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Carrier Vetting: How to Determine the Right Carrier for Every Haul

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Freight brokers are pressured to find reliable carriers for every load they handle quickly. And with fraud inundating the marketplace and ever-increasing protocols being implemented, knowing which carrier you can count on can feel like a gamble.

This is where automation tools like carrier scoring can come in. But the technology is only as good as your ability to use it. If you’re a broker staring at a long list of carriers, each with a rating from A to F, how do you apply that data when trying to match the right carrier to the right load? And what are the best ways to weigh the potential risks and benefits?

We examine what those ratings mean and how they can guide you in evaluating carriers effectively.

What is carrier scoring?

Carrier scoring is a system that evaluates a transportation carrier’s overall performance and reliability. It considers various factors, such as driver safety, compliance with regulations, and suspicious factors that could flag nefarious intentions. These scores help brokers decide which carriers best meet their needs and standards.

These ratings are typically provided by both public and private organizations that specialize in monitoring and analyzing transportation industry standards and performance metrics. Public scores may be based on compliance with government regulations and safety checks, while private scores often consider additional data like customer service, efficiency, and technological capabilities.

Carrier rating vs. scoring

Both carrier rating and scoring can help you make an informed decision when choosing a carrier. But it’s essential to understand their differences, as they are calculated differently.

Carrier ratings

Carrier ratings are official evaluations of regulatory bodies like the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) through its Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program. These ratings analyze data from roadside inspections, crash reports, and investigation results. They can be grouped into seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs), each affecting a carrier’s ability to operate:

  • Unsafe driving
  • Hours-of-service compliance
  • Driver fitness
  • Controlled substances/alcohol
  • Vehicle maintenance
  • Hazardous materials compliance
  • Crash indicator

The results of an investigation can lead to one of three safety ratings:

  • Satisfactory: Indicates that safety controls are adequate.
  • Conditional: Indicates potential issues with safety controls that have yet to lead to violations.
  • Unsatisfactory: Indicates inadequate safety controls that have led to violations, potentially barring the carrier from operating.

Carrier scoring

Unlike the official ratings provided by government bodies, carrier scoring is typically conducted by third-party companies and can include a broader array of performance metrics. These scores include:

  • Safety
  • Service quality
  • Reliability
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Operational efficiency

Third-party scoring systems use data analytics and various performance indicators to view a carrier’s overall business performance. These scores can help you evaluate carrier partnerships beyond compliance, considering factors impacting service delivery and customer satisfaction. 

One such advanced third-party scoring system is Carrier Assure. Carrier Assure integrates with Truckstop’s RMIS Carrier Onboarding and Monitoring to deliver comprehensive scoring that enhances your ability to assess and select the best carriers. It receives all of the data directly from the FMCSA, and its algorithms use data science to provide you with an easy-to-understand predictive score on how a full truckload carrier may perform for you. Carrier scoring is not determined by a person; it’s determined by data science. Carriers are scored based on market statistics, peer groups, and millions of data points.

How does third-party carrier scoring work?

It’s helpful to understand how third-party carrier scoring works so you know how comprehensive this type can be. 

Data collection

Before any scoring can happen, data has to be collected from various sources, such as:

  • Roadside inspections: Details from vehicle and driver inspections conducted by authorities.
  • Crash reports: Information from accidents involving the carrier’s vehicles over the last two years.
  • Customer feedback: Reviews and ratings from customers who have used the carrier’s services.
  • Operational metrics: Data on delivery times, goods handling, and service interruption frequency.

Analysis and scoring

Once data is collected, it’s analyzed using advanced statistical methods in several key areas:

  • Safety: How well does the carrier adhere to safety regulations? Are their vehicles and drivers found to be compliant in inspections?
  • Reliability: Does the carrier deliver goods on time? Are there frequent cancellations or delays?
  • Service quality: How effectively does the carrier handle goods? Are there frequent complaints about damaged goods?
  • Customer satisfaction: How do customers rate their overall experience with the carrier?

The scoring systems often use algorithms to assign weights to different aspects of the carrier’s performance based on what their clients prioritize — safety, timeliness, or customer service. This results in a score that can quickly inform decisions about which carriers will likely meet specific needs or standards.

Reporting and usage

The scores are then compiled into detailed reports or dashboards that make it easy to compare different carriers. These scores are updated regularly to reflect current information, providing a dynamic tool for making business decisions.

Factors to consider when hiring a carrier

Several factors should be considered when choosing the right carrier. This decision-making process goes beyond just looking at ratings and scores; it involves a detailed evaluation of each carrier’s capabilities and how they align with your requirements. 

Here’s a breakdown of key factors to keep in mind.

