Choosing Your Supply Chain Strategy

There is little doubt that every shipper understands that their supply chain is critically important to their success. Yet recent research has concluded that 85% of shipping executives would only give their supply chain a rating of ‘average’ or below. Subpar supply chains cause multiple financial and operational challenges since companies need to deal with allocations of critical supplies and management of skyrocketing costs. The question becomes: how can companies develop an excellent supply chain, one that will fuel their growth?

The first step in evaluating your supply chain strategy is to assess whether your company has a transactional or strategic supply chain. Transactional supply chains tend to be focused on always putting out fires. There’s a belief that these supply chains are too chaotic and it’s impossible to ever ‘get ahead.’ Transactional supply chains are also too focused on the cost side of the equation, rather than focusing on the value provided by their supply chain partners. Finally, transactional supply chains exhibit a lack of awareness on their suppliers and customers patterns and how those impact their business.

On the other side there are strategic supply chains which tend to: look at the supply chain holistically, and are able to see how everything works together. They also focus on how the patterns of customers and suppliers impact their supply chain activities. Finally they operate with a proactive ‘fire-prevention’ approach, always evaluating their processes in response to changing market conditions. Now the question is: how can a company become more strategic?

Companies that are more strategic take the time and effort to create a written strategic supply chain and/or transportation management plan that defines how activities are managed and quantifies the investments that must be made to address their requirements. They also have written goals and objectives for their supply chain/freight activities as well as supply chain/transportation Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that are reviewed on a monthly/quarterly basis. Taking the time to develop, write and incorporate your supply chain partners into your strategy will keep your business strong in the long run and allow your business to achieve incredible performance.

Here at Zip Xpress, we understand the importance of a dynamic supply chain strategy. Our services were designed to help companies meet their objectives and surpass their expectations, no matter the current operating environment. Our level of service and experience can help you devise a supply chain strategy that will help your business grow. No matter what challenge you’re facing, we have a custom carrier solution that will work for you. To see for yourself, start today with Zip Xpress!

In the Driver’s Toolbox

No matter how hard a carrier tries, no matter how often companies maintain strict maintenance schedules to keep their trucks in tip-top shape, breakdowns inevitably happen. While roadside assistance is always available, drivers know that shipments need to keep moving and any delays must be addressed.

While major repairs should be left to a professional mechanic, with the right set of tools many if not most of the smaller repairs can be handled by drivers. One of the most valuable tools for a driver is their cell phone since they can call and report the incident to dispatch and anyone else they need to. A cell phone is invaluable for calling roadside assistance as well should a driver not wish to address the mechanical problems they face.

For the more hands-on drivers, some of the tools we’ve found to be absolutely essential in their toolbox include: screwdrivers (philips and flathead), pliers, wrenches, vice grips, a hammer (for knocking debris off of brakes), duct tape, a flashlight, ear plugs, zip ties and a fifth-wheel pin puller. The reason for the fifth wheel puller is because too many drivers hurt themselves when reaching for the pin or trailer tandem and strain their muscles by overextending themselves. These are the ‘lighter’ set of tools which are handy in any situation a driver may find themselves in.

If a driver wishes to be prepared for any situation they find themselves in, some additional tool considerations are: a socket set, pry bar, a torque wrench, spare light bulbs (such as headlights and brake lights) and spare nuts and bolts. Another recommendation from a long time driver was a spare key stored somewhere on the outside of the truck, because it was a matter of “when” not “if” a driver may accidentally lock themselves out of their truck. It helps save them a trip from the locksmith, although this may apply more to long-haul drivers than regional ones. Being prepared is the sign of an experienced driver as well as dedication for getting the job done. Having a few tools for all of the minor fixes is simply another way drivers prove just how resourceful they are.

Here at Zip Xpress, we understand the importance of keeping a driver equipped for whatever they need on the road. We’re able to maintain our trucks thanks to our routine maintenance schedules along with our driver’s diligence, but we know they’re ready for anything on the road. It’s this diligence that helps keep our shipments moving and their dedication to our customers that ensures every shipment we handle is able to arrive on time and undamaged. To see for yourself, start today with Zip Xpress!

Diesel Fuel Index & Surcharges

If there is one thing that we can count on, it is the volatility of fuel prices. In an effort to provide stability against the ups and downs of the fuel market, carriers created and adopted a practice during the 90s to tie the price of fuel into shipping rates. This fuel surcharge was and still is added in addition to the price of the shipment but only as a means of protecting carriers against the volatility of the fuel markets. However, there’s a new challenge, one that threatens many carriers if it’s not properly addressed.

