When it comes to carriers, the drayage industry tends to run a little differently. The majority of drayage carriers are actually contracted owner/operators rather than employees. This leads to more considerations when you’re looking to hire. Start with these four things when comparing drayage carriers.
Because most drayage carriers use contracted drivers, the drivers can turn down freight. With a solid relationship between the carrier and their contracted drivers, there’s a better chance of the drivers accepting the shipment. Strong relationships often lead to a consistent or growing group of drivers. It’s often a positive sign of a good reputation if the carrier talks about drivers reaching out.
On the other hand, a carrier that talks about not finding new drivers or having drivers leave is a red flag. It can indicate how they treat drivers and potentially their customers.
If on-time performance is important for your organization, it should be important to your drayage carriers, too. A well-staffed, skilled dispatch office is often the key to on-time performance. It’s the dispatchers who know what freight to offer their drivers based on their previous on-time performance.
Beware: Many intermodal drivers who move from one distribution center to another and are used to the flexibility of drop-and-hook probably won’t be ready for strict on time performance expectations.
This doesn’t mean judge their grammar and punctuation, but rather that you should expect open communication between both the carrier and their drivers and with your organization. The carrier needs to be honest and up front, especially when problems arise. While an issue with a driver or a potentially missed deadline can reflect poorly on the carrier, an organization that’s open about it can help you adjust sooner.
Watch out for a drayage carrier who does not value communication. Often this can lead to poor relationships—with both their drivers and their customers.
Solid technology enhances communication and improves the ease of doing business. The drayage carriers that see the value in that often have more to offer. Look for a carrier that uses technology that will get you as close to real-time updates as possible—whether that’s through emails and carrier apps or EDI connectivity. Electronic logging devices (ELDs) are a great starting point.
Conversely, a carrier that relies only on phone calls or outdated technology won’t have the necessary information to communicate openly or quickly.
Keep each of these four considerations in mind the next time you’re reviewing or hiring drayage carriers and you’re sure to find a solid provider.
And remember, they all build on one another. So if a carrier is floundering in one area, there’s a good chance the other three are also affected—and it could influence your entire experience with that drayage carrier.
Ryan Dromgoole is transportation manager at C.H. Robinson.