Offering Customers Something More ...
“The recent freight recession has affected the freight industry in a number of ways, making it critical for companies to maintain more direct communications, streamline processes and gain greater visibility in order to remain successful. Largely driven by excess capacity in the market, freight recessions signal a time for brokers to step up their offerings and deliver a true competitive advantage to the market to separate themselves from the competition.” - Freightwaves webinar: The Battle of the Broker: How the Freight Recession Has Impacted the Broker Market
There are over 20,000 freight brokers in the United States. Differentiation can be difficult when every 3PL likes to claim excellent pricing, communication, customer service, and the ability to track shipments. If you are a freight broker and don’t provide those key benefits for all your services, chances are you won’t be for long.
But every so often, there is a 'secret sauce' or winning attribute that is a beacon of light to customers. The winning formula always solves a universal problem that transforms a company from just another service provider to one that stands out far and above the rest. Choptank Transport has realized that achievement.
Tracking customer’s freight is nothing new. 3PLs have been able to locate shipments for decades through check calls made by their operations teams, and more recently, by combining check calls with various tracking apps. The distinction is that now some freight brokers are transitioning to total GPS tracking. Choptank has been able to reach an unparalleled GPS tracking rate of 95 percent primarily through the adoption of the Trucker Tools tracking app, virtually eliminating the need for manual check calls.
Getting smaller, one-to-two truck owner-operators on board with the technology has been the biggest challenge. Many 3PLs have found it to be the major stumbling block towards streamlining to completely automated visibility. The question is, how did Choptank do it?
“This year, we made real-time visibility through our carrier tracking a top priority,” said Choptank Executive Vice President Steve Covey. “The goal was to have 100 percent of our customer’s freight GPS traced by the end of 2019. It was an ambitious goal since our early reporting showed only about a 30 percent tracking rate through GPS at the beginning of the year. Now in November, we can verify that 95 percent of all Choptank loads are tracked through one or more software solutions. I am confident that by December, we will reach total carrier tracking through technology.”
Shippers want to know where their freight is at all times, regardless of whether it is a truckload, LTL, intermodal, or port and drayage shipment. It's more of an expectation these days than a special request. The problem is, not all freight brokers are successful in getting the hundreds or even thousands of carriers they work with on board.
Total tracking keeps freight in front of the broker in real-time, reducing the number of check calls, and helping to secure the load from theft. It also alerts the broker, customer, and receiver of delayed shipments due to a myriad of reasons, including traffic or mechanical breakdowns. Contracted carriers, mostly owner-operators, appreciate it because it automates much of the communication process, which can be both inconvenient and time-consuming.
In a recent company operations meeting, President and CEO Geoff Turner offered thanks to employees. “Kudos to all of you that have helped us reach this phenomenal goal. Industry colleagues think I am exaggerating when I tell them that we are electronically tracking freight at such an incredible rate. It truly differentiates us as a company.”
Turner went on to say, “The technology we’ve invested in to provide full visibility is the kind of transportation solution that resonates with our shippers.”
And that’s not all Choptank Transport has up its sleeve when it comes to improving its services via transparency and automation. The company’s business intelligence team is expanding and is currently working on a new, robust customer portal called ORBIT TI ™. The exclusive software, slated to launch in January, will require a secure login and password. In addition to offering clients valuable insights into their own freight, it will also provide useful analysis, research, and trends in the transportation marketplace, all in one convenient location.