3 Qualities Every LTL Carrier Should Have
There are numerous advantages to shipping LTL, including reduced costs, robust back-office support from experienced teams, enhanced tracking technology, and improved sustainability.
However, while there are hundreds of thousands of full truckload carriers to choose from, there are substantially fewer LTL carriers. Additionally, many LTL carriers only operate within specific regions. With a relatively small number of options to choose from, shippers should take extra care in deciding who they work with.
Many attributes set superior trucking companies apart from the rest. This blog post examines some of the must-have qualities that any exceptional LTL carrier will possess.
You can also check out MASTIO's recently published annual compilation of top-ranking LTL carriers for a great starting point.
Consistency and Reliability
A carrier's most important attribute is its ability to deliver: your shipment arriving at its intended destination safely, on time, and in top condition. The trucking company should also maintain this balance between speed and reliability time and time again (consistency).
It can be difficult to predict this interplay of speed, reliability, and consistency when you're using a new carrier for the first time. However, there are several key things to look for.
First, ask your carrier directly what steps they take to minimize damage and how they handle exceptions during transit. Additionally, you should find out what they do to ensure they're running well-maintained vehicles. A good carrier will regularly check their trucks for defects, preventing the likelihood of breakdowns on the road. Many install GPS devices on their trucks, so they become aware of problems on the road immediately.
A well-maintained fleet of trucks (plus well-maintained freight handling equipment and physical facilities) helps ensure the safety of shipments, truck drivers, and others on the road. Examining a trucking company's safety rating is another way to assess its reliability. Consistently safe driving over the years is a helpful indicator that the carrier is trustworthy. Running off old equipment and outdated systems puts everyone at risk.
Additionally, you can use your network to help identify top-performing carriers and avoid those not up-to-par. Word travels fast in the freight world, and referrals make for a powerful reference.
Things to consider:
- Shipments picked up when promised
- Shipments delivered when promised
- Shipments delivered with no shortages
- Shipments delivered with no damages
- Consistent transit times (% on time)
- Competitive transit times
- Carrier's ability to meet appointment time for pick-up
- Carrier's ability to meet appointment time for deliveries
- Truck’s appearance
The adage is true: you often get what you pay for. Going for the cheapest carrier available may cause more headaches in the long run if they damage freight, drive dangerously, or don't stay on schedule. On the other hand, a trucking company may have a low base rate but tack on numerous hidden surcharges later. Every freight broker's goal is to strike a balance between performance and price.
Make sure you do your diligence on each carrier before committing to them. Additionally, many trucking companies offer free quotes; this is particularly helpful if you have high-risk or high-value freight that requires a lot of price-shopping and careful planning.
You should also know which pricing option makes the most sense for your freight needs: blanket v. customer-specific.
Things to consider:
- Weighing accuracy
- Billing accuracy
- Pricing terms are easy to understand
- Rate stability
- Competitive pricing
- Accessorial and surcharge prices
Superb Customer Service
Great customer service is another non-negotiable component of doing business, especially in freight. That's because about 70% of shipments incur disruptions that can interfere with on-time delivery. Even the best and most cautious carriers run into less-than-ideal circumstances on the road from time to time. And with odds that high, you're going to want someone responsive, proactive, and good at solving challenges.
Additionally, if you're shipping a product with special requirements, it's good to have someone who understands the precautions your shipment needs. Your carrier should happily answer any questions you have, offer advice, and suggest ways to get the job done carefully and on time.
Carriers can enhance their customer service through innovative technology options that offer shippers better shipment tracking, visible billing, and consolidated document storage. These tools make it easier for both parties to conduct business and allow shippers greater awareness of their accounts. In addition, investing in technology demonstrates that a carrier is committed to the needs of their shippers, gaining trust while providing peace of mind. Technology solutions also make it easier for trucking companies to ship products with special requirements without problems, accommodating your needs while keeping you involved along the way.
Things to consider:
- Claims process
- Carrier responsiveness
- Proactive communications (e.g., notification of problems)
- Problem resolution
- Customer service personnel respond to my needs promptly
- Knowledgeable and helpful sales representatives
- Willing to be flexible with operations
- Drivers are courteous and professional
- Carrier is trustworthy
- Ease of doing business
- Freight tracking systems
- Website is useful
You can expect trucking companies who consistently demonstrate reliability, transparent pricing, and superb customer service to get the job done right at a fair rate.
Now that you know what attributes to look for in a carrier, see how you can reduce your transportation spending by improving carrier management.
About Taylor Borum
Taylor joined Armstrong in 2021, serving as the team's Marketing Coordinator. A native of North Carolina, she moved to Charlotte in 2018 after graduating from Appalachian State University with her bachelor’s in Communication Studies. She's a passionate writer, having curated a diverse range of blog posts, articles, press releases, feature stories, webpage copy, social media posts, and more.