  • History and credibility: Examine the carrier’s track record, including years of operation and reputation within the industry. A long-standing history can often indicate reliability and experience, while credibility is reflected through industry certifications and awards.
  • Violations and FMCSA data: Review any past violations the carrier may have incurred, especially those related to safety and compliance. Check the FMCSA database for detailed reports on the carrier’s historical compliance with regulations.
  • Inspections and statistics: Look at the frequency and results of recent roadside inspections. Statistics on violations, such as overloads or maintenance issues, provide insight into the carrier’s operational discipline and safety culture.
  • Reported insurance: Verify that the carrier has adequate insurance coverage that complies with industry standards. This protects against potential liabilities and ensures the carrier is prepared for unforeseen events.
  • Address and phone validity: Confirm the legitimacy of the carrier’s business by checking the validity of their physical address and phone number. This can help ensure you’re dealing with a reputable and established company.

When would hiring a lower-rated carrier make sense?

There are scenarios where choosing a lower-rated carrier, such as those rated C or below, could be strategically beneficial and cost-effective. Understanding when and why to consider these options can help you manage your resources efficiently while meeting your business needs.

  • Cost considerations: Higher-rated carriers often have higher costs due to their proven track record and demand. Lower-rated carriers can be more affordable, offering competitive rates that help you reduce overall shipping expenses.
  • Newer carriers: A rating of C or lower doesn’t necessarily indicate poor service; it may mean the carrier is newer and hasn’t yet had the opportunity to establish a more substantial reputation. These carriers are often eager to prove themselves and can provide excellent service to build clientele.
  • Specific logistics needs: Lower-rated carriers may be suitable for short hauls or transporting low-value loads with minimal risks. This can be particularly advantageous when the shipment requires minimal service or handling.
  • Availability: Higher-rated carriers might be fully booked during peak times, leaving you with fewer options. Lower-rated carriers are often more available, providing a practical solution when you need to meet tight deadlines without significantly compromising service quality.

Top tools for evaluating carriers

To ensure smooth logistics operations, you need to select a suitable carrier. Various tools are available to help you evaluate carriers efficiently and accurately. Here are some of the top tools you should consider.

Load board

One of the top tools for evaluating carriers is a load board. The Truckstop Load Board helps you find and post loads, efficiently connecting you with a wide range of carriers. It provides features that enhance decision-making, such as:

  • Real-time load board access: This service offers up-to-date listings, which is essential if you need to match loads with carriers quickly.
  • Carrier performance tools allow you to review carrier performance metrics and decide which carriers are reliable and suitable for specific loads.
  • Rate insights: Provides valuable freight rate data, helping you price loads competitively while ensuring profitability.

RMIS

RMIS is a sophisticated tool that enhances carrier compliance and monitoring for brokers. Integrating directly into your transportation management system (TMS) accelerates the onboarding process up to 80% faster than manual methods. This lets you speed up the process, enhance accuracy, and reduce the risk of fraud.

Key features of RMIS:

  • AI-powered assistance: RMIS employs artificial intelligence to streamline the gathering and analysis of carrier data. You can interact with the system using natural language to quickly and efficiently obtain information about a carrier’s insurance status, risk scores, etc.​ 
  • Comprehensive monitoring: Continuous updates and alerts throughout the freight lifecycle inform you of any changes or potential risks associated with carriers​.
  • Fraud prevention: RMIS is particularly noted for its robust fraud prevention capabilities. It uses advanced algorithms and data analytics to assess the risk of fraud and other irregularities, helping protect your operations from potential threats​.

Carrier Assure

Carrier Assure, an exclusive Truckstop partner, is performance-scoring software designed explicitly for vetting carriers. It focuses on full truckload interstate shipments and uses advanced data analytics and algorithms to assess carrier performance. 

This tool is valuable because it helps you to make more informed decisions by providing a performance score that includes data points directly from the FMCSA.

Here are some key features and benefits of Carrier Assure:

  • Predictive performance scoring: Carrier Assure evaluates carriers based on historical data and predictive analytics, giving you a detailed understanding of a carrier’s reliability before you decide to engage its services.
  • Focus on valid carriers: Only carriers with valid, for-hire, interstate motor carrier authority are scored. Carriers with a safety rating of “Conditional” or “Unsatisfactory” are not scored, ensuring the ratings you receive are for carriers compliant with high safety and operational standards.
  • Enhanced compliance and fraud prevention: This tool helps identify risk factors for cargo theft and double brokering, improving freight transactions’ overall security and reliability.

Integrating Carrier Assure into Truckstop’s RMIS system allows for a more nuanced view of carrier performance, adding a layer of risk assessment beyond traditional compliance checks​.

Save time with RMIS Carrier Onboarding and Monitoring

Truckstop provides a powerful combination of its private load board, RMIS, and Carrier Assure, ensuring you can confidently make the best choices. This tool suite helps you streamline operations, enhance carrier compliance, and mitigate risk, enabling you to make more informed and efficient decision-making.

Experience the full capabilities of Truckstop’s solutions for yourself and see how they can transform your brokerage operations. Book a demo now for a closer look and to understand how these tools work in real-time.

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