RFX Blog

A Balancing Act: How Freight Brokers Can Improve Carrier Onboarding

May 23rd, 2014

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons: Abhisek Sarda

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons: Abhisek Sarda

You may have heard this before…

“If I don’t get this carrier set up right now, I’m going to lose the load!”

The fact is that our industry has set a ‘Need-It-Now’ standard for everything we do. Whether it’s carrier onboarding, EDI transactions, money wires, factoring companies, quickpay programs, electronic document transmissions – the list goes on and on.  Meanwhile, fraud and identity theft are plaguing our industry, forcing us to take more time and precautions in these areas.  Government agencies have also set a much different standard: Safety, Accountability, Liability, Responsibility. This is not a new issue and we won’t get into any of the debates here.  There must be a balancing act: Speed and efficiency, coupled with safety and accountability.  One of the most critical balancing acts that we are facing right now is the carrier onboarding process.

Every day, freight agents are hounding their qualification departments to get carriers into the system as soon as possible so they can go on a speed date with a one-truck carrier pulling a shipper’s $100,000 seafood load. It’s crazy when you think about it.  But trucks are tight and freight agents often don’t understand the risks involved… some simply don’t care.  Our job as transportation managers is to educate freight agents about the risks involved with an onboarding process that is too lax, and strengthen that process while also finding ways to speed up the process to account for the fast and competitive spot-market.

(There is also something to be said for freight brokers who simply stay away from spot-freight and build strong relationships with core groups of carriers, thus being less dependent on the onboarding process.  Although, for many, this is easier said than done these days.)

So where do we begin with improving the bottleneck that is carrier onboarding?

Automation – Systems such as DAT, Registry Monitoring Insurance Services, Internet Truckstop all have their own automated systems in which the broker sets safety threshold criteria which pre-qualifies carriers based on FMCSA data and other factors.  Contracts, insurance and W9s are all submitted electronically.  Electronic Onboarding services also give brokers the ability to set up multiple campaigns to qualify carriers under different criteria for each campaign – Flatbed Campaigns, Frozen Campaigns, CARB campaigns, Hazmat Campaigns, Car Carriers, etc.  This is easier for carriers too.  A carrier can go through the process and sign a contract from the truck, on a laptop, smartphone or tablet, which ensures faster turnaround.  Insurance is pre-checked by these onboarding services and tax ID numbers are cross-checked with the IRS as well.  You can also eliminate the need for data entry with an automated system because most transportation software companies offer solutions to pull data from these services directly into your TMS database.

Lean Onboarding Packages – Your onboarding package should include everything you need and nothing you don’t.  Five years ago, RFX was sending a full-page news article about our company to carriers as part of a 14-page onboarding package!  Since then, we have “cut the fat” from our onboarding system in order to minimize turn-around time.  Review your entire process and eliminate anything you don’t need.

Efficient Communication Systems – If you are not prepared to fully integrate your onboarding process with an automated web service, you can at least streamline your communications by ditching the traditional fax machine in favor of email or an eFax service which will allow you to send and receive faxes via email.  Communicating with prospective carriers this way will avoid the pitfalls of physical fax lines that are always clogged up with contract transmissions.

Our industry is not slowing down.  The demand for speed and efficiency while balancing safety and compliance will always be a major piece of transportation operations.  Shippers, motor carriers and freight agents expect complete transparency and on-time service for administrative functions.  Streamlining your onboarding operation through investments in technology will provide a better service for all of your partners and make you more competitive in the marketplace.

What is your company doing with technology to streamline your operation?

Posted on May 23rd, 2014 in business strategy, freight agent, Technology