LOUISVILLE, Kentucky. Relationships, trust and communication are keys to becoming a Shipper of Choice, according to three shippers that spoke during a panel discussion at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Kentucky, on March 29, 2019.
The panel, moderated by Dan Lewis, CEO of Convoy, agreed that keeping lines of communication open is an important part to help shippers improve the experience for drivers.
“To us it boils down the simple fact that, in a tight market, is our freight going to be picked up by the carrier or driver,” John Reese, director of logistics and transportation for Truco Enterprises. “Shipper of Choice means a lot of different things to different [carriers].”
Truco counts Walmart among with its primary customers, with 50 percent of freight going to Walmart stores and another 30 percent heading to Sam’s Club locations. The remainder is grocery freight, including restaurants such as On the Border.
Reese said Truco has tried limit “awkward mileage” and keep its lengths of haul to around 350 miles.
“We use Convoy to get feedback from drivers and we’ve reviewed that and tried to improve conditions,” he said.
Karen Stetner, senior supply chain manager for Garick, a Midwest mulch shipper that counts Home Depot as a large customer, said that treating drivers with respect and building that trust is critical.
“How can we be a good partner with trucking companies to work with?” she asked. “We’ve had truck drivers working for us year after year, even though we are seasonable.”
Stetner said it also helps to have a customer, in this case Home Depot, willing to work with the shipper. Because mulch is such a seasonal product, getting enough freight capacity at the right time can be difficult. She said Home Depot worked with Garick to accept mulch shipments earlier which helped ensure product was in the store on time.
Reese turned back to the communication theme, noting that when times are tight, relationships are important, but the same reciprocity is important.
“When the market is tight, [carriers] will help you and when the market becomes loose, [as a shipper], you need to remember that and help them,” he said.
All three panelists said that sharing of information can improve the relationship.
“At Waiakea Springs, we are willing to share information with anyone who asks us,” Alex Alegria, director of supply chain and transportation, explained. “It’s very important for everyone to be transparent all the time.”
Reese noted that Truco’s best carriers are the ones willing to share key performance indicators (KPI) with the company.
“Our best carriers are the ones that provide us feedback,” he said. “We have KPIs, but there are very few carriers that have KPIs [on our service].”
Carrier views on things like ontime loading performance, late or early morning appointment times, too many multi-stops on a route, or even too much dwell time are important metrics to track. “Sometimes we don’t know that unless the carrier tells us,” Reese said.
“We like working with people who work with us,” Stetner added, noting that Garick prefers using owner-operators so they can deal directly with the driver. “We don’t like trucks in detention; we don’t like to pay out detention, but if we don’t know you are in detention, we can’t do anything about it.”
Several audience members expressed a desire for shippers to be more transparent about loads and expectations, and the panelists agreed, sticking with the theme of better communication.
Lewis summed up the entire conversation, by simply asking, “what can we do to make the experience better?”