large percentage of their loads by digital means. The percentage of respondents that find 51% or more of their freight digitally is 33%, up from 29% last year. Percentages only slightly decreased for those that book 26% to 50% and 16% to 25% of their freight digitally, down 4.9% and 2.2%, respectively.

Nonetheless, more and more carriers are going digital. But as technology adoption becomes more mainstream, the survey shows that carriers aren’t quite ready to lose the human element entirely.

When selecting a third-party logistics partner or broker, respondents didn’t list competitive pricing, speediness of payment or even claims handling as their biggest concerns. Instead, responsiveness of the rep, positivity of the relationship and problem resolution were viewed as most important. 

Echo Chief Information Officer Zach Jecklin interprets the results to mean carriers are continuing to adopt digital technology but may still want assurance that an expert is just a phone call away.

“More carriers are using third-party brokerage apps or online portals to find and book freight than ever before,” Jecklin said. “But at the same time, eliminating the rep entirely would strike fear in carriers because they want to know that they can count on somebody to solve their problems.”

Echo distinguishes itself as a technology provider known even more for its relationships. According to Jecklin, carriers in the company’s network each have dedicated reps that gain an understanding of their needs. 

“Carriers want as much simplicity and technology as they can get, until something goes wrong,” Jecklin said. “Then they want to be sure that they have a relationship with someone they can count on to help solve the problem.”

When it comes to problem solving and automation, Jecklin notes that Echo is ready to connect with carriers in any way that best suits its needs.

“Echo has an app for owner-operators,” said Jecklin, explaining how their needs differ greatly to that of a larger carrier. “We have online portals for dispatchers that manage small to midsize fleets. We also have EDI [electronic data interface] and API [application programming interface] integrations for the bigger players. We want to make sure that we’re coming to the table with all available options, not demanding a carrier to use one or the other.”

Many challenges face carriers today, such as recruiting and retention, rising fuel costs and equipment shortages. But addressing these problems often has to yield to internal issues. Carriers with Echo, however, see their day-to-day operational struggles removed from their plate, allowing them to focus on more strategic activities.

“We utilize technology to create as much simplicity for our shippers and carriers as we possibly can,” Jecklin said. “But at the same time, we know that it’s not one or the other [technology or relationships]. It has to be both.”

Click for more FreightWaves content by Jack Glenn.

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Jack Glenn

Jack Glenn is a sponsored content writer for FreightWaves and lives in Chattanooga, TN with his golden retriever, Beau. He is a graduate of the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business.