How to Make Your Freight Brokerage Business 100% More Efficient

If you operate a freight brokerage business that manages a large volume of intermodal freight, you have the potential to double the productivity of the dispatchers managing these loads—but it will require a different approach to sourcing dray capacity.

Let’s start by looking at what your front-line dispatchers do all day: much of their time is spent contacting carriers – to source a truck or to check a load’s status – and then waiting. Sometimes the process goes quickly, often it doesn’t.  

Only when the load is booked does the business make money. The phone calls, the emails, the waiting…. they’re all part of a time-consuming, somewhat antiquated process that results, in the end, in a broker commission payment.  

But what if you could automate this process? What if you could manage the same volume of freight with fewer steps and free up dispatchers to handle additional loads?

Now you can.

DrayNow is bringing marketplace efficiency to freight moves to and from rail yards. The platform is home to 1,500 (and growing) experienced carriers. Your dispatchers can put down their phones and, in the 60 seconds it takes to enter a load, reach hundreds of qualified drivers serving the exact terminal where capacity is needed. 

This is not a new business model. Marketplaces are driving transformative efficiency gains across just about every industry, including traditional OTR freight with Uber, Convoy and others. But the model has not yet been widely embraced for intermodal freight, where old habits die hard.  

Leverage Technology to Double Productivity

Speaking of old habits, here’s a scene that happens every night when performances end in New York’s Broadway theater district. Thousands of people empty onto the streets in Midtown Manhattan looking for a ride. Those that choose the traditional route lift their hands to hail a cab, along with 25 other people standing near the same street corner. Thirty minutes later, they’re still there. It’s a bad model – one person trying to get the attention of one very busy cab driver. In contrast, savvy millennials book a ride-share as soon as the curtain falls and are on their way home seconds after they exit the theater. It’s a better model—one person communicating simultaneously to hundreds of interested drivers right in that area. 

How about your freight brokerage business? Are your people hailing a cab or leveraging technology to book more freight in less time and fewer steps? 

If it’s like most brokerages, at least those that handle intermodal freight, processes look much the same as they did in 1990. The good news is that time-consuming processes involving phone calls, emails and faxes can be replaced by cloud-based workflows that can double the productivity of your front-line managers.  

What could that mean for you?

  • More revenue. If a dispatcher can manage 15 loads in half the time, could they now handle 30 loads? Dispatchers with more time can be more proactive about hunting freight.  For instance, you may know that a particular customer you serve in one market requires help in other markets but you’ve hesitated to pursue incremental freight due to time and capacity constraints.  With DrayNow, your dray carrier capacity now extends far beyond your core base of old-school dray carriers. And, because the platform eliminates much of the time required to source trucks, get status updates, and chase BOLs and other documents, your team has the bandwidth to support growth. 

  • Better margins. You’re used to establishing a set rate for a lane with a specific carrier for a period of time.  Marketplaces don’t work that way.  Prices fluctuate, and those changes are market-driven.  That could work to your advantage. If you can efficiently cover your existing workload, you can experiment with ways to drive more margin from existing business. Example: A long-time carrier on a lane may expect a certain price based on past history, but by putting the load on the marketplace, you may find the lane is a perfect complement for a particular driver’s existing schedule and that he/she is willing to handle that steady freight for 15% less.

  • Enhanced customer relationships. “Fighting fires.” That’s the phrase we hear most often when we ask dispatchers how their day is going. Well, if they’re fighting fires – for instance, scrambling to cover a load for later in the week – it’s a good bet they’re not on top of in-progress loads.  When shippers don’t hear about problems proactively from your team, confidence erodes. In contrast, when more efficient, tech-enabled processes free up time from “firefighting,” your team can be more proactive with customers—keeping them updated and bringing them insights on how to move their freight more efficiently.  

“It’s the Business We’re In”

When we rail against the manual nature of business processes in intermodal freight and the stupefying volume of emails, phone calls, and paper documents, some freight brokers tell us, “It’s the business we’re in.”  

But it’s not.

The business we’re in is moving freight.  The taskdoesn’t define the method, and these methods are morphing before our very eyes.  Marketplaces now make it faster and easier to source and manage intermodal dray moves. That added efficiency can double the productivity of your front-line dispatchers and bring margin-enhancing benefits to your freight brokerage business.

When the market inevitably moves, en masse, to embrace new and smarter ways of working, brokers that cling to traditional methods will find it hard to stay relevant.   

Taxi! Taxi, please!

 

Brad Frith