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Vetting Motor Carriers: A Freight Broker’s Guide

Freight 360 By Freight 360

As freight brokers, we are the link between our customers and the transportation of their goods. The essence of our job lies in ensuring that this link is not just strong but also reliable and secure. This is where vetting motor carriers comes into play. Properly vetting carriers is not just a routine task; it’s a critical responsibility that, when done correctly, can significantly enhance our service quality and customer relationships.

Importance of Vetting Motor Carriers

Vetting motor carriers is not just about compliance; it’s about commitment to quality. Every shipment we handle carries with it our reputation. In the logistics supply chain, the carriers we choose become a reflection of our work. Selecting quality carriers directly impacts our credibility and trustworthiness in the eyes of our customers. It’s about ensuring that every shipment is in safe, capable hands.

Motor Carrier Authority

One of the first steps in vetting is confirming the carrier’s legal authority to operate. Utilizing resources like the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) SAFER Web or Highway provides an insight into the carrier’s authority status. This step is crucial in filtering out unauthorized carriers and ensuring compliance with legal and safety standards. It’s a fundamental step to establish a baseline of legitimacy for the carrier. Some freight brokers prefer carriers that have been in business for a certain amount of time, perhaps 3 or 6 months, so be sure to check the age of the authority as well.

Insurance

Insurance verification is a critical aspect of the vetting process. It’s essential to confirm that the carrier has sufficient cargo and liability insurance. This is not just a procedural check but a risk management strategy. The standard insurance usually includes $100k in cargo insurance and $1M in liability. However, special shipments may require additional coverage. Ensuring that the carrier’s insurance aligns with the specific needs of the shipment is paramount for safeguarding against unforeseen losses. Always double check with your customer to make sure their shipment falls within the coverage of the motor carrier that you select.

Inspection History

In a landscape where fraudulent practices like double brokering are prevalent, examining a carrier’s inspection history can be an eye opener. A consistent record of roadside inspections, aligned with the duration of their authority, suggests a carrier’s active and regular presence in the industry. Lack of this history, especially for carriers who have been in business for an extended period, can be a warning sign. This step is about due diligence in affirming the carrier’s operational integrity. For example, a carrier that has been in business for 2 years but only has a couple of inspections, if any at all, should be a warning sign to you.

Safety Violations

Beyond just checking for inspections, looking into the nature of any violations or issues reported during these inspections is critical. This examination helps in understanding the carrier’s approach to maintenance, safety, and regulatory adherence. Carriers with recurring safety violations or issues related to vehicle upkeep and driver conduct might pose a higher risk. This aspect of vetting is crucial for maintaining high safety standards. It’s our job to ensure our customers’ load get delivered, so you want to select a carrier that has well-maintained trucks and will deliver without breakdowns.

Carrier Reviews

In today’s digital age, online reviews and feedback are invaluable. Platforms like Google, DAT, TIA Watchdog, and Highway offer insights into a carrier’s reputation and service quality. Reviews, both positive and negative, can provide a broader understanding of the carrier’s reliability, customer service, and operational efficiency. Negative feedback, especially if it’s consistent or concerning specific issues, should prompt a deeper evaluation. Carriers can change over time, so be sure to check for trends in either direction when you’re looking at these reviews and reports.

Historical Performance

If the carrier has been used before by you or your company, it’s important to review their past performance through your Transportation Management System (TMS). This involves analyzing their on-time performance at the pickups and deliveries, their claims history, driver professionalism, and any issues encountered. Historical performance data is a powerful tool in assessing whether the carrier is dependable and capable of meeting your standards consistently. Make sure you’re always making internal notes about your experience with a carrier, both positive and negative, since this is first-hand experience which is usually more powerful than anyone else’s reports or reviews.

Verify Equipment Type and Driver’s Hours of Service

Finally, verifying the carrier’s equipment suitability for the specific shipment is important. This includes ensuring they have the right type of trailer and any necessary additional equipment, such as straps or tarps. Further, confirming that the driver has enough available hours to complete the shipment on time, in compliance with the DOT rules, is crucial. This not only affects the timely delivery of the shipment but also ensures adherence to legal requirements for driver operation hours. Asking questions such as “How are you on your available hours?” or “Are you fully rested?” can go a long way in preventing service failures, but also in building quality rapport with a driver.

In Summary

To wrap it up, thorough vetting of motor carriers is a process that requires attention to detail and an understanding of the nuances of the transportation industry. By adhering to these steps, we as freight brokers can establish a reliable network of carriers. This network not only enhances our operational efficiency but also strengthens our relationships with customers through consistent delivery of quality service.

About the Author

Ben
Ben

To read more about Freight 360, check out full bio here.