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Check Call: Another RFP, woo

Vaccinations cause border woes | Thomas the train engine

Check Call the Show. News and Analysis for 3PLs and Freight Brokers.

Episodes of Check Call the podcast come out every Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. EST on FreightWavesTV.

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Hot Take

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One thing everyone loves to hate but we can never get rid of is the good ole request for proposal. Who doesn’t love sifting through endless rows of data, wondering where to even begin to understand what is wanted as a response? There can be half a dozen attachments to an email hardly explaining anything — or worse, a two-sentence email with a massive Excel data sheet attached asking, “Can you quote me on the few lanes attached?”

It seems like everyone has the newest tools to make RFPs easier, but there is no consistency from one RFP to another, even when it’s put out by the same company. LOA, never heard of her. Surely carriers don’t need that to know the customer is totally fine with us taking it out to bid. 

Everyone has developed a reputation for their bids, good or bad. Pricing analysts will start to cringe or rejoice when they see you with another RFP. If you’re sending over just an Excel sheet of lanes and less than a paragraph worth of information, it better be a one-off project for an existing carrier and customer partnership or stop what you’re doing immediately. It’s not cute. 


Good RFPs are a lot of work to compile. You have to get all the information from the customer or a salesperson who “doesn’t want to bother the customer.” Bothering a customer? To that I say no. The customer is paying you to perform a service; not bothering the customer would be like telling a landscaper to take care of your yard, but he or she doesn’t mow near the house so as not to “bother you.” That lack of communication and performing the baseline expectations is a breeding ground for customers to become unsatisfied and take their business elsewhere. 

To get your customers the best pricing, you have to know as much as you can ahead of time. There will always be unpredictable things that come up and ruffle feathers, but if you can mitigate the amount of times that happens, then that’s happier for everyone. A good account is one that you don’t have to deal with massive issues on the regular. 

Give prospective carriers an overview of your company, your customer, the profile of the freight, shipping locations, receiving and shipping times, and everything else you would need to successfully come in and pick up a load if you haven’t done it before. Getting the amount of liftgate deliveries, driver unload, etc. out of the way early helps carriers know what they should be pricing the shipments at. It’s an information game and don’t be the stingy one. It’s 2022, it’s time for the end of bad RFPs.

Quick Hits

Image: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

It’s official, the U.S. is only allowing fully vaccinated drivers to cross the border from both Canada and Mexico. Canada implemented a similar rule for U.S. cross-border drivers at the beginning of January. The enforcement of this policy is expected to increase cross-border rates and clench a market that we all thought couldn’t get much more strained, as 75% of the cross-border drivers are Canadian.

Depending on who you talk to, some companies are saying this mandate hasn’t overly affected business, while others are saying they’re going to lose a third of their business. Before the mandate took effect, there was a sizable uptick in drivers getting vaccinated. Many drivers were stopping in the U.S. to get the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and some are only expected to lose a small percentage of drivers. 

Don’t expect to see a decrease in cross-border rates anytime soon and prepare customers for higher rates and higher delays. 

Image: memesmonkey.com

As more and more shippers are exploring alternative modes of transportation to ship their goods, many are remembering the good ole days of rail. Intermodal has always been the red-headed stepchild of freight. It’s slow and carries a whole other set of issues and logistical hurdles. Maybe not for much longer. 

Union Pacific, one of the largest U.S. railroad providers, has announced its plan to beef up intermodal infrastructure in California and the Midwest. It is expanding its Twin Cities terminal to a full-fledged terminal instead of the “pop-up site” it has been. The rail infrastructure has long been something that needs a little bit of TLC and a second chance to be a cost-saving measure to shippers in ridiculously tight capacity markets. 

Market Check

SONAR Ticker: ORAIL.USA

What does rail look like for the entire U.S.? Glad you asked, cause we have the answers for you in SONAR (it’s not just for truckload rates). Rail historically sees dips in volumes around the holidays and then returns to average volumes, and this year is no exception. Rail volumes so far for the second half of 2021 and the beginning of 2022 are lower than previous years. Take this opportunity to work with shippers that are looking to reduce some transportation costs and encourage them to put some of their non-time-sensitive loads on the rail. 

How’d the lemonade stand do?

“Q4 ended with a bang” and “we had a record year” sentiments echoed throughout 3PLs, brokerages and carriers alike. As we head into the Q4 earning season, we can expect to hear phrases like that on just about every call. 

We’ve already seen it with J.B. Hunt, Heartland Express and P.A.M. Transportation, the first to release their quarterly earnings. 

J.B. Hunt raked in $3.5 billion of consolidated revenue and an earnings per share of $2.28 and is reevaluating its pay scales throughout the organization to ensure it can attract and retain top talent.  

P.A.M. Transportation reported an adjusted earnings per share of $2.85 Wednesday. Its truckload revenue came in at $150 million and the logistics segment brought in $64 million. 

Heartland Express boasted earnings per share of $1, offsetting cost inflation by pricing and gains for a revenue of $148 million. 

The more you know

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Mary O'Connell

Former pricing analyst, supply chain planner, and broker/dispatcher turned creator of the newsletter and podcast Check Call. Which gives insights into the world around 3PLs and Freight brokers. She will talk your ear off about anything and everything if you let her. Expertise in operations, LTL pricing and procurement, flatbed operations, dry van, tracking and tracing, reality tv shows and how to turn a stranger into your new best friend.