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“However, over the last few months, carriers’ performance levels also have dropped due to resource reduction, which is a concern going forward as business increases,” observes one transportation executive with a manufacturer and a current NASSTRAC member. While this is a concern for some shippers, by and large carriers continue to strive to be the best they can be. What does it take for a carrier to be an optimum partner to shippers-even in the toughest business environment?
Shippers who are members of NASSTRAC have their opinions. They list six characteristics they look for in selecting their carrier partners: customer service, operational excellence, pricing, business relationship, leadership and technology.
Customer Service. Shippers continue to keep their supply chains streamlined, maintain optimum performance, and minimize their inventory levels. The transportation function is key to accomplishing this, yet carriers are faced with several challenges-including changing legislative requirements that continue to place burdens and pressures on them. For example, the hours of service rule is again being challenged by safety advocates, which will ultimately threaten over-the-road productivity, while a significant lack of infrastructure investments continues to create excessive traffic congestion in metro areas.
Operational Excellence. Many believe the biggest reason this is so important is that it’s both a source of competitive strength, and a generator of cost and cash benefits for high-performing carriers. In good times as well as bad, operational excellence offers carriers an opportunity to increase quality, reliability, flexibility, speed to market, and customer value.
Pricing. Some carriers say rates are stabilizing while several spot areas are reporting equipment shortages. Also, the spot market tends to be an indicator of what is going to happen in the contract market, and although carriers have contracts with shippers for mega-bid packages (not dedicated), the shipper does not guarantee traffic, and the carrier does not guarantee trucks. All they have negotiated is price. What will happen is that the spot market will be paying more for trucks, and the carrier is going to look at the shipper and say, “Sorry, we don’t have any trucks today.”
Business Relationship. Shippers say this is a key factor in who they do business with. Naturally, if the national account rep, and their team of operations and customer service reps, are responsive, effective, and easy to work with, this becomes a primary competitive advantage for the carrier.
Leadership and Technology. Carriers who play a lead role and are involved in industry associations such as NASSTRAC are likely to have a more solid reputation and higher levels of credibility in the marketplace. In addition, carriers who continue to invest in technology (such as TMS systems that can aid in transportation planning and decision-making, and load and route optimization) tend to win the bids of the most competitive RFPs by the shipper.
In fact, these various factors are so critical to shippers that NASSTRAC has used these criteria to identify the highest-performing carriers in its Carrier of the Year program for nearly a decade. Each year, NASSTRAC’s shipper members identify the highest-performing carriers using these criteria in the truckload, LTL, expedited, and parcel market segments.
NASSTRAC is pleased to announce the 2010 NASSTRAC Carrier of the Year Awards Program: Werner Enterprises in the National Truckload category; FedEx Services in the Parcel category; and Express-1 Expedited Solutions in the Expedited category. In LTL, the following are receiving awards: ABF Freight System in the National category; FedEx Freight in the Multi-Regional category; A. Duie Pyle in the Regional-Northeast category; AAA Cooper in the Regional-Southeast category; Dayton Freight Lines in the Regional-Midwest category; and Dependable Highway Express in the Regional-West category. Recipients of the award will be recognized at the 2010 NASSTRAC Logistics Conference & Expo taking place in late April in Orlando, Florida. wt
Brian Everett is the executive director of NASSTRAC. For more information or to join this association, visit www.NASSTRAC.org.