CAI Transportation Blog

7 practical steps to earn preferred shipper status


Are you having a hard time finding a reliable driver in this hot market?

Shippers have long enjoyed markets that gave them options for carriers and capacity. Today, that shipper-centric market is a thing of the past. The driver shortage, capacity restrictions, and regulatory changes have transformed the way carriers work with shippers. Now, carriers seek more strategic means about which shippers to work with, and shippers will have to face more competition to move goods and secure capacity.

Operational efficiency and driver productivity are becoming a priority for many carriers. But it’s not just about enhancing efficiency. Carriers want shippers to understand their business and be better partners at every level. Shippers who focus on low-cost solutions rather than quality transportation services overlook key elements like consistency, communication, and performance when looking for capacity. In turn, carriers suffer risks and problems like idle trucks, negligence, lost profits, and frustrated drivers.

In the current capacity squeeze, the decision lies with the carriers instead of the shippers. Shippers who support driver-friendly ecosystems increase their chances to be selected, or preferred, for loads keeping their product moving.

In this article, we’ll discuss practical steps for shippers to become a preferred shipper:

What is a preferred shipper?

Although the term “preferred shipper” isn’t a formal title, achieving that status is worth its weight in gold. You can avoid driver and capacity shortages by becoming a customer that carriers want to do business with. To be a better shipping partner to your carrier, you should be easy to work with and respectful of the driver’s time. Walking a mile in the driver’s shoes doesn’t just benefit you, carriers, and their drivers, but also gives you a better competitive advantage in any circumstance.

Essentially, a preferred shipper is:

  • Reliable and prompt with commitments and expectations.
  • Welcoming and courteous with their drivers.
  • Proactive to any disruptive changes (like preparing for surge capacity for seasonal lane flows).
  • Collaborative and responsive to concerns, claims, and issues.

It’s now more important than ever for shippers to work proactively with their carriers. Making your supply chain more streamlined and efficient will go a long way to help you become more carrier- and driver-friendly. And earning that kudos is simple and highly cost-effective. A few thoughtful additions include:

Create safe facilities for drivers

Even the most seasoned drivers face difficulties with long hours on the roads ahead of them. To build strong relationships, it’s important to streamline processing and accommodate drivers’ schedules as much as possible. Providing them with safe and secure parking, clean and accessible restrooms, and staging lanes for loading and unloading can increase driver productivity and efficiency. Offering access to WiFi can also help them check in with management and keep them posted on status updates. While drivers are waiting to load, facilitating a designated driver area or lounge gives them space to complete paperwork and rest before rolling out again.

Communicate openly and timely with carriers and drivers

It’s understandable that unexpected circumstances may arise. A sick employee, changes in weather, cancellationsthey can all affect warehouse expediency. Whenever possible, keep carriers and drivers informed of changes as they occur (inbound and outbound) so they can make proper adjustments to scheduling and staffing. It’s also a good idea to communicate forecasts of major changes in shipment volumes or lulls and surges so drivers can expect and prepare well ahead of the circumstance.

Support carrier compliance with current regulations

With current regulations in place, it’s crucial to ensure your personnel and supervisors are aware of all the Hours of Service (HOS) and Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) regulations. You can also incorporate Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) in the transportation process. The EDI enables drivers to stay compliant with the federal electronic logging device (ELD) mandate by increasing visibility throughout the supply chain and reducing data inaccuracies. By proactively taking steps to assure compliance, you’re setting a shining example of commitment to responsibility, safety, and reputation.

Avoid multiple pick ups and drop offs

Having multiple pick ups and drop offs can complicate and slow a driver’s route. Especially in time-sensitive cases, it’s better to offer a carrier the simpler, most direct path to deliver full truckload shipments faster. For smaller shipments with flexible deadlines, consider LTL shipping instead. In this instance, it’s wise to assess your carrier’s capabilities to determine which shipping services are best suited for your needs.

Utilize chassis pools/drop chassis

Minimize load times by using chassis pools. Often, drivers have to play a waiting game for an empty chassis during loading periods. Live loading can be extraordinarily labor intensive if freight isn’t palletized. Whether your driver is there or not, having on-demand equipment like chassis pools allow loading and unloading to happen onsite. This prevents congestion and unnecessary delays that may penalize drivers for triggering hours-of-service detention. Instead of wasting time waiting for available chassis to load shipments, drivers can drop off an empty container and pick up a full load nearby. Having equipment or manpower ready for the next truck maximizes efficiency and makes your shipment more attractive to carriers.  

Provide flexibility on pickup and delivery times

With drivers crunched for time, providing flexibility on pickup and delivery times can greatly reduce the stress needed to deliver shipments. Including 24-hour access and weekend drop and pick-up loads at major shipping locations continue the value chain without interruptions. Not only can drivers load and drop freight at their convenience, but more capacity options will be available with a wider scope in scheduling.

Partner with a 3PL

Working with a trustworthy third-party logistics partner (3PL) can help boost your reputation as a shipper because you're leveraging their reputation to foster your own standing. In complex supply chain logistics, the best 3PL organizations are experts who can impart experience and connections to quickly streamline processes, drive efficiencies, and lower transportation costs. When using an experienced 3PL, they are able to scale labor and transportation according to inventory while meeting compliance requirements and shipping protocols.

At CAI Logistics, we understand the value of executing reliable and safe experiences for all involved parties. With our long-standing relationships with carriers, suppliers, and haulers, we provide creative solutions and additional support to manage your operations.

Taking these easy steps ensures you’re positioning yourself competitivelynot just your rates but also your shipper profile and reputation. Investments today to become a preferred shipper reap benefits in the future. Contact us today to be a better partner tomorrow.


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