What is a Shipper of Choice?

March 24, 2022

Trucking Success

Achieving “shipper of choice” status means that a shipper has established a high value partnership with a carrier through quality collaboration and problem mitigation. In the often-turbulent world of commercial transport, shipper of choice is a label that speaks to dependability and mutual respect.

“Inside of our company, we have tried to ensure that we become a shipper of choice by understanding that whether it’s an asset-based carrier or a broker relationship, every one of those drivers and trucks is an asset that we need to treat with as much professional courtesy as we can,” explains Senior Director of Logistics & Transportation Scott Oliver of dairy brand HP Hood. “It’s not ‘just another truck.’ We’ve got to treat these people with respect, period.”

Building and maintaining positive relationships with drivers can be difficult. For Litehouse, the philosophy tends toward hiring drivers who are local to their facility. This helps reduce delivery times and production downtime, and keeps drivers close to home. Litehouse also offers drivers a consistent, predictable route.

“Any of us who have spent time on the road know what it’s like to be mistreated,” says Scott. “We all experience difficulties in our facilities for one reason or another, but if you want to retain quality drivers, you have to have an environment that doesn’t mistreat your carrier organizations. They all need to be treated with respect.”

What does it mean to be a shipper of choice? Find the answer in Episode 2 of the Stay In Your Lane Podcast. Click here to view the full episode.

“Mitigating any delay is probably one of the strongest pieces of being a shipper of choice. There’s also the post-departure attention that is required,” says Slate Kamp, Director of Logistics & Transportation at Litehouse Foods, which produces salad dressings. “When a driver has multiple stops and encounters issues, he’s got to have support from home base. The driver is the go-between of the customer and the shipper, and that’s not the most enviable place to be. When they need help, they need someone to be on the other end of the line to support them.”

At one time, the term shipper of choice equated to getting trucks in and out in a timely manner. Being a shipper of choice doesn’t just mean unloading trucks as quickly as possible or guaranteeing the lowest price. For both Scott and Slate and their respective companies, it’s a matter of communication and respect.

“Being a shipper of choice is knowing how and when to communicate that you’re having a problem, so that a dispatcher can reroute a truck and the driver can make his revenue,” says Slate. “When that truck gets to our facility, we should get them in and out in two hours, and we should have good communication with them.”

No matter how well your driver force is treated or compensated, certain challenges remain that make the future of the industry uncertain.

What are some of the challenges facing the transport industry today? For the answer to this question and more, watch episode 2 of the Stay In Your Lane Podcast.

As of November 2021, the median age of an over-the-road truck driver in the US is 46 years old. For private fleet drivers, the median age is 57. Both numbers come in higher than the national average of 42 years of age for the American workforce at large. In light of this aging labor force, the transport industry must attract a new generation of drivers to remain viable.

Slate believes that intervention in the form of government programs and training could help close the age gap in transport. Some industry-wide standards for driver treatment could also help boost recruitment in his view.

“We can promise our carriers that they’re going to get the best treatment possible when they’re in a Litehouse facility, but when they go to a customer, we really don’t know how they’re going to be treated,” says Slate. “There needs to be something in place to make sure these drivers have what they need when they get there: adequate facilities, appointments honored, maybe even places to park overnight.”

Due to the challenging nature of modern shipping, the shipper of choice relationship is more important than ever. What does it take to become a shipper of choice? The answer to this question and more can be found in episode three of the Stay in Your Lane Podcast.

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