Carriers have enjoyed over two years of tight capacity and inflated rates but slowing volumes and widespread predictions of a possible freight recession has inspired many companies to be proactive in preparing for what may lie ahead.
When anticipating market downturns, carriers often focus on cutting expenses. While this can be a strong tactic, it would be a mistake to overlook the other, “softer” factors that go into helping a company thrive – including customer relationships, network optimization and driver experience. Carriers who hone in on these areas ahead of a serious downturn can set themselves apart from their competitors early, increasing their chances of success regardless of market conditions.
“Carriers can lean into their relationships,” Kingsgate Logistics SVP Tom Curee said. “They should be taking advantage of the opportunity to spend time engaging with their customer base, and they should understand where opportunities may exist for their own network.”
Opportunities have been plentiful over the past couple of years. Having a buffet of choices may have led carriers to be less discerning about how well each option fit their network. As pickings become slimmer, carriers will benefit from ensuring that their current partnerships are beneficial for both parties.
“Downturns can be a great opportunity to make some strategic decisions about their freight network,” Curee said. “These times will often reveal lanes that don’t fit well once the dust has settled in the market.”
It’s not just about building relationships with shippers and streamlining networks, though. Drivers are the backbone of the trucking industry, and carriers aiming to stay afloat through the next recession should dedicate time and effort to ensuring their drivers are having a good experience.
“The driver experience directly impacts carrier performance,” Curee said. “Being able to ensure drivers are getting access to what they need to perform their role in the supply chain and feel rewarded for doing so is going to help improve their experience.”
Driver turnover is expensive, and turning carriers cannot afford to keep turning over virtually their entire workforces on a yearly basis if they hope to bolster their bottom lines.
There are several ways to mitigate driver turnover, from opt-discussed options like increased pay and better benefits to more creative strategies like maintained equipment and on-read preparedness.
Driver satisfaction does not stop with carriers. In fact, brokers play a role in a driver’s day-to-day experience. This is one more reason for carriers to assess their partnerships critically at this time.
Trucker Tools is a well-known name in the industry thanks to its visibility and automated booking features, but the company also boasts an innovative driver loyalty program. The program allows brokers to set reward levels for different driver behaviors. From there, drivers earn points by performing the specified actions. These points can then be redeemed for gift cards at major retailers nationwide.
“Brokers have the opportunity to either aid in driver satisfaction or degrade their experience,” Curee said. “Finding opportunities to recognize and reward key partners is a great way to bring value to the industry’s need to keep driver satisfaction high.”
Ultimately, keeping drivers happy is a team effort that helps everyone across the industry get loads moved quickly and efficiently.