10 Ways to Improve Carrier Relationships

Amanda Hammond | Truckstop.com

ID: 171724799; madpixblue/Shutterstock.com

Broker and carrier relationships have a history of being strained. Carriers have the perception that broker margins are much higher than they are, and brokers are working to fill a load as fast as possible while trying to make a profit. It becomes easy for brokers to focus more on relationships with shippers since that’s who is actually paying the bill. Regardless of the dynamics, brokers have a job that needs to be done, and that job can only be completed by a carrier.So, what are some ways to build better relationships with owner-operators and truck drivers that will help a broker grow, develop and maintain their business?

1. Build Trust

People gravitate to brands and companies they trust. Carriers are the same, so build a reputation as a broker that carriers can trust. Since so many carriers view brokers negatively, and think they’re out to pull a fast one, prove them wrong by implementing a few easy steps:

•   Pass along shipper and receiver details before they ask for them.

•   Share weather and road closure information if it impacts the lane they’re traveling.

•   Always thank them. Carriers can feel like they’re in a thankless role, so it’s remarkable what a small amount of gratitude can do.

•   If they do a good job, call them the next time you have a similar load or lane.

Remember: Your success is dependent on their success, so do what you can to make you both look good to the customer. Taking the time to develop loyal relationships will save you money. So while it is always tempting to go with a cheaper rate, you could lose a carrier that prides themselves on great customer service – that means less business in the future.

2. Stand Out

If you’re providing excellent customer service to your shippers and your carriers, you’ll stand out from other brokers in the pack. How can you do that?

•   Take an interest in who you’re talking to and try to understand them. It doesn’t need to be personal, rather ask about their trucking business, the lanes they like to run, etc. If they want to get home for their son’s basketball game, try to help them do that. If you know their significant other’s name, ask how they are.

•   Ask if there’s anything you can do to help them, and then do it if you can.

•   Help them find a return load out of the delivery location.

•   Don’t forget to tell them thank you, or send a text saying you appreciate their hard work.

Carriers will see the value in maintaining a broker relationship if they know you see the value in them.

3. Listen

When working with a carrier for the first time, ask them about their truck’s capabilities and which lanes they prefer to run, and then listen to their answer. It means an easy contact in the future when you have a load close to home, or in their preferred area. After your load is delivered, ask how it went. Address any problems and note them for future deliveries to that receiver.

4. Be Respectful

You’re all working with deadlines, and a carrier’s time is just as important as yours (especially when you factor in hours of service regulations). Be courteous, treat drivers like the professionals they are, acknowledge their time constraints, and do what you can to help them get your cargo to its destination. Answer calls and respond to emails as quickly as you can. Respect will go a long way in bridging the trust gap.

5. Honor Commitments and Be Transparent

You wouldn’t appreciate getting the runaround from a carrier, so extend them the same courtesy. Specifically:

•   Be open about the load, the lane, and any shipping or receiving expectations so they don’t suffer any surprises.

•   Don’t cancel shipments. If it can’t be avoided, let them know immediately, and try to find them another load so they’re not left out in the cold.

•   Tell them about any rate changes. That means location, fuel cost, etc. Those things aren’t personal and help explain last minute changes.

•   Return phone calls as soon as possible.

•   When necessary, make changes at delivery locations ahead of time which will make everyone’s life a little easier.

Full transparency helps create lasting, working relationships with people and businesses that can help you in the future. Keep your promises; good carriers are going to keep theirs, and you’ll want to work with them in the future.

6. Be Mindful of Future Business Opportunities 

If you spent a little extra time learning about the carrier and know specifics about their trucks’ capabilities, reach out to them when you have a load that matches their preferred lanes and abilities. This is easily done by keeping a database with specific carrier information that you can refer to as needed. This is especially helpful when you’ve got special needs like hazmat certificates, less-than-full loads, or an unpopular location due to deadheading.

7. Know Your Shippers and Receivers

If you know the people that you’re working with in shipping and receiving, it will be much easier to iron out any wrinkles that occur when you’ve got freight being moved. Say you need a receiver to open early. If you have a good working relationship with the people you’re asking to go out of their way, it’ll increase the likelihood that your freight is delivered on time. It also makes it easier for the carrier to get reloaded and back out on the road.

8. Communicate

Always tell a carrier anything and everything you know about a load. This goes well beyond a date, time and location. Tell them the specifics about what they’ll be hauling and if the shipper has certain requirements like tarps, straps or hazmat certificates.

9. Don’t Forget to Say Thanks

We’ve mentioned this few times, and for good reason. Gratitude is one of the easiest ways to make a big difference. A quick text of thanks after a delivery will let them know you acknowledge and appreciate their work. For exceptional service and a carrier who really went the extra mile, send a gift card via email for a cup of coffee and a breakfast sandwich. Don’t take it for granted that they drove overnight in hazardous conditions to get a load delivered on time.

10. Pay Quickly

In the age of electronic funds transfer, there’s no reason not to take advantage of quick pay options – it can simplify your payment processes and save you money. And anytime a carrier has the option to get paid faster and easier, they’re going to be interested.

The best brokers focus on building relationships with people. Get to know your carriers, and it’ll benefit you both.               

Amanda Hammond is a Content Writer at Truckstop.com and regular contributor to their blog. Connect with her about marketing, transportation, and dogs through Truckstop.com, LinkedIn, or 208-695-8673.

Image credit: ID: 171724799; madpixblue/Shutterstock.com