By Larry Kerr
President EBE Technologies
The way carriers receive rate contracts has not changed much over the years. They arrive through EDI, email, load boards, and even fax. Ideally, rate contracts would all be EDI-based as it provides centralized visibility, and management can set triggers to accept specific offers based on the lane, shipper, and commodity codes.
Plus, changes in pickup or delivery times and other load-related data are automatically made available for review in EDI-based processing. Unfortunately, EDI is not always provided by the shipper.
Many of the Top 100 carriers receive email and fax rate contracts from smaller shippers and brokers to meet capacity requirements. In some cases, the EDI file has an embedded rate contract document that carriers must extract and then revert the contract to an image-based document for processing. These embedded documents, requiring manual handling, defeat the automation of EDI.
The lack of management and reporting are common problems with manually processed rate contracts sent to a carrier’s routing system (CRS) or distribution list. These processes lack visibility as to how many contracts were accepted or denied. They’re often printed for sharing between the CSR and dispatch teams. Carrier staff will add terms and conditions stamps to the printed document, then electronically scan and email the contract back to the shipper.
To add further complexity, a change in the shipment that requires a repeat process exposes the load for a service failure which upsets shippers and drivers. Another processing fail is not moving trailers or containers within a set time frame, and it can trigger accessorial charges in some industry segments.
This added expense is an unnecessary cost to absorb and is a customer service failure. The axiom “without a process, a transaction cannot be managed” rings true for many carriers.
Suppliers have developed applications to tackle the challenges associated with the manual processing of rate contracts. This software, developed by industry experts, allows management to measure and manage the rate contracts in a digital workflow-based solution.
Automation enables shippers to send rate contracts to trading partners by using email addresses or fax numbers for identification and adding the contract into automated workflows based on routing rules. A posted explanation of rejected loads helps both parties understand the reasoning and provides insight for strategic planning on future contracts.
Accepted loads advance in a workflow where other processes occur, such as data entry into the TMS system and applying electronic terms and conditions stamps before sending the contract back to the shipper for a review of the changes.
As a rate contract is indexed, a lookup determines if the returned contract is in a workflow. If it is, the contract moves into a queue for a change review. A team member will review the two contracts to document differences. If changes are detected, the carrier decides if they can fulfill the contract.
These automated workflows measure the contract at various stages, including the length of time for a contract review, turndown reasons, the number of contract revisions, and individual productivity reports.
Ultimately, these automated rate contract management systems provide carriers the security of never losing a document, driver, or client because of errors due to manual processing. Further, automation provides carriers insight into greater profitability through consistent process control and open opportunities by having the correct equipment to cover more moves and meet capacity requirements.
EBE’s Rate Contract Management application manages inbound rate contracts from emails, faxes or websites, monitors for acceptance or rejection, and communicates the status to shippers. Contact us to learn more: 800-447-0612.