Reefer capacity crunch? Becoming a shipper of choice is mission-critical

Story by

Jim Heide

Tags /

  • Business
  • Data
  • Risk
A photo of a truck with a blue cabin and white unit, driving through the countryside.

Reefer capacity is tight. In fact, DAT Freight & Analytics reported 13.85 refrigerated spot loads for every reefer truck on August 8th. And, of course, the holiday demand for freeze-protect freight will be here before you know it—and, again, capacity will be tight.

It doesn’t appear that demand will slow or capacity will increase, which is why shippers, just like you, will be wise to establish themselves as shippers of choice—ensuring that in a tight capacity environment, your loads get moved.

What does it take?

Embrace digitalization—and deliver driver and carrier-friendly service

Digitalization will create winners and losers in the transportation industry. Those who leave paper-heavy processes behind and gain granular, real-time visibility into their data will be best equipped to address the industry-wise pain points carriers face today.

Armed with this data, you can:

  • Deliver on your Net 30 agreements—outperforming the industry average 90 days
  • Approach your carriers with longer lead times when sourcing capacity
  • Reduce dwell times—keeping drivers’ wheels turning (e.g. making money), while also helping carriers retain their talent amid the driver shortage
  • Build added flexibility into your delivery dates, ensuring your carriers can operate as efficiently and profitably as possible

The way we see it, up-front investments in modern TMS systems, visibility platforms, and sophisticated data analytics should be viewed as a necessary investment in the future sustainability of your business.

Compensate carriers for their added risk

Oftentimes, shippers will mark “protect from freeze” on their bills of lading—essentially shifting responsibility for the load to the carrier. And, as severe winter weather events become our new reality, the sense that the risk is one-sided can give carriers pause.

It’s why paying up-front freeze-protect fees, as well as bumping the cents-per-mile for your temperature-sensitive loads is a good idea. Those extra funds ensure your carrier has the resources necessary to protect your valuable freight—and helps them justify the higher risk they’re accepting by tendering your load.

For example, one enterprise beverage shipper pays $125/load in freeze-protect fees on average, helping ensure that as capacity tightens, their loads get moved.

Ensure your organization treats drivers with respect

In our decades of trucking industry experience, one painful reality has been constant—the poor treatment drivers report at some shipper facilities.

Constrained by Hours-of-Service regulations and challenged by the severe truck parking shortage (which threatens driver safety), simply offering overnight parking when space is available can help drivers feel seen, validated, and appreciated. Likewise, offering restroom facilities and break rooms, especially when drivers are being detained can help boost the likelihood that drivers will secure your loads.

On the flip side, when drivers are treated poorly and on the receiving end of unpaid detention time, they’re more likely to vent to their trucker network. After all, they’ve got nothing but time, anger, and a social media channel just a few taps of their mobile device away.

Put additional risk management in place

Whether you’re moving thin-skinned fruits, chocolate, CPG beverages, or paint, protecting the full value of your temperature-sensitive freight eliminates one more thing the carrier has to take on and signals that you’re “in this together.”

What’s more, that added cargo coverage goes a long way toward protecting your carrier relationship. If a number of claims come out of your facility, after all, their insurance costs will go up—leaving them with a bad taste in their mouth and you with a new “pain in the buttocks tax” and a harder time securing capacity.

Take care of your carriers and drivers—they’ll take care of you

Perhaps you have concerns that implementing these recommendations will drive up your costs. So, if you’re asking yourself, “Is cementing our organization as a shipper of choice that critically important?” we’d say the answer is, without question, yes.

If servicing your customers is important—and it is—then serving your carriers and drivers must be viewed not as an expense, but as a strategic business investment.