TMSA Conference Insights on Shipper of Choice

Customer Experience (CX) was the theme of the 2019 TMSA Logistics Marketing & Sales Conference at Amelia Island, Florida. As marketers and sales professionals within transportation and logistics, creating a delightful experience for our shippers is often the first “Customer” we think of when we look to improve. One peer-to-peer conversation during a working lunch roundtable session with leaders from carriers, brokers, technology firms, transportation media and shippers confirmed that holding shippers accountable to providing a first-rate experience for truck drivers is an equally compelling priority.

Combat the Driver Shortage and Lock Up Capacity
Coming out of the tightest driver capacity market in recent memory, successful asset and non-asset-based companies have grappled with ways to attract and retain the drivers they need to meet demand. Sending drivers into locations with any of the following driver abuses is a recipe for losing capacity and being unable to serve the shippers’ needs:

  • Long dwell times, causing ELD issues
  • No bathrooms
  • No break rooms, coffee, Wi-Fi
  • No scheduled load/unload
  • Impossible parking
  • Lack of understanding of traffic, weather and safety delays

While other conversations take place during rate and lane negotiation, shippers and carriers that routinely partner to address these challenges are more successful in locking up capacity to keep freight moving.

How Do We Educate Shippers?
Holding a shipper accountable to a best-in-class driver experience sounds daunting, but carriers and asset-based 3PLs are developing the tools needed to help educate shippers:

  • Driver Surveys. In 2017, TMSA member, Don Friddell and the Kenco Group published a driver survey and preferred shipper infographic to illustrate driver needs and potential shipper improvements.
  • Shipper Scorecards. Anderson Trucking (ATS) builds internal shipper scorecards to support decision making with regard to customer fit and pricing. There is future potential to launch externally to drivers to support CX strategies, as explained by Brenda Schermerhorn, Marketing Manager and TMSA member.
  • Quarterly Business Reviews (QBR). Russ Miceli, Vice President of Integrated Solutions at A. Duie Pyle and Kris Rzepkowski, Executive Director Marketing at Bennett, both TMSA members, walked through the value of QBRs with top 20 strategic accounts to stir thoughtful dialog on driver treatment, lane scheduling and timing to create strong partnerships with shippers.
  • Industry Awards. In 2019, FreightWaves in partnership with the Truckload Carriers Association awarded their first Top 25 Shippers of Choice awards at their annual Transparency19 conference recognizing “the manufacturers, distributers and retailers who do the best job of keeping the American economy moving by fighting driver detention, providing accessible facilities, and understanding what it takes to remove inefficiencies from the supply chain.”

Not a "Tough Conversation" Anymore
While the roundtable was titled "Shipper of Choice: Holding Customers Accountable in CX," the consensus of this peer discussion is that the best shippers are already leading the charge. Terry Sanders, Vice President of Sales & Marketing at TST Overland Express and TMSA member, reflected on a recent carrier conference he attended with one of America’s largest home improvement retailers. Their goal was to have all of their carriers consider them to be a premier shipper and spent time asking carriers what the company could do better to serve drivers. TMSA member Dave Gardner, Executive Vice President of Operations at Amy’s Kitchen, who is also a shipper and attended the TMSA conference, agreed that his teams have a lot to do with providing the best overall customer experience for drivers – and that experience ultimately benefits his business in the long run with easier access to capacity.

The Indirect Challenge
Direct carriers are starting to be invited to talk about driver experience with shippers, but the next frontier may be with non-asset brokerages. There is more work to be done to explain the challenges facing drivers when brokers cover freight. By nature, their broad relationships with a large volume of carriers can make it difficult to advocate for the driver experience with shippers. It is on the marketing and sales teams to create the tools that ultimately lead to a better Customer Experience for everyone, especially the hard-working drivers that are the livelihood of us all. 

By Kris Rzepkowski, Executive Director of Marketing & Communications for Bennett International Group where he applies more than 15 years of marketing experience to make logistics magic every day. Rzepkowski is a past TMSA Compass Award of Excellence winner and current member of the TMSA Education Committee.

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