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10 Questions to Ask When Selecting a Carrier for Truck Parts

John Conrad

04 January 2019

Need some direction to narrow down a carrier for truck parts? Use these 10 questions to find your best match.

Thousands of carriers can handle the transportation of truck parts. But your parts likely have special handling needs that are best suited for particular carriers. How do you decide? Here are some insightful questions to ask when choosing a potential carrier for truck parts.

10 questions to ask your potential carrier for truck parts

1. Can the carrier accommodate special handling needs?  

If you are shipping truck parts to a new retail location that may not have a dock, be sure to ask about lift gate service. If your customer doesn’t have a dock, you don’t want your product stuck waiting for someone to unload it, rejected, or otherwise damaged in the unloading process.

At Evans, we encourage you to provide us with a picture of the product so we can see what type of packaging you are working with and what special handling needs are required. Pictures of your freight are also essential for the successful management of claims if that need were to arise. 

2. What is the carrier’s liability for each shipment?  

Regardless of whether you are shipping 5 pounds or 500 pounds of freight, you are going to want to be made whole if your product goes missing during transportation. And weight might not present the only factor.

Let’s consider a hypothetical situation where a customer ships a 500-pound product that is lost in transit. The carrier’s liability was capped at $550,000. Sounds like a lot, right? In most situations, that’s enough to cover a loss. But what if the product were a prototype — something virtually irreplaceable? No one wants to encounter a situation like this.

Asking about the carrier’s standard limit on liability and getting additional coverage if needed takes care of any gaps before a problem crops up.  

3. What is the cost of not delivering on time?  

If you need guaranteed service, you need to ask up front. Less-than-truckload (LTL) carriers may offer guaranteed service at a percentage increase over the standard rate. The carrier’s liability for failing to deliver your shipment on time is limited to the cost of the shipment. The catch? You have to purchase this guarantee upfront.

The bill of lading (BOL) must state the carrier liability for timely delivery when the freight is picked up. The requirement to state the liability on the BOL means the carrier has a right to refuse. Dealing with this up front by negotiating with the carrier and stating the expectation on the BOL saves you time on the backend.  

4. What is the expectation of arrival?  

In a regular route freight environment, transit times vary from carrier to carrier. Each carrier publishes different transit days. For example, one carrier may publish transit rates of one day from Milwaukee to Chicago, while another would say the same route takes three days. When selecting a carrier, you need to consider both cost and when you need your product delivered.  

5. Do you need an unusual delivery option?  

With truck parts, unusual delivery options are occasionally needed. The shipper and receiver will need to have material-handling equipment on either side, and the BOL should reflect these requirements. For example, you might need to ship trailer parts, rails, or planks on a flatbed and then use an overhead crane to unload. Prior to shipping, you need to identify a carrier’s ability to meet your exceptional delivery needs.

Selecting a carrier to match a trucks part shipper means identifying, historically, where a carrier can succeed.

6. Are you concerned about minimizing the risk of problems in transit?  

Once you find a selection of carriers that are attractive based on rate and transit time, it helps to know about a carrier’s portfolio before deciding between them. Some carriers might work better with machine parts than baked goods. This doesn’t mean a given carrier is bad, just different.  

Selecting a carrier to match a trucks part shipper means identifying, historically, where a carrier can succeed. Particularly with LTL, this is a critical part of finding your best shipping match for truck parts. In this case, using a 3PL minimizes the risk associated with the selection of a new carrier because we know the options intimately.  

7. Does your product have special weather or temperature restrictions?  

Weather conditions can impact a number of goods. Temperature fluctuations can adversely impact paint and other additives. Even humidity can damage certain metals.

Some LTL carriers offer freeze or heat protection while in transit. You can also secure an airtight trailer. But while an LTL shipment might be protected from freeze, heat, and/or humidity during transit, it might then sit exposed on a dock for 10 days. You must identify products that require special handling and specify those needs up front.  

Our system is set up to identify and flag freight with special needs. So, while you need to identify special needs up front on your BOL, we provide a backstop to ensure that your freight ships in the correct manner.  

8. What modes do you need?  

Shipping truck parts may require a large range of modes. Finding the right carrier for everything from parcel to next day air is a big task — but you don’t have to do it alone. This is an area where a 3PL’s connections and insights excel at understanding all of your options, as well as your freight, so that you can select the right mode for your unique needs.   

9. How much data would you like to see?  

Data offers insight into your shipping program that is necessary for your success. Using a transportation management system (TMS) increases the odds that any claims filed will resolve in your favor. Additionally, even before your freight is delivered, complete data on your freight and carriers’ performance allows us to prevent problems before they occur, reducing your need to file and manage claims to begin with.  

With LTL shipping, we can scan your product at the various docking points so that you can track it easily. With full truckload shipping, we can use a GPS tracking system on the truck or trailer — or even the driver’s cell phone — to provide live, mapped information on the location of your shipment. And of course, our customer service team is available 24/7 to answer any of your questions. When you know where your freight is, you can make sure your supply chain is prepared and provide better updates to your own customers.  

10. What is the rate of claims?  

You can ask a carrier about its rate of claims directly. And carriers do publish claims that they acknowledge. But if you are looking for more detail, like weekly reports that identify all claims — even those in progress — for all carriers that you are considering, you will need more than just a carrier’s (sometimes biased) report.  

A TMS can sort data on inbound and outbound shipping claims rates. With access to a 3PL’s market insights and historical data, you can get a huge, unbiased amount of detail to inform your carrier selection. And the right 3PL will customize your reporting for your needs so that you aren’t inundated with unnecessary information.  

Putting it all together to find the best carrier for your truck parts   

All of these questions will help inform your choice of carrier for truck parts. The better you know your freight and your carrier options, the more successful your delivery will be.

When you’re ready to access industry insight and behind-the-scenes, historic information, consider partnering with a 3PL. Those insights make all the difference in finding a good versus great carrier.

John Conrad

John is a VP of Key Accounts at Evans Transportation.

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