Pandemic offers opportunity to end the tug of war between carriers, shippers

Carriers and shippers have been playing a decades-long game of tug of war, passing pricing power amongst themselves as the transportation markets rise and fall. These pricing surges are one of the few certainties in an unpredictable market. 

The global pandemic offers industry players the chance to trade competition for collaboration and disrupt the status quo. Carriers, 3PLs, and shippers alike are feeling the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and companies in every corner of the industry are facing furloughs, layoffs, and salary reductions. 

“Carriers, 3PLs, and shippers can unite because we are all going through similar experiences right now,” Flock Freight’s VP of Carrier Sales Kevin McMaster said. “Rather than being in an ‘us versus them’ mentality, I really view this as an opportunity for us to come together. Taking care of each other during these times is going to get all of us through them.”

Trucking volumes briefly spiked, then quickly bottomed out, after consumers stocked up on supplies and retreated into their homes last month. Naturally, truckload linehaul rates took a hit, posting their biggest decline since the 2008 financial crisis. 

While some brokers and shippers have used the pandemic as an opportunity to move freight at rock bottom prices, McMaster said Flock Freight is committed to honoring its standing contracts with carriers despite the market turn. 

“I have heard horror stories from carriers about brokers actually revoking contracts during this time. Whatever commitments we made, regardless of the market, it is our duty to uphold those. It is easy to be shortsighted and try to make more margin, but we are here to stand by our commitments,” McMaster said. “I believe that a carrier is just as much a customer as anyone who’s looking to move freight. Without them, there is no us. Without them, we’re never going to get access to those essential goods we need so much right now. We know that we can’t survive without our carriers, and we are 100% reliant on them for our business to succeed.”

Flock Freight facilitates freight pooling in order to offer shippers all the benefits of full truckload service — including more direct delivery and increased security — even when they do not have enough freight to fill an entire truck. This model also benefits truckload carriers, especially when rates are bottoming out. 

“We’re offering to top off trailers. Carriers are getting paid truckload rates, and, as we know, those rates have significantly decreased,” McMaster said. “If you’ve got five feet of deck space, and we’ve got a partial load we can add, we’re helping you maximize your revenue and profitability. This allows us to reward our truckload carriers and give our customers the truckload service they enjoy. We also provide our carriers with the opportunity to pool our customers’ freight; sure, it may be a two pickup, two drop-off or a three pickup, three drop-off situation. If carriers are willing to do the extra work, we’re happy to reward drivers with higher rates in comparison to the standard one pick, one drop TL freight that they’re used to.” 

Flock Freight has also rolled out its Driver Care Program during this time. The program provides free meals for drivers and their families in the form of restaurant gift cards and delivery credits. Flock Freight also provides drivers with rideshare credits that allow them to go through drive-thrus each day they’re on the road. Credits are also offered to family members back at home. 

“While it is not earth-shattering or life-changing, it takes one small thing off their plate,” McMaster said. “At the end of the day, we need to realize that we’re all human beings and that we’re all in this together. This is an opportunity for us to grow stronger together while building new, long-lasting relationships. We wanted to touch our people that are supporting us and working with us day-in and day-out.”