The domestic transportation market continues to show signs of leveling.
Rates have fallen steadily over the past several months and tender rejections are down nationwide. These shifts are sparking optimism for many shippers as they begin to build out annual transportation budgets.
With peak holiday season around the corner and the threat of a freight recession looming, however, it may be wise for shippers to approach the changing market with caution. Companies can take proactive measures — including creating flexible pricing structures and digging into data — during the planning stage in order to protect themselves throughout the entire year.
As shippers look ahead during budget-planning meetings, they should create contingencies to adjust rates on a quarterly basis.
“Assume pricing at the time you’d run an annual bid,” said Tyler Jokerst, director of logistics and freight sourcing for ND Paper. “When engaging carriers quarterly for pricing updates, any company can assume a 10% upward or downward variance from your plan by the end of your fiscal year. The idea is to act swiftly and use any market indicators to be proactive. As a shipper, act as a broker and anticipate any seasonal or holiday changes, adding in the other layer of market challenge.”
In order to be proactive in both the planning stage and throughout the year, shippers need access to accurate, digestible and up-to-date data.
“So many shippers limit themselves to pulling ad-hoc Excel sheets in the moment of a downslide,” Jokerst said. “This creates a reactionary mindset. Looking into some indicators to anticipate change can make all the difference when trying to be proactive in this volatile market.”
There are a myriad of different companies — including Emerge — that allow companies to see and analyze the different types of industrywide and company-specific data they need to succeed. Jokerst recommends approaching this data from the high level then drilling into the specific details that can cause rates to rise.
“Having that data easily available can enable you to make real-time decisions based on the trajectory of your freight’s financial performance,” Jokerst said. “No one industry or market is the same, and understanding your network through data is your best plan of attack.”
Despite a shipper’s best efforts to write up — and revisit — an ironclad contract, it will almost certainly find itself engaging in the spot market at some point. Emerge has created tools to help shippers navigate the spot market while saving time and maximizing profits.
“Depending on what industry you’re in, the spot market isn’t somewhere you want to live,” Jorkerst said. “When you do, Emerge’s application is easily adaptable to any network and most carriers are familiar with the application today. Prior to tools like this, we had to rely on getting emails out to carriers or calling them one at a time. Those minutes add up within a day. You don’t get to all carriers. You don’t get the best rate, and you miss many opportunities to grow with other carriers that may be smaller within your network.”
With Emerge, shippers can engage in the spot market without cluttering up their inboxes. The platform, which can be integrated via an application programming interface, allows shippers to award loads to carriers of all sizes at a competitive rate. Additionally, it provides analytics that shows how a company is performing against the spot market.
“If you’re falling into that spot market situation often, it can also show that tender rejections are up, and by using this spot market, you’re within a competitive environment to have carriers compete for that spot freight, enabling some level of control for the unknown,” Jokerst said.