You choose to work with a 3PL for their expertise and ability to make your supply chain fluid. Not having to worry about the daunting logistics behind finding the right carrier to transport your goods eliminates a major time-sucking headache.
Considering the current massive truck driver shortage nationwide, however, you might wonder how 3PLs procure their carriers. When everyone else struggles to find the trucks with the routes they need, how can these businesses maintain relationships with thousands of trustworthy, contracted carriers?
Knowing the process your 3PL uses for carrier procurement not only gives you insight into the type of business you're working with, it also provides peace of mind that your shipments are handled by only the best of the best. Here are some things to consider.
1. What technology is used to vet and onboard carriers?
Companies that utilize technology to streamline the carrier vetting and onboarding process demonstrate their ability to be forward-thinking. Ask if your 3PL uses Adobe Document Cloud (formerly EchoSign), a secure electronic signature enterprise program.
"We have streamlined our carrier sign-up process by over 40 percent in the last year by adopting Document Cloud," says Paul Wood, director of carrier services, at Choptank Transport.
If Document Cloud is not used, make sure you know what exactly the process is and how long it typically takes.
2. What reports are pulled on carriers?
As part of the procurement process, 3PLs should always conduct background checks on drivers. Reports like Carrier 411, Internet Truckstop and DAT Carrier Watch are just a few reputable options. It's best if a 3PL pulls more than one just to cross-reference the information.
"We are looking for carriers who have good references, a satisfactory Safety Rating, and no negative reports like holding loads hostage or bad service," says Wood. "If we have a carrier that has a conditional rating, then we require a conditional letter showing us what they are doing to resolve the conditional rating."
Wood notes that three references are required and called for any carrier that works with Choptank Transport.
3. Is insurance verified?
It might seem like a given that a 3PL would verify that each carrier they are contracted with is insured, but it's best to double check. Each organization should not only check for insurance but also verify that the insurance carried is appropriate for the vehicle and business being conducted. Making sure the VIN number matches the insurance carried is another important verification.
4. How do you know a carrier has the technology a shipper needs?
A good 3PL knows that every shipper has different needs and will learn as much as possible about their carriers during the onboarding process in order to find the right matches for clients. A strong logistics team will be able to access information and ensure the right trucks are ready and available.
"This is where the expertise of our logistics coordinators comes into play," says Wood. "We make sure we find the right truck [equipment] to match the freight we are shipping. If the customer needs to have EDI or track-and-trace in place, we make sure the carrier has that technology or that it is at least available to them. We have some very detailed SOPs that we require all of our team members to use, from approving and booking the carrier until the carrier is empty at their final stop."