Valuing driver time at the warehouse is a priority that doesn’t change at American Foods Group (AFG) no matter if it’s the carrier or the shipper that has leverage at the negotiating table.
By instilling that philosophy from its headquarters in Green Bay, Wisconsin to its various subsidiaries around the United States, the country’s fifth-largest beef processing company was able to secure a spot among FreightWaves’ top 25 “Shipper of Choice” winners.
“Carriers talk about that all the time – shippers seem to value them when capacity it tight, but not so much when they decide to bid twice in one year when the market is in their favor,” Scott Willert, president of America’s Logistics, AFG’s transportation arm, told FreightWaves. “We think that if you’re truly going to be a shipper of choice it has to be for the long-term.”
The Shipper of Choice award, conducted in partnership with Convoy, recognizes manufacturers, distributors and retailers that do the best job of fighting driver detention, providing accessible facilities and understanding what it takes to remove efficiencies from the supply chain.
Carrier-members of the Truckload Carriers Association and the Blockchain in Transport Alliance voted on the nominees over several weeks earlier this year, and the winners were announced at FreightWaves’ Transparency19 conference in Atlanta on May 8, 2019.
Willert, who also serves as president of America’s Service Line, AFG’s private fleet of over 400 refrigerated trailers and 250 tractors, explained that most of the company’s contract carriers have long-standing relationships with AFG and its subsidiaries. A big reason why – AFG is always cognizant of drivers’ time.
“We try to focus on getting them out of our locations as fast as possible,” Willert said. “Also, if they experience delays at one of our customers’ locations, we encourage them to alert us so that we can contact that customer and see if there’s anything that can be done on our end to get them out more quickly. We want drivers to be asking their company to serve our loads because they know we’re going to treat them well.”
Driver appreciation – and awareness of their time spent at the warehouse – is an ongoing source of pride at King’s Command Foods, a retail distribution subsidiary of AFG. To make sure that happens, Tom Butler, the warehouse manager at King’s Command’s distribution center near Seattle, Washington, arranges the packing of loads so that they’re prepared for drivers ahead of time to get time-sensitive packages of beef, chicken and pork to destinations throughout the country.
“We have our orders picked the day before – wrapped, checked off and ready to go,” Butler told FreightWaves, “so that when a driver pulls in, I don’t care if it’s as small as 20 pounds going on his truck, he’s in and out of here in no more than 40 minutes. We’re probably about 99 percent successful.”
With the effects of drivers detained at customer facilities well-documented in both safety and cost statistics – a government report found it can reduce driver annual earnings by more than $1,500 – the attention that Butler pays to his drivers is that much more appreciated.
“A lot of people look down on a driver, but they’re just a person trying to do their job. So we try to do our job, which includes making them feel comfortable and happy to serve us.”