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February 29, 2016 11:00 AM, EST

Shippers' Desire for Data Offers Fleets Opportunities

Cubitt by John Sommers II for Transport Topics
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Shippers remain more data-driven than ever, and that can present opportunities for carriers, a panel of experts said.

Shippers are “maniacs about data,” said Ben Cubitt, senior vice president of supply chain and transportation for logistics firm Transplace Inc. “Shippers respond to data and fact-based selling.”

He spoke here Feb. 29 at the start of American Trucking Associations’ executive forum, taking place as part of the Technology & Maintenance Council’s annual meeting.

Cubitt’s comments focused on the importance of scorecards. Most shippers use them to rate carriers on a large number of key measures, such as route-data compliance.

He recommended against focusing on cost per mile because there are too many variables, from weather to length of haul.

Cubitt noted that more truckload carriers are starting to provide data at sales meetings, but less-than-truckload fleets are not doing it as much yet.

He encouraged the development of “collaborative relationships” as greater use of data and scorecards takes hold.

He said they can provide a way for carriers to better share their concerns, most of which surround how to “keep my drivers moving.”

The need for shippers to operate 24 hours a day and provide truckers a safe and secure parking lot were other examples cited by Cubitt as items most often sought by fleets.

Erika Matias-Goodman, transportation operations manager with USG Corp., said her company scores carriers on 14 criteria. She said the company’s carriers are provided the chance to understand the scorecard and see their numbers.

Among the key measures, she said, are on-time performance and claim payments.

While USG scores carriers, Matias-Goodman said not enough fleets are scoring shippers and providing enough information on the ways they can improve their operations.

She said carriers often have shipper scorecards, but those are “generally for internal use and not shared.”

She said that is “valuable information” that can help alert the company to any facility that is not considered “driver-friendly,” even if that means the break rooms are not clean enough.

In opening comments, Carl Kirk, ATA vice president of maintenance, information technology & logistics and TMC executive director, noted that data show a dramatic range in transportation costs for shippers. The best ones, he said, pay as little as $6 per $1,000 pounds of freight. For others, that figure could be as high as $53.

“Clearly, the old ways of doing business are passé,” he said of the need to better utilize data to create operational efficiencies.