5 ways to know if you're a freight broker

ELD Mandate for Carriers and its Effects

This is the first section of a two-part blog post on the ELD mandate and its effects on the transportation industry. Recently the FMCSA rolled out the nationwide ELD mandate for commercial carriers and transporters. There are many questions and concerns on how this will affect the nation’s supply chains. Will it increase transit times?  Will it decrease the amount of available equipment?  Will it increase the cost of transporting freight?  Will I make less money as a carrier or driver? Are these the right questions to be asking? The only correct answer is that these are all valid questions surrounding the recent introduction of the ELD mandate. As with most mandates, you’re not going to make everyone happy, and only you can decide which side of the fence you’re on. However, in order to make that decision you have to ask yourself if you understand it fully? I’ll do my best to explain the mandate without being too lengthy or adding bias (at least in this portion) in order to help guide your decision. 1) What is an ELD? ELD stands for Electronic Logging Device. It is a small onboard computer added to the cab or instrument panel of a tractor or truck that collects data. There have been several variations of these type of devices over the years, dating as far back as the 1980s. They are known as AOBRD (Automatic On-Board Recording Device), and EOBR (Electronic On-Board Recorder), but these will eventually be phased out over the next 2 years and all carriers will be required to use an ELD. 2) What does it do? The typical device is a monitoring tool that ties together three main components of data about from the truck. The first is that it monitors the truck’s movements through a GPS signal. The second is that it records engine data, such as running time and speed. The third and final component is the driver entry piece, this is where he or she will log trip details and notes. Every device manufacturer offers different features on their particular, some more than others, but ultimately these are the 3 required features from the FMCSA to be considered compliant. 3) How is it monitored and regulated? The data is captured and combined into a report that can be extracted and audited by local, state, and federal authorities to ensure the driver is staying within the legal limits of driver time and operation. The report is generated in a digital format or printed copy. If the carrier is is found without an approved ELD in the truck or the ELD shows the driver is in violation of the legal operating hours it will result in fines, shutdowns, and even CDL/authority suspension or revocation depending on the degree of the violation. There are a handful of exceptions where ELD monitoring is not required, the most common two are personal conveyance moves (PCM) and yard moves. A PCM basically means driving back and forth between home and the carrier’s terminal or office, and yard moves are basically the movement of equipment on or in areas that are restricted or considered private property and must be clearly marked with signs. Both of these exceptions have limitations and more specific language as to their definition, so make sure you do your research if you feel these may apply to your situation. 4) Why is this happening? The ELD mandate is a congressionally mandated rule as part the MAP 21 Act that was signed into law in 2012. The ELD mandate itself was put into place to create a safer work environment for drivers and reducing unsafe driving practices. The previous methods, which were mainly done through manually written log books, were fraught with fraud and manipulation. Introducing the ELD created a better and more accurate way to collect, monitor, and share data, without the risk of tampering from individuals. 5) What is the timeline surrounding the mandate? There are two important dates surrounding the mandate. The first was December 18, 2017, this signaled the beginning date of compliance, meaning it is now required to have an ELD device installed and activated on the truck. However, the violations will only result in fines. The second and more critical date is April 1, 2018, and the reason is that any carrier found without an approved ELD and functioning ELD on board will be shutdown until one can be installed and working. I felt these are the five most important categories to address when trying to explain the ELD Mandate, but there are many levels to this mandate to consider which I did not address. If you want to learn more about the both the ELD Mandate and MAP 21 we encourage you to click the links below: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/hours-service/elds/electronic-logging-devices https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/map21/ I’ll discuss some of the further implications of these changes from a freight broker’s perspective in a subsequent blog post next week.  

Oh, Ship! Understanding LTL Freight Delays

In the shipping world, few things are more frustrating than your shipment being delayed. You’ve either got an angry customer yelling in your ear, or your company’s production is being held up because of a part that has yet to arrive. Either way, for lack of a better word, it sucks. But the first step to easing frustration is understanding the underlying problem behind LTL freight delays and knowing what to expect moving forward. When shipping LTL, delays can happen for a number of reasons and every scenario is unique. However, there are commonalities across the industry. It would take much too long to address every cause for delay in this post, but we’ll tackle the most common reasons freight isn’t delivered on time! Weather: Although weather related LTL freight delays, like all delays, are frustrating, these are the most easily explained and understood. Like the recent catastrophes of Hurricanes Harvey & Irma, natural disasters can wreak havoc regionally, but also have nationwide effects on when you receive your freight. When terminals are shut down because of weather, operations come to a screeching halt. Freight piles up and can cause delays for months after the actual event. Since freight is handled on a first-in, first-out basis, it’s often just a waiting game. LTL Freight Delays   High Freight Volumes: This is a term that gets tossed around a lot. With larger carriers, most of their freight goes through large hubs around the country. For R&L, this might be Wilmington, Ohio, where their headquarters is located. For Central Transport, this is often Chicago, Illinois, where they’re based out of. Though the location of these hubs vary, they all have one thing in common: so much freight passes through there on a daily basis that they can’t move it as fast as it comes in. So their solution is to load this freight on trucks in the order they arrived to the terminal in question, this can cause LTL freight delays. Delivery Appointments: If any shipment has a delivery appointment service added, this always adds at least one day onto the estimated transit time. The reason for this is that the appointment clerk at the terminal won’t schedule appointments with the consignee until they confirm that the freight is actually, physically at the destination terminal. In some cases, like when freight is delivering to a residence, appointments are always required. Although a delayed shipment is never not frustrating, we at FreightPros are always striving to make your lives easier. Our team runs a Delivery Report daily to check on shipments that are running late and follow-up with carriers to see why. We then do everything in our power to get shipments delivered as quickly as possible! Our goal is to provide a quality freight experience, and education is the first step to achieving that!

Effective Leadership

“There aren’t any bad teams, only bad leaders,” said Leif Babin in Extreme Ownership. That line really struck a chord with me. My first reaction was to start defending myself and my team. “We are doing well, sure we could improve but heck, we are an efficient and effective part of our company! I’m pushing everyday to do my best.” I have no idea why that was my first reaction but it was.  Maybe it’s that underlying sense of insecurity and anxiety that can often make a successful sales person. That led me down a tract of introspection and learning that has transformed how I view leadership.   17124643767_c7e281926f_z   I started my management career working underneath a militant leader in a restaurant who led our team out of fear. For that management style, he was effective. People listened when he talked, when he was in the building…you knew it, the tension was thick. People performed, we ran efficiently and were a shining example of how a restaurant should be run in our small restaurant group of 8 locations across the country. What was the problem then? We had a ton of turnover, common in the restaurant industry I know, but much more prevalent in this restaurant. People weren’t happy and as soon as another opportunity came up, they would jump on it. It was a constant problem that put a lot of pressure on our senior staff members and training team. We never really figured out the solution, we just dealt with it. That was such a great lesson for me on how important retention is and avoiding the easy excuse of, “well there’s always a lot of turnover in that type of industry, what are you gonna do?” I lead our Inbound Sales team here at FreightPros and you would assume, it’s sales, there’s going to be a lot of turnover in that role too. We have barely had any turnover in the last 2 years that I’ve been a part of this team. How? Why? Capture I’ve always believed that, while my role is important, it’s nothing compared to the role that my teammates execute every day. I’ve listened to the audio book, Leaders Eat Last, by Simon Sinek twice in the last 6 months and for good reason. That book has helped me develop a lot of the beliefs I already have had, “treat your employees like family, if your child wasn’t performing to their capability you wouldn’t just kick them out of the house would you?” Of course not! You work with them, you develop them, you put everything you possibly can into their success and prioritize their needs over yours unquestionably. That’s effective leadership, that’s being a great leader, that’s being the type of teammate people will follow into battle, even if their lives are on the line. If your team succeeds, it’s because of them; if your team fails, it’s because of you.

Missed Freight Pickups

That time my freight pickup was missed. Remember that moment when you needed to get to the store before it closed, but just couldn’t make it in time? It’s not fun for anyone but sometimes things happen in life that are just out of our control. Unfortunately, it’s not much different in the world of freight and freight pickup issues. Freight Pickup Frustration Missed freight pickups are especially common on the LTL side of this industry and there could be a multitude of reasons as to why. The most common reasons are: driver tardiness, driver / dispatch miscommunications or simply the truck was filled with freight sooner than expected. Although they can plan their route flawlessly before leaving their terminal, a driver can never fully plan for what the road has in store for them. Dispatch may call the driver while they are on their current route asking them to make a few more stops along the way, thus causing a delay in the pickup of other shipments scheduled for later that day. When pickups are missed, we all lose a little. Your freight isn’t moving, the carrier has to try again another day, and depending on your broker, there’s a lot of back-end work going on as well. At FreightPros it’s not so much just about the missed pick up, but more importantly, it’s about what happens next and how we deliver a quality freight experience to our customers. We run a PRO report every morning to find out which LTL shipments from the previous day did not get assigned a PRO (also known as a tracking number). From there, our operations team will reach out regarding all shipments that have not been assigned a PRO to find out why it missed pickup. If the shipment misses pickup for reasons such as: they were told “there was no freight” or because the packaging was an issue, we will reach out to the customer to try to resolve the issue. If it was purely because the carrier could not make it to the location in time or the truck was full we will go ahead and put the shipment back on the carrier’s schedule for pick up. When your freight misses pickup there is no need to panic, we will get that shipment back on board for you the following business day. If ever you have a time sensitive shipment, I do highly suggest you express urgency when discussing shipment details with your freight provider, as this will allow them to find an option that best suits your needs.

10 Questions to Consider When Choosing Your Freight Broker

10 questions to consider when choosing your freight broker

If you’re new to shipping and looking for a freight broker, how do you decide who to go with? Do you just Google the phrase “Freight Broker?” Do you reach out to your shipping contacts and see who they’re using? Do you try to go straight to the carrier, and bypass the broker option entirely? Shouldn’t it be easier to get started?

Below you’ll find 10 questions to consider when choosing your freight broker. These questions are not in any particular order or level of importance, but if you can answer all or most of them, you’ll be on your way to getting the right freight broker for you and your shipping.

It’s important to remember that the relationship between a shipper and a broker is a two-way street. Some brokers are experts in certain fields, some put a higher priority on different kinds of service. Freight brokers are always looking to work with great shippers, and a good broker-shipper relationship should be a great exchange of services, that make BOTH parties happy.

Whether this is your first foray into freight, or if you’re an old pro looking for a new broker, utilize these 10 Questions to Consider When Choosing Your Freight Broker:

1.) LTL, Truckload, or Small Package?

What kind of stuff are you shipping? I’m not talking about the commodity (we’ll get to that in a bit). I’m talking about what form of shipping you’re looking into. There are a lot of different ways to move freight, and different brokers specialize in different shipping options. The skills involved in being an LTL broker do not always translate to the truckload side of the freight industry (not to mention ocean container shipping, or even air shipping – both of which have totally different practices than LTL or truckload). Some brokers offer multiple services through different teams, some brokers are more specialized. To be able to get the best rates and service, you should figure out what kind of freight you’re shipping, and find the freight broker that knows the ropes for your particular shipping type.

2.) How Often Are You Shipping?

There’s no base number of “You must ship BLANK many times a week to utilize a freight broker.” Like most things in this industry, there’s no hard and fast rules. And while you can use a broker to set up any shipment (For instance: If you wanted to ship an engine from Florida to California), there are brokers that focus more on “one-time-shipments,” and then there are brokers that focus on residual shippers, or shippers who ship daily, weekly, or monthly. These brokers are known as “full-service freight brokers,” and can assist in invoice discrepancies, freight tracking, and even negotiate FAKs or lower rates. If you’re a residual shipper, you’ll want to be in contact with a broker that can handle more than just pickups and deliveries.

3.) What is Your Commodity?

Freight class is one of the main factors in LTL shipping rates (along with weight, and distance travelled), so it’s important to know your commodity and, subsequently, your freight class. Fragile and oversized pieces are often more expensive to ship, while smaller, easily packaged, and hard-to-break items are usually cheaper. Before you select a freight broker, it’s important to note the sort of commodity you’re shipping. Some truckload freight brokers have contracts that utilize flat bed shipping, others are more focused on the movement of produce and perishable goods. To find the best broker for you, whether it’s full truckload or LTL, you’ll need to know what you’re shipping.

4.) Where Are You Shipping To & From?

Truckload rates heavily depend on seasonal capacity and geographic coverage. That means, depending on the time of year and capacity of drivers, a shipment going into California might be more or less expensive than a shipment leaving California. The up and down of truckload capacity is an art, and you need a truckload broker that’s not only aware of the game, but has mastered it. On the LTL side, certain carriers only operate in certain geographic areas. Of course, there are national carriers with coverage maps that extend across the whole of the United States. But sometimes, small regional carriers can offer better freight rates in their area. A good broker will be able to customize your freight experience, and get you the best rate, depending on where you’re shipping to and from.

5.) Dock to Dock? Liftgate? Warehouses?

Standard freight shipments are “dock-to-dock,” which means that a loading dock is required for both pickup and delivery. But what if your shipments are not moving out of warehouses, or don’t have docks? This is something that you’ll have to look into when choosing your freight broker. Liftgates can be used to load and unload freight when there’s no dock, but these usually carry additional prices. There can also be additional “limited access” fees when delivering freight to places like government facilities, or distribution centers. Some brokers will be aware of these locations, and can be proactive in in negotiating rates with fees included, or getting additional fees removed all together. These are determined on a shipment by shipment basis, but if you know where your freight is being delivered, that gives your broker the best opportunity to save you money on freight quotes.

6.) Looking for Value or Price?

Before you select a freight broker you should know the difference between value and price. For a full-service broker, the quote is just the first part of the journey. Other brokers can offer cheaper quotes and less post-transit service. Before you select a freight broker, consider where your priorities lie when it comes to your freight shipments. It’s easy to think the bottom line is price, but it’s important to consider what you might be losing once your freight is in transit, whether it’s dealing with accidentally damaged freight, invoice discrepancies such as reclasses or reweighs, and any other hiccups that can occur during transit.

7.) Will You Be Shipping Internationally?

International shipping is a different beast than regular LTL or truckload shipping, with different practices and documents needed. Anytime you ship internationally, your freight shipment will have to pass through Customs. When you’re selecting a freight broker, you’ll need to use carriers that service the movement of freight from Canada, Mexico, or wherever. Customs brokers are different than a typical freight broker, but freight brokers can help with the domestic side of your shipment, as well as help you with the documents needed for Customs such as commercial invoices. There’s a lot that goes into international shipping and having freight that crosses borders, so before you start shipping make sure you’ve got all the paperwork in order. This will help you avoid delays that might cost you time stuck in Customs.

8.) White Glove Service or Inside Delivery?

While most freight brokers regularly offer services such as “inside delivery,” it’s important to note the difference between ID and white glove services. Due to liability issues, LTL carriers are not often eligible to enter a consignee’s home. LTL carriers are not moving companies. If you’re shipping items that need to be hand-delivered, or installed in the consignee’s house or store, you’re going to need to hire a white glove service. Your freight broker can help you navigate residential pickups and deliveries, but make sure to note if you need the assistants of white glove services. If all of your shipments will require that sort of handling and care upon pickup or delivery, it might be worth it to look into a moving company, instead of using LTL or full truckload shipping.

9.) How “Hands-on” Do You Want to Be?

Different brokers will offer varying levels of service, so before you choose your freight broker determine how hands on or hands off you want to be with your shipments. Some brokers offer the services of a TMS (Transportation Management System) allowing you to set up shipments on your computer or mobile device, print BOLs, and even track shipments. Other brokers will handle all of that for you, allowing you to focus on other aspects of your business. Determine how involved you want to be in the daily ins and outs of your shipping, and choose the broker that handles (or provides the tools for you to handle) your unique freight shipping practices.

10.) What Kind of Company Do You Want to Work With?

Trust is imperative in any successful business relationship, and selecting the right freight broker is no different. But it’s not just about trust. Before you select a broker, think about what kind of companies you want to work with, and what kind of business relationships you want to cultivate. Do you want to work with a local broker? Or do you prefer the scope of something on a national scale? A small freight brokerage with a dedicated team, or a larger one, with more resources but less personalization? There’s no wrong answer to these questions, just preferences. Finding a good freight broker is a two way street. You’ll want to work with them, and they’ll want to work with you. By considering these sorts of questions, you can save you and your business time and money.

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