How Shippers Can Improve Their Relationship With Carriers

0aaaRich Conklin

Healthy carrier relationships are vital for a reliable carrier network. 

Developing a positive relationship plays a significant role in the carrier services provided. Any issues that arise should be addressed to avoid any misunderstanding. Any strain on the relationship could result in delays in the delivery of the shipment and put added stress on customer relations. 

The relationship between regional carriers and shippers should be mutually beneficial for the process of transportation to work and be a win-win process for all involved.


The shipping industry has seen a dramatic overhaul in recent years. Technology, applications and faster service expectations mean shippers need to be more agile than ever before. These changes require improving the working relationship with other critical elements within the supply chain

Where does the shipper stand in this relationship? The shipper prepares and documents the packages, pallets, and crates for delivery to the designated destination. This role is vital and cannot be under-emphasized.

Tips To Improve The Relationship

You have a variety of areas of focus for improving the working relationship between shippers and carriers. Some tips that shippers could take into consideration to improve their relationship with carriers and negotiate better shipping rates include:

1. Have A Plan

One of the best ways to avoid a poorly executed start that could potentially ruin a good relationship with carriers is to make sure that every partnership starts with an agreed plan. A plan is beneficial to both parties. If possible, the shipper should allow a reasonable amount of time for the carrier to get their system of operations up and running. The carrier should have prepared for this even before considering taking on new lanes, routes, and freight. Having a plan will ensure smooth operations in both domestic and international shipping.

2. Work For The Good Of Everyone

Shippers and carriers can improve their relationship by working for the good of everyone involved. Cooperation succeeds by working with the carrier to decide which freight and routes work best. By working hand in hand with the carrier, the shipper increases the possibility of adding profitability. This added profitability creates a win-win and adds value that will solidify the relationship.

3. Resolve Claims Quickly And Professionally

Freight claims such as damage to product or packages can be a headache. Causes for claims are the possibility of contamination, bugs, rodents or damage due to water/moisture. The possibility of lost freight or accidents during shipping also are reasons for claims to be initiated. When this occurs, claims need to addressed quickly and professionally. Especially when the complainant is the recipient as they have to run the final check on the goods before signing for the delivery. This final check is to make sure that everything is in order and the delivery is acceptable. If the receiver notes any issues, whoever that is at fault should be expected to be accountable and ultimately, offer to correct the situation. Working together to resolve damage issues should be an opportunity to correct processes or operational flaws.

4. Be Generous

As it relates to sharing marketing and financial opportunities that arise and come up. When you present new opportunities to your carrier partner, then everybody will end up benefiting from greater profitability. Allowing for better leverage for negotiating better terms on future agreements.

5. Pay Carriers On Time

Carriers have a delicate job of transporting the goods and cargo to their destination on time, and they have to be compensated to enable them with their operational and processing costs. Shippers need to pay carriers correctly and promptly based on the pricing agreement by both parties. Regional carriers also need to make sure that their billings are correct to avoid unnecessary delays and hitches in the payment process.

6. Embrace Technology 

You expect real-time data on your shipments and packages from your carriers, and you should equally make it easy for the carriers to transfer the data you need. A variety of tools are available that the shippers can pick from to make improvements to the business and working relationship. For example, same-day deliveries are now more possible than ever. In regions where this option may be available, the shipper should choose programs with options that offer the carriers a smooth system of sending the data you need. For example, UPS offers WorldShip software, FedEx has Ship Manager, and the Postal Service offers Click N Ship software. Shippers can figure rates, service offers, create shipping labels and give tracking information.

7. Shippers Should Use Data Gathering

Shippers should use data gathering for compilation and processing. This process has the advantage to track and keep proper records of past transactions with the respective carriers, and will allow for smooth and efficient referencing and thus ultimately enhance their relationship.

8. Shippers Must Have Data Analytics And Figures At Their Disposal

Data analytics applications that are employed by shippers involve more than just analyzing data. The application should mainly collect and qualify shipping data. Much of the work will need to take place up front in collecting, integrating and preparing data of all shipping information and then developing, testing and revising your models to make sure that they produce the correct results to meet the requirements of both parties.

9. Shipping Companies Should Build Trust

Shipping companies should build trust with carriers by keeping to their promises and being loyal to the terms of agreement or contracts reached. A deal is a deal, and any violation of the agreements reached may result in renegotiation, and this can only work to strain the already fragile relationship, hence the need for both parties to build trust in their dealings with carriers.

10. Employing A Reliable And Efficient Communication Channel

A reliable and efficient communication channel needs to be used to relay vital shipping information. For example, if there happens to be confusion or uncertainty about shipping labels, then information can be updated through this channel to resolve the issue quickly and prevent delays. Both shippers and carrier rely heavily on clear and concise communication to make sure that shipments are delivered on time and without incident.

11. Track And Report Interactions

The shippers should make sure that they get correct and informative feedback. One way to do this is to follow up after delivery has been completed by conducting an audit and inquiring if customers were happy with the service. Just as important is to ask the customer if their driver was respectful and courteous. The results of the audit could be shared with the carrier to help improve customer service. Good shipper-carrier communication goes a long way in improving customer service. This process is the best way to make sure the maintenance of a strong, healthy partnership, which reduces operational costs and improves service delivery.

An example of a company involved in tracking and reporting interactions is DHL. Through the feedback from their customers, they have successfully formed and maintained working relationships with customers around the globe. This process has enabled an efficient and effective delivery service within the United States. Additionally, when the need is present, DHL Global Mail partners with Canada Post (specialized in domestic parcel deliveries) for cross-border mail and package deliveries.

Why The Shipper-Carrier Relationship Needs To Be Bidirectional

A bidirectional relationship is a mutually beneficial one. Both the shipper and carrier need to have something to gain in the commitment towards the next level in their partnership. This approach includes sharing opportunities, problem solving and communication. Mutual trust and understanding is one of the most vital elements of a successful shipper-carrier partnership. When both parties feel they can trust each other, they come to realize the importance and value of both services they offer, and this can lead both parties to support, reach and ultimately surpass their individual organization’s goals.

Of course, this trust is not a given. Trust is something that you actively develop and keep, and that can be easier said than to carry out. 


Rich Conklin is a freelance writer living in Oregon. He has over 20 years of experience in logistics, warehouse and inventory management. Conklin uses his knowledge, skills and personal experience in logistics to create informative content for B2C and B2B businesses. When he is not writing, you can find him exploring the Pacific Northwest backroads with his wife and their two dogs. For more about Conklin and his work click here.

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