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Shipper group NASSTRAC crafts guidelines to be a `shipper of choice’

 Are shippers of choice dead ahead? (Photo:Shutterstock)
Are shippers of choice dead ahead? (Photo:Shutterstock)

A leading shipper group and its parent organization said today they have launched a program to codify for shippers the characteristics that make up a carrier’s “shipper of choice.”

The term, which has been on many lips and in many speeches since tightening truck capacity made carriers more selective regarding the companies they haul for, has been the subject of endless definitions. The objective of the “strategic shipper” program, launched by the National Strategic Shippers Transportation Council (NASSTRAC), a unit of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP), is to offer shippers a “clear and direct path to attaining the often talked about [but less often acted upon]`Shipper of Choice’ distinction,” the groups said on March 29.

Shippers will voluntarily agree to sign a one-page code of conduct that will govern their carrier and driver relationships. The initiative will also include a user guide designed to provide a roadmap for ways shippers can improve their carrier-driver relationships. The goal, according to NASSTRAC Executive Director Gail Rutkowski, is to show carriers which shippers are committed to operating with integrity and transparency. “I like to think of it as the `Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval’ for freight, she said today in an interview.

The program’s primary goal is to support continuous improvement of shipper/carrier relationships, NASSTRAC said. A corollary objective is to have shippers self-regulate their facility dwell times in order to minimize driver detention and avoid federal government intervention to resolve the problem. According to a recent FreightWaves report, incidents of driver detention are again on the rise after a period of relative stability.

The code and the user guide were created by a group that included truckload carrier Werner Enterprises, Inc.; less-than-truckload (LTL) carrier YRC Worldwide, Inc.; the broker trade group Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA); consultancy TranzAct Technologies, Inc.; and shippers NCH Corp. and Sanmar Corp. Sanmar and Lifeway Christian Resources were the first shippers to sign up for the program.

The U.S. truckload industry has experienced extreme volatility over the past 18 months starting in the fall of 2017, when concerns over compliance with the federal government’s electronic logging device (ELD) mandate took center stage. The period is not simply part of a cyclical trend that will reverse itself, Rutkowski said. Instead, it is secular and will require structural change in how the truckload supply chain works, she said.

Much of the information in the user guide is basic transportation blocking-and-tackling and contains “common sense,” suggestions, Rutkowski said. Most, if not all, of the guidelines should be second nature to shippers, she said. However, second nature behavior goes out the window when a driver waits for hours to be loaded at a shipper’s dock, or to be unloaded at a grocery distribution center. “Sometimes common sense isn’t so common,” she said.

Though a unit of CSCMP, NASSTRAC has retained its logo, its organizational structure, its advocacy functions, and other features it held while as an independent organization.

Mark Solomon

Formerly the Executive Editor at DC Velocity, Mark Solomon joined FreightWaves as Managing Editor of Freight Markets. Solomon began his journalistic career in 1982 at Traffic World magazine, ran his own public relations firm (Media Based Solutions) from 1994 to 2008, and has been at DC Velocity since then. Over the course of his career, Solomon has covered nearly the whole gamut of the transportation and logistics industry, including trucking, railroads, maritime, 3PLs, and regulatory issues. Solomon witnessed and narrated the rise of Amazon and XPO Logistics and the shift of the U.S. Postal Service from a mail-focused service to parcel, as well as the exponential, e-commerce-driven growth of warehouse square footage and omnichannel fulfillment.