Brokers: How to have better relationships with truck drivers and owner-operators


It’s no secret that the relationships between brokers and carriers can be strained. It can be easy to focus more on shipper relationships since that’s where the money comes from. At the same time, you have a job that needs to be done, and that job can only be done by a truck driver.

So, how can you build a better relationship with owner-operators and truck drivers that will help your business?

Build trust.

People gravitate to brands and companies they trust. Relationships are no different, so build a reputation as a broker that carriers can trust. There are a lot of carriers out there who view brokers negatively and think they’re all out to pull a fast one. You can start to prove them wrong with a few easy steps:

  • Pass along shipper and receiver details before they have to ask.
  • Share weather and road closure information if it impacts the lane they’re traveling.
  • Thank them.
  • If they do a good job, call them the next time you have a similar load or lane.

Remember: Your success is dependent on their success, so do whatever you can so you both look good. Developing loyal relationships will save you money. So while it’s tempting to always go with a cheaper rate, you may be losing a carrier with great customer service – that means less business in the future.

Stand out.

If you’re providing excellent customer service not just to your shippers but to your carriers, you’ll stand out from the rest of the broker pack. How can you do that?

  • Understand who you’re talking to and take an interest in them. This doesn’t have to be personal, you can ask about their trucking business, the lanes they like to run, etc. However, if you know they’re trying to get home for their son’s basketball game, try to help them do that. If you know their significant other’s name, ask how they are.
  • Ask if there’s anything you can do to help them get the job done, and do it if you can.
  • Help them find a return load to get out of their delivery location.
  • Again, tell them thank you, or send a text saying you appreciate their hard work.

Carriers will see the value in having a good broker relationship if they know you see the value in them. After all, you need them to complete a job you’re getting paid for.

Be respectful.

You’re all working with deadlines, and a carrier’s time is just as precious as yours. Be courteous, treat drivers like the professionals they are, acknowledge their time constraints, and do what you can to help them while they’re driving your load to its destination. Answer calls and respond to their emails as soon as possible. This will go a long way in bridging the trust gap.

Honor commitments and be transparent.

You don’t like being given the runaround by a carrier, so extend them the same courtesy. Specifically:

  • Be clear about the load, the lane, and any shipping or receiving expectations so there’s no surprises.
  • Tell them if you go with another carrier because of a lower rate. They may decide to match that rate.
  • Don’t cancel shipments. If it can’t be avoided, tell them immediately, and try to find them another load so they’re not left out in the cold.
  • Tell them about any rate changes. That means location, fuel cost, etc. Those things aren’t personal and help explain last minute changes.
  • Return phone calls as quickly as possible.
  • When necessary, make changes at delivery locations ahead of time to make everyone’s life easier.

Full transparency will help develop lasting working relationships with people and businesses that could help you in the future. Keep your promises; good carriers are going to keep theirs, and you’ll know to work with them in the future.

Be aware of future business opportunities.

If you learned about the carrier and know specifics about their truck’s capabilities, reach out to them when you have a load that matches their preferred lanes and abilities. It might help to keep a notecard or spreadsheet with specific carrier information that you can refer to as needed. This can be particularly helpful when you’ve got special needs like hazmat certificates, less-than-full loads, or an unpopular location due to deadheading.

Know your shippers and receivers. 

If you know the shipping and receiving people you’re working with, it will be a lot easier to smooth out the wrinkles that occur when you’ve got freight being moved. Say you need a receiver to open early. If you know the people you’re asking to go out of their way, it will increase the likelihood your freight is delivered on time. It also makes it easier for the carrier to get reloaded and back out on the road.

Communicate.

Always tell a carrier anything and everything you know about a load. This goes well beyond date and time. Tell them what they’ll be hauling and if the shipper has specific requirements like tarps, straps, or hazmat certificates.

Listen.

When working with a carrier for the first time, ask them about their truck’s capabilities and which lanes they prefer to run, then listen to their answer. It means an easy contact in the future when you have a load close to home or in their preferred area. After your load is delivered, ask how it went. Address any problems and note them for future deliveries to that receiver.

Don’t forget to say thanks.

Gratitude is one of the easiest ways to make a big difference. A quick text of thanks after a delivery will let them know you acknowledge and appreciate the effort. For exceptional service and a truck driver who really went the extra mile, send a gift card via email for a cup of coffee or a dozen donuts. Don’t take it for granted that they drove over-night in hazardous conditions to get a load delivered on time.

Pay quickly. 

In this age of electronic funds transfer, there’s no reason not to be taking advantage of quick pay options like LoadPay. Plus, they can simplify your payment processes and save you money. And anytime a carrier has the option to get paid quicker and easier they’re going to be interested.

The best brokers focus on building relationships with people. Get to know your carriers, and it’ll benefit you both.


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