If you’re new to shipping and looking for a freight carrier, how do you decide who to go with? Do you just Google the phrase “Freight Carrier?” Do you reach out to your shipping contacts and see who they’re using? Shouldn’t it be easier to get started?
Below you’ll find 8 questions to consider when choosing your freight carrier. These questions are not in any particular order or level of importance, but if you can answer all or most of them, you’ll be on your way to getting the right freight carrier for you and your shipping.
It’s important to remember that the relationship between a shipper and a carrier is a two-way street. Some carriers are experts in certain fields, some put a higher priority on different kinds of service. Freight carriers are always looking to work with great shippers, and a good carrier-shipper relationship should be a great exchange of services, that make BOTH parties happy.
Whether this is your first foray into freight, or if you’re an old pro looking for a new carrier, utilize these 8 Questions to Consider When Choosing Your Freight carrier:
1.) LTL, Truckload, or Small Package?
What kind of stuff are you shipping? I’m not talking about the commodity (we’ll get to that in a bit). I’m talking about what form of shipping you’re looking into. There are a lot of different ways to move freight, and different carriers specialize in different shipping options.
The skills involved in being an LTL carrier do not always translate to the truckload side of the freight industry (not to mention other forms a freight) – both of which have totally different practices than LTL or truckload).
Some carriers offer multiple services, some carriers are more specialized. To be able to get the best rates and service, you should figure out what kind of freight you’re shipping, and find the freight carrier that knows the ropes for your particular shipping type.
2.) How Often Are You Shipping With A Freight Carrier?
There’s no base number of “You must ship BLANK many times a week to utilize this freight carrier.” Like most things in this industry, there are no hard and fast rules.
And while you can use a carrier to set up any shipment (For instance: If you wanted to ship from Edmonton to Fort St. John), there are carriers that focus more on “one-time-shipments,” and then there are carriers that focus on residual shippers or shippers who ship daily, weekly, or monthly.
These carriers are known as “full-service freight carriers,” and can assist in invoice discrepancies, freight tracking, and even negotiate FAKs or lower rates. If you’re a residual shipper, you’ll want to be in contact with a carrier that can handle more than just pickups and deliveries.
3.) Where Are You Shipping To & From?
Truckload rates heavily depend on the seasonal capacity and geographic coverage. That means, depending on the time of year and capacity of drivers, a shipment going into Northern British Columbia might be more or less expensive than a shipment leaving Northern British Columbia. The up and down of truckload capacity is an art, and you need a truckload carrier that’s not only aware of the game but has mastered it.
On the LTL side, certain carriers only operate in certain geographic areas. Of course, there are national carriers with coverage maps that extend across the whole of the Canadian Province. But sometimes, small regional carriers can offer better freight rates in their area.
A good carrier will be able to customize your freight experience and get you the best rate, depending on where you’re shipping to and from.
4.) Dock to Dock? Liftgate? Warehouses?
Standard freight shipments are “dock-to-dock,” which means that a loading dock is required for both pickup and delivery. But what if your shipments are not moving out of warehouses, or don’t have docks? This is something that you’ll have to look into when choosing your freight carrier.
Liftgates can be used to load and unload freight when there’s no dock, but these usually carry additional prices. There can also be additional “limited access” fees when delivering freight to places like government facilities, or distribution centers.
Some carriers will be aware of these locations and can be proactive in negotiating rates with fees included or getting additional fees removed altogether. These are determined on a shipment by shipment basis, but if you know where your freight is being delivered, that gives your carrier the best opportunity to save you money on freight quotes.
5.) Looking for Value or Price?
Before you select a freight carrier you should know the difference between value and price. For a full-service carrier, the quote is just the first part of the journey. Other carriers can offer cheaper quotes and less post-transit service.
Before you select a freight carrier, consider where your priorities lie when it comes to your freight shipments. It’s easy to think the bottom line is the price, but it’s important to consider what you might be losing once your freight is in transit, whether it’s dealing with accidentally damaged freight, invoice discrepancies such as reweighs, and any other hiccups that can occur during transit.
6.) White-Glove Service or Inside Delivery?
While most freight carriers regularly offer services such as “inside delivery,” it’s important to note the difference between ID and white glove services. Due to liability issues, LTL carriers are not often eligible to enter a consignee’s home. LTL carriers are not moving companies.
If you’re shipping items that need to be hand-delivered, or installed in the consignee’s house or store, you’re going to need to hire a white-glove service. Your freight carrier can help you navigate residential pickups and deliveries, but make sure to note if you need the assistance of white-glove services.
If all of your shipments will require that sort of handling and care upon pickup or delivery, it might be worth it to look into a moving company, instead of using LTL or full truckload shipping.
7.) How “Hands-on” Do You Want To Be With Your Freight Carrier?
Different carriers will offer varying levels of service, so before you choose your freight carrier, determine how hands-on or hands-off you want to be with your shipments. Some carriers offer the services of a TMS (Transportation Management System) allowing you to set up shipments on your computer or mobile device, print BOLs, and even track shipments.
Other carriers will handle all of that for you, allowing you to focus on other aspects of your business. Determine how involved you want to be in the daily ins and outs of your shipping, and choose the carrier that handles (or provides the tools for you to handle) your unique freight shipping practices.
8.) What Kind of Freight Carrier Do You want to Work With?
Trust is imperative in any successful business relationship, and selecting the right freight carrier is no different. But it’s not just about trust. Before you select a carrier, think about what kind of companies you want to work with, and what kind of business relationships you want to cultivate.
Do you want to work with a local carrier? Or do you prefer the scope of something on a national scale? A small freight carrier with a dedicated team, or a larger one, with more resources but less personalization? There’s no wrong answer to these questions, just preferences.
Finding a good freight carrier is a two-way street. You’ll want to work with them, and they’ll want to work with you. By considering these sorts of questions, you can save you and your business time and money.
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