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What Carriers Want: 5 Characteristics of a “Broker of Choice”

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes 

Smart shippers value relationships and will make bold moves to attract and retain quality carriers. Frequently referred to as “shippers of choice” or “preferred shippers,” these companies do everything they can to ensure carriers will be there for them—from reducing dwell time, to improving accessorial schedules, to offering generous lead times, to paying carriers faster. 

But what about 3PLs and brokers?  To meet shipper requirements, brokers must be equally concerned about attracting and retaining the best carriers—those that consistently deliver freight on time and intact. For many carriers, brokers act as the sole source of freight—they essentially are the shippers in their carriers’ eyes. In addition to mirroring the shipper tactics mentioned above, what other characteristics do “brokers of choice” possess? Beyond flexible payment terms and quick turnaround—which are part of the norm—below are five things to look for:

  1. They go the extra mile. From checking with a shipper to see how much longer a driver (who has arrived on time) will have to wait on the loading dock to negotiating with receivers to guarantee load acceptance, a broker of choice will do everything in their power to get the job done. For example, if a receiver closes their doors at 5:00 p.m., and the carrier is expected to arrive at 5:30 p.m., a good broker will work with the receiver to make sure they remain open an extra half hour. Taking that extra step and challenging assumptions can help a carrier avoid missing their next pickup, which could negatively impact revenue and damage relationships with their other shippers.
  1. They treat carriers with respect and work with a sense of urgency. A positive, courteous attitude can go a long way. Brokers of choice show empathy, treat drivers professionally, and offer assistance throughout the life of a load. Issue resolution is heightened, calls and emails are answered promptly, and they are available around the clock.
  1. They do everything they can to honor commitments. Cancelling shipments at the last minute is a quick way to lose a carrier’s business. The right broker will conduct effective discovery and set clear expectations on both the load and lane levels up front. Avoiding potential issues over the road is critical. If a shipper cannot meet a commitment, a broker of choice will exhaust their resources until they find alternative options to ensure the carrier does not miss out on revenue.
  1. They offer secured business and growth opportunity. A broker of choice will offer consistent, desirable business and continuous movements so that trucks can keep moving around the clock. They will offer freight that matches their specific needs, as well as growth opportunities from new and existing business.
  1. They build relationships at all levels. Brokers of choice get to know the shipping and receiving personnel they’re working with, regardless of their role. They work to understand their likes, dislikes, motivations, and preferred communication styles. Leveraging a broker’s familiarity and relationships with shippers and warehouse staff can lead to added flexibility and more successfully executed deliveries.

A Note on Driver Retention and Detention

It’s estimated that there will be a shortage of 174,000 truck drivers by 2026.  One of the reasons drivers are leaving?  Poor treatment from shippers and brokers.

For example, in a recent survey, two thirds of drivers said they typically waited more than three hours to have their trucks loaded or unloaded. As we’ve written in the past, detaining drivers has several negative long-term consequences—especially under the ELD mandate, which enforces strict daily Hours of Service limits.  

Brokers and shippers of choice understand this reality, put themselves in their carriers’ shoes, and work together to battle the detention problem. This not only benefits carriers; one study found that shippers and consignees with consistent dwell times see lower rates than those with variable dwell times. Some shippers will even market short dwell times at pickup and delivery locations as a differentiator.

It takes time to build long-lasting and mutually beneficial broker-carrier relationships, but it can be well worth it when shipping volumes increase and trucks are scarce.  At Capstone, we take being a broker of choice seriously.  It’s important to hold all parties accountable for the role they play in the supply chain, but it’s equally (if not more) important to hold ourselves to a higher standard to ensure we are the type of company that carriers want to do business with.

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