The Energy Information Administration (the E.I.A.) is a section of the Department of Energy (DOE) which provides ongoing analysis and projections of fuel prices for the United States. The E.I.A. has been in the process of developing new statistical methodologies of estimating on-highway diesel fuel prices and these prices were supposed to be viewable by the public as of June 13, 2022. However, June 13th was the last day that these prices were available to the public for nearly a month. Updates resumed as of July 7th, 2022. The E.I.A. cited technical difficulties for why these prices were not displayed, and most carriers simply used the June 13th rate as their go-to when creating contracts, regardless of market conditions.

The E.I.A. worked hard to get diesel prices live on their website, but they also announced that once prices were live, they would provide a comprehensive list of diesel prices from June 13th through July 7th. The E.I.A. is only providing information, why would this be a problem?

Well, as with all markets there was a degree of fluctuation in the prices of diesel during this interim. When carriers billed for services rendered during this interim, they were using diesel prices as of June 13th for their pricing. They were simply relying on the information they had available to them. Any volatility in pricing opens up the possibility that shippers and carriers who subcontracted between June 13th and July 7th will come back to challenge any and all discrepancies pertaining to fuel surcharges. Many carriers are worried about having to retroactively adjust their freight bills due to market fluctuations.

We would like to take a moment and assure any carriers that we have worked with during this time that we have no intention of calling attention to any discrepancies or ask you to retroactively adjust freight bills to reflect updates from the E.I.A. 

With that in mind, we’d also like to state that Zip Xpress has worked diligently to treat all customers with fairness in our pricing practices and would like to call attention to item 120 in the Application of Surcharges on our Rules Tariff:

“If for some reason the E.I.A. is not able to post the weekly index, the most recent prior posting will be used. If after a period of time of lapsed postings the E.I.A. publishes fuel prices for prior weeks, ZPXS will not retroactively adjust freight bills to reflect those updates.”

As you can see, we will not be retroactively adjusting freight bills to reflect the updates from the E.I.A. We are dedicated to providing all of our customers with the best possible service and we hope that shippers will understand that this was not an attempt from carriers to manipulate pricing, but only a means of operating and getting shipments delivered on time and undamaged. We look forward to serving you and providing you with the customer carrier solutions that will help your business succeed. To see this for yourself, start today with Zip Xpress!

Getting the Service You Deserve

If there is anything that we here at Zip aspire for, it’s better service. This mentality drives everything we do, from our procedures to how our drivers interact with customers. Yet when we hear over and over the lackluster service that so many carriers have provided to shippers recently, we can’t help but balk at such poor treatment. It is absolutely essential that all shippers receive the best service possible because shippers are the key to a dynamic supply chain. Shippers and carriers need each other and when one disrespects the other with poor service, conflict will become inevitable and not only will a customer be lost, reputations will be damaged as well.

Shippers no doubt face rising rates from their carriers and while most of these rate increases are inevitable – whether due to tightened capacity or rising costs, it doesn’t help when shippers see these rate increases paired alongside subpar or even poorer service. Shippers are in the business of creating products for their customers and carriers have the important responsibility of ensuring that those products arrive on time and undamaged. When a carrier breaks a promise of getting a shipment to its final destination in the pursuit of an ‘easier lead’ they’re only hurting themselves, because shippers always remember how a carrier treated them. 

It is vital that carriers set a better service standard for their customers. It was not that long ago when many carriers were facing their greatest challenges and the market has proven that it will always provide more challenges for us to overcome. As for the shippers: always remember that there are carriers willing and ready to take your shipments and provide you with the best service you will ever ask for. There are carriers willing and able to provide you with the options you need to build a better, more resilient supply chain, one that won’t leave you under the misguided belief that there is always another customer waiting in the wings.

Here at Zip Xpress, we understand the importance of better service to our customers. We communicate with customers every step of the way in their shipment, scheduling pickup and dropoff over the phone so that we can remain transparent. When you call Zip Xpress, you will speak with a person, never a machine because we don’t believe you need to wait for a call back in order to get your shipments moving. We also can assist with all of your shipping problems and guarantee that we have a custom carrier solution that will work for your business. To see for yourself, start today with Zip Xpress!