There are two things you can say about shipping costs; they are consistently inconsistent and they will be rising in the coming year with more people needing more food and more "stuff." As a result, shippers will be on the lookout for new and innovative ways to reduce freight spend in 2019. When it comes to budget planning, cost-savings is at the top of the wish list for 2019 shippers.
Trying to get a handle on the market and pricing is like trying to catch a gnat with a fishing net. It's impossible! Last week, as expected, DAT Trendlines reported the national van load-to-truck ratio saw a 13% increase from the week prior as retail stores are heavily stocking and restocking for the holidays. This percent increase is an indicator of the spot market demand and how much capacity is available. Big fluctuations in this number often indicate changes in freight rates.
Map courtesy of DAT
Changes to a shipper's processes may help mitigate some of the pricing burdens that go hand-in-hand with limited capacity and a robust holiday season.
3PLs can help shippers re-evaluate their current shipping practices by making improvements to their daily processes, such as streamlining their pickup and delivery times at the dock, avoiding detention, consolidating shipments, spreading out shipments, or researching alternative modes of transport.
But the single, most important resource a shipper has is their third-party logistics company and the salesperson they rely on regularly. 3PLs live and breathe the industry every day. They know the latest market conditions and have access to an enormous pool of dedicated, reliable carriers across the U.S. The relationships they build with these carriers gives them the ability to negotiate the best rates, sometimes saving a shipper significant costs.
Maintaining a great relationship with your account representative is a frequently underestimated asset. Sometimes the quest for the best rate overshadows the value of dealing with a reputable and reliable partner. Beware of the freight broker who gives you a rate that sounds too good to be true; it probably is. Utilizing an unproven broker to save a few dollars can leave you dealing with dropped loads, OS&Ds, late deliveries, or even cargo theft, all of which end up costing you more money in the long run.
Top 3PLs have salespeople that are specifically trained to find the best options for their customers. Their business depends on you coming back and they know that the value they add has to be a combination of excellent service, reliability and a propensity for thinking outside the box to save their customers money. With current freight rates becoming the norm, these three attributes have never been more valuable to a shipper.