The COVID-19 pandemic provoked a public health emergency with deep economic repercussions, including a massive strain on supply chains and freight markets. But that taught shippers and carriers alike how to collaborate. We had to learn to work together to find urgent solutions to abrupt challenges amidst a volatile marketplace and industry-wide capacity crunch.
It was the perfect time to find the answer to a question that has been burning in the minds of Xpress Technologies, our brokerage division, and a well-known, worldwide shipper: what if we can leverage the unique strengths of both asset-based and freight brokerage models to create customized capacity in times of high demand and volatility?
So, we made a plan. The long-term plan was to use technology to cultivate a brokerage network that operates more like an asset fleet. Once deployed, the model could better respond to shippers’ unique challenges in a way that is more adaptable and responsive. Near-term, we planned to work with our shipper partner to build a brokerage fleet flexible enough to keep up with the supply chain volatility and shippers’ changing needs while providing improved operational transparency.
The collaboration began. Xpress Technologies and our shipping partner moved slowly but intentionally for several months before piloting the program in April 2020, starting with 30 brokered loads per week. By December, volumes had grown to 250 brokered loads per week. The approach granted the shipper abundance amidst scarcity and stability in chaos. Here’s what we learned in the process:
- For this approach to work, it’s helpful for shippers to give their carrier access to their freight characteristics and network challenges. Transparency is key. But it’s not just about getting the information. This approach works best when both partners have time to dig into the information and strategize together.
- The capabilities that gave the shipper an asset-level degree of visibility and influence over freight movements also allowed Xpress Technologies to fill capacity gaps with brokerage options. In fact, there were several times the pilot project allowed us to flex beyond the capacity constraints facing so many over-the-road carrier fleