Every good freight broker understands the importance of having a strong network of partner carriers. Whether you are considering working with a carrier that is new to your brokerage or a carrier that has a history with your company, there are certain important vetting points to consider. In addition to the “must-do” validation points, there are also some additional considerations that you may want to explore to get a full picture of the potential carrier.
Motor Carrier Authority
Using the Company Snapshot tool from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), you can gather crucial information in determining if a carrier can be used. First, you want to make sure they have an active carrier authority. It would be illegal to hire them without this. Additionally, you can look at the length of authority, fleet size, safety rating, and inspection statistics. This will give you an idea of how reputable a carrier is. For example, you might feel more comfortable hiring a carrier that has been in been in business for 40 years over a carrier that just started last month. Further, fleet size will help you in building strong partner carriers that can assist you with repeat business over many of your customers’ lanes. A satisfactory rating is preferred, while some brokers will hire carriers that have a conditional rating. There is no right or wrong here, but you can mitigate the risk you take on as a broker by partnering with tenured and reputable carriers.
You can see feedback about a carrier from other shippers and brokers by searching on load boards such as DAT and Truckstop.com as well as doing a simple Google search. Keep in mind that a broker or shipper is more likely to leave a negative review after a bad experience than a positive review after a positive experience. The same concept applies to most industries. The key takeaway here is to look for trends; are you seeing complaints of service failures or fall-offs quite often in the reviews? Are you seeing responses from the carrier to each review to address the concerns? These are important to consider when looking at reviews.
Does the carrier have the proper level of insurance to cover your customer’s requirements? This could get you in a lot of trouble if you don’t verify this. You can view insurance information on the FMCSA website as well. If a customer shipment is valued over the standard coverage of $100,000 or requires a specific policy to be in place, you need to ensure the carrier has the policy in place or can get it added to haul that shipment. The same goes for HazMat shipments. Carriers and the drivers specifically must have HazMat endorsements to legally haul dangerous goods.
History with Your Company
If the carrier in consideration has worked with your brokerage before, you should look at your historical data with them. Look at service rates, feedback from other reps in your brokerage, and items such as fall-offs, loads held hostage, or double brokering incidents. These all carry some weight in your decision to re-hire a carrier. Many brokers will blacklist a carrier that has had as little as one serious internal violation with their company.
Not every carrier is going to have a perfect record when looking at their statistics. Perhaps they have a young authority, but the lane you are negotiating is a back-haul for them which offers a competitive price for you and your customer. You can get some subjective feedback from other sources such as requesting referrals or references from other brokers/shippers that they’ve worked with in the past. The same concept applies to carriers that may have a conditional safety rating or some negative reviews online. Subjective feedback is a great tool to use if you just aren’t sure if hiring that carrier is the right choice.
Strong Carrier Networks are Important
Sure, you need to have a paying customer to make a profit, but you can’t service their needs without a quality carrier to do the job either. By vetting carriers properly and building a strong network that you can re-use on a consistent basis, you are able to provide superior service to your customers. Further, you can offer your customer multiple options for the same load all without having to search the load boards for capacity. Most importantly, treat your carriers with a superior level of respect. We all need each other to keep business healthy and profitable.