Tech-Enabled Sourcing of Intermodal Drayage Capacity Can Redefine Freight Dispatcher Role

With DrayNow, brokers can get connected to thousands of carriers in an instant.

With DrayNow, brokers can get connected to thousands of carriers in an instant.

For dispatchers on the front lines at freight brokerage companies, phone calls and emails remain your communication weapons of choice when managing intermodal freight.

If there’s a last-minute fall-off, you pound the phones until it’s time to fight the next fire – despite the existence of an intermodal freight marketplace that make sourcing drayage capacity faster and more efficient.  

This “brawn over brains” strategy doesn’t map with today’s freight management landscape, where automated workflows and real-time data make such manual approaches seem antiquated and out of place.

In the war between you and competing brokers/IMCs to attract, delight and grow your shipper base, it’s time to put away your sling shot and adopt more powerful, technology-aided weapons for sourcing dray capacity. Such tools can not only make you more productive, but can redefine your value – to your freight brokerage and your customers.  

You own the relationship with your shipping customers. It’s time for you to own your career trajectory by working smarter, not harder.

Change your way of working

Intermodal freight management relies on the efficient sourcing of drayage capacity. The future here is the marketplace model.

DrayNow, for instance, allows you to reach hundreds, even thousands, of qualified dray carriers in the minute or less it takes to post a load. It’s like making 1,500 phone calls in 30 seconds. Marketplace carriers in the region where service is needed are alerted to the request and, on average, loads are accepted in about 8 minutes.  

Once the load is booked using the marketplace model, you can keep your customer informed without ever calling a carrier. Through an app loaded on their cell phones, driver locations are automatically tracked and uploaded to an always-available portal, which reports real-time locations (within 5 meters) and highly reliable ETAs that factor in not only distance but traffic conditions.  

Such tools are available now and can completely change your way of working.

How front-line dispatchers benefit from an intermodal freight marketplace

Here are 5 ways a marketplace for intermodal drayage capacity can save you time and improve shipping service.

Speed capacity sourcing

Right now, for fall-offs and spot moves, you work the phones until you get a “yes.” From first call to completed paperwork, that process can take close to an hour. In contrast, with DrayNow’s marketplace model, the post-to-booked process can be completed in less than 10 minutes – or as quickly as two minutes if the load is immediately accepted. Only instead of saying “yes” on the phone, an interested carrier says “yes” with the click of a button on his cell phone. Carriers who provide drayage capacity on the DrayNow intermodal freight marketplace tend to be smaller one and two-truck operators that most brokers/IMCs don’t normally have access to.

Secure a better rate

Marketplace rates fluctuate and this puts off many IMCs who are used to establishing set rates with carriers over a period of time. But the fluctuations are driven by supply and demand. Marketplaces are inherently fair because they are market driven.  

And you can use these market forces to your advantage. For example, a Milwaukee-based dray carrier dropping off in Chicago might accept a relatively low price for a pick-up that gets him back to his home base.  That’s a win you don’t get unless you leverage the power of a marketplace to intelligently connect demand with supply.

Reduce time chasing status updates

A good part of your day is spent in senseless chasing of carriers to get location and ETA updates. What a waste. 

Drivers who participate in the marketplace install an app on their phone that automatically records their exact location. So, when a shipper wonders about the status of an important shipment, you simply search the portal using your load’s reference number and can immediately provide the container’s exact location and a highly accurate ETA. This level of transparency is becoming common and expected across the supply chain.  

To this point, intermodal shippers have been patient with the manual nature of tracking dray moves to and from rail yards, but that patience is fast wearing thin.

Easily source paperwork

When it comes to shipment paperwork, you wait while BOLs sit on the driver’s passenger seat. He eventually gets the documents to his carrier and then you wait some more for the carrier to mail or fax the BOL to you. By the time you validate the information and send it to your billing team, it could be a week since the load was delivered.

With DrayNow’s platform, you get documents at the exact time of the transaction. Drivers are required to photograph key paperwork at every milestone and these electronic documents are automatically uploaded to the portal. For your agency, that means a much faster cash flow. For you, it means no more chasing documents that you need for billing or for sharing with the second-leg driver handling pick-up and final delivery.  

Provide insights to shippers

Intermodal shippers value brokers/IMCs that provide data and insights to help them ship smarter and more efficiently. Let’s face it, the tools currently at your disposal leave you woefully ill-prepared for this advisory role.  

Relying on carriers’ performance reports is not the answer. Those reports are inaccurate and can be misleading. The marketplace model opens up a new world of insights. Your participation in the marketplace allows you to benchmark against thousands and thousands of intermodal shipments across all major intermodal hubs. Here are some examples of insights you can share with your shipping customers:

  • What is the average same-day coverage rate for certain lanes?

  • How does the shipper’s pricing vary by lane?

  • Is the shipper overpaying or underpaying compared to their existing carrier agreement?

  • What are average load/unload times at certain facilities?

Where do you derive your value? Is it from insights like these?

If your value proposition is access to carrier capacity and a willingness to work hard and provide great service, congratulations. You are now on par with just about every other freight broker and IMC in America. But if you can go beyond that to provide information and insight on a shipper’s intermodal freight moves that lead to smarter shipping strategies, that offers a real opportunity to distinguish yourself and your agency.

The future is now

As freight marketplaces continue to gain in popularity, fewer and fewer carriers (particularly smaller carriers) will lock themselves into long-term rates. They will leverage marketplaces to identify loads that make the most sense for their businesses and their lifestyles. To reach dray carriers reliant on these marketplaces, brokers/IMCs will need to participate.

As for shippers, they will increasingly experience the speed, simplicity and transparency of automated marketplaces for other aspects of their freight programs (Freightos for international freight, Uber and Convoy for OTR). Eventually, they’ll expect, and even demand, the same for their intermodal shipments.

As a freight dispatcher, if you want to enhance your value – to your agency and your customers – you must respond to these market forces by embracing new ways of working that don’t involve incessant phone calls, emails and faxes.

Today, marketplaces are the most efficient way to connect buyers and sellers – in any industry. With DrayNow, the marketplace model is now in use and thriving in the historically tech-starved intermodal sector.

Climb aboard.  

Brad Frith