Finding a carrier you can trust with your shipment can be a difficult, looming task.
Whether you’re going through a broker or working directly with a carrier, it’s important that you take the time to verify their credentials and gain insight into their service history.
While price is often the make-or-break-it factor in a decision process, there are several other things to consider before going with the cheapest option. Below is a quick list to help make sure you connect with carriers that are not only legitimate but are also a good fit for your business. If you’re new to freight we recommend starting with our Top Freight Questions Answered post.
1. Verify Authority:
First and foremost a carrier must be authorized by the Department of Transportation to transport goods and therefore should have a verifiable USDOT and MC number. If they don’t have this, it’s best to move on. The USDOT website allows you to quickly verify authority, free.
“…it’s important that you take the time to verify their credentials and gain insight into their service history.”
2. Review Insurance:
After you’ve verified the carrier’s authority to operate, you’ll want to confirm that they have at least the minimum insurance required by law — a $750,000 auto liability policy which is a combined single limit that covers bodily injury and property damage. It’s important to remember that this is different than cargo insurance, which contrary to what many shippers assume, is not required by law. The easiest way to verify cargo insurance is to ask for proof of insurance from the carrier and then contact the insurance broker to ensure that the commodity and value will in fact be covered by the policy. For more info, check out our cautionary note on the Deceptive Illusion of Cargo Insurance. After verifying liability and cargo insurance, for even further peace of mind, you can ask for their claims-to-damage ratio. This shows the percentage of claims that have been paid out on damaged, stolen or lost freight. Stick to the carriers who have a ratio of 1.5% or lower. Here at Emerge, we make sure all carriers on our platform have at least 6 months of authority and are fully insured beyond legal requirements.
3. Cargo Type:
Does your shipment contain hazardous materials or require special handling? Find out if the carrier’s experience matches your needs and if they are equipped to adequately provide service and transport your shipment.
4. Geographic Coverage:
Do your shipments focus on a particular region? Or, do you ship nationally—or perhaps internationally? Gaining an understanding of carrier coverage areas will help you sort out if your shipment is best matched with a long-haul or regional carrier.
5. Delivery Time and Transfers:
Long-haul and regional carriers provide different transit times in different lanes. Therefore, you’ll want to inquire about the carrier’s estimated transit time and number of transfers during the process. Ideally, you should focus on carriers with an on-time delivery rate of 90% or higher.
Several factors such as cargo type, weight, mode freight classification, accessorials fees, destination and scheduling can all affect your pricing. Each carrier may determine their prices differently, strategizing in providing discounts or waived fees. It’s important to compare total net price as opposed to focusing on discounts or waivers from different carriers.
The key to a successful carrier relationship is finding providers who are willing to effectively collaborate with you to get the job done—a win-win for both parties. Do they ask the right questions and provide solutions to transport your goods more efficiently? Are they willing to share costs on anything to win the shipment or build a long-term relationship? Remember, collaboration is a two-way street. Helping them be more efficient can decrease costs and cut down on transit time. What can you do to ensure the carrier isn’t waiting to pick up or drop off the freight? How can you help them get back on the road faster? By prioritizing helping them, they may be willing to provide more discounts in the future.