Smart shippers are solving macro capacity challenges with a micro-carrier alternative.

DeAnna Swinton
Published on November 3, 2021

As if competing for shelf space and market share wasn’t hard enough, now shippers must compete tooth and nail for trucking capacity, too. How bad is it? DAT Trendlines says the already high load to truck ratio jumped over 20% in 2021 to 6.46 in August.

As a result, carriers are picking and choosing what customers to serve, and charging top dollar. That puts shippers in a vulnerable position both when it comes to securing extra capacity and just ensuring continuity of service.

Shippers need to diversify their carrier base now.

In addition to paying more and doing more to make carriers efficient and happy, shippers are also looking hard at diversifying to lower their risks of not being able to secure transportation.

The current capacity crunch is only the tip of the iceberg of risks shippers are looking to mitigate through diversification. Shippers need ready, reliable options when faced with the growing list of potential disruptions from natural disasters, COVID variants, cyber-attacks, and restrictions to interstate commerce.

Micro-carriers offer the best opportunities to diversify.

Just adding another large carrier to the mix isn’t a sure diversifier in the current transportation market. To hedge effectively, shippers should go where the market is: with the small and mid-sized carriers. These so-called “micro-carriers” operating fewer than 20 trucks make up 97.4% of the close to 1 million carrier companies in the U.S., according to data released by the U.S Department of Transportation’s statement in April 2020.

Hailing from all geographies and specialties, these micro-carriers provide a natural source of diversification. Where did they all come from? With the availability of online load boards and freight matching tools like DAT and Internet Truck Stop, it’s never been easier for drivers to launch businesses and secure loads for themselves. These same resources enable shippers to tap into agile solutions that can keep them flexible and resilient amidst the capacity crunch.

Working with small and mid-sized trucking companies has its challenges.

Managing a transportation strategy that leverages micro-carriers requires shippers to perform the detailed planning themselves that large carriers provide behind the scenes. Vetting carriers, procuring loads and tracking freight also falls on the shoulders of shippers. In the end, dealing with a mix of 50-80 micro-carriers could leave shippers feeling like they’re managing an in-house fleet. Not exactly the intention of most shippers who are used to working with bigger players who handle everything.

Freight Brokers can streamline the process of working with micro-carriers.

For an experience more like they’re accustomed to in dealing with large carriers, shippers can work with freight brokers, like Tucker, who utilize small and mid-sized trucking companies. Brokers provide the advantages of a diversified network of micro-carriers while saving you from micromanaging everything from procuring and vetting to tracking and paying. In the highest-performing model, a broker like Tucker funnels agile, independent resources into a centralized source with one point of contact for tracking freight and one source of accountability for shippers.

In many ways, freight brokers are made for this job—and this point in the industry. We have the structure set up to seamlessly integrate a multitude of carriers into a shipper’s transportation strategy. We have built long-standing relationships with micro-carriers and can easily match the right drivers with loads. Additionally, freight brokers, like us, can offer the technology for transparent real-time monitoring of your shipments regardless of who’s carrying them.

For these reasons, working with the right freight broker makes a network of agile, available independent carriers a very viable option for shippers.

Depending on the expertise and connections of a freight broker, you can gain access to specialized services, extra capacity, and strength in challenging lanes that supports the resilience and continuity you need—and that large carriers likely wouldn’t be able to provide in all cases.

Our leaders at Tucker who have lived through past capacity crunches believe today’s demand bubble could last another 13-14 months, and that other risks from weather and more will be around much longer. With these challenges ahead, a multi-faceted micro carrier-based network is a smart transportation strategy.

Diversity + relationships is the winning combination.

Diversification alone is not enough. As all of us learned during the COVID crisis, we succeed together. Especially in tough times, the commitment and familiarity of companies’ relationships determined their success, and in so many cases, enabled their very survival. That’s why a freight broker, like Tucker, who can diversify your carrier network and be a reliable long-term partner provides a competitive advantage to you.

Our strong relationships with micro-carriers become yours and as the carriers we hire become familiar with your business, they naturally become allegiant to your brand and experienced in your standards of care. In today’s market, those are decisive advantages in winning the fight for extra capacity and continuity of service that bests your competition.

Put yourself at the forefront by making a freight broker a permanent pillar of your transportation base. Talk to our experts about our experience creating innovative micro-carrier strategies for some of the world's most successful and advanced shippers today.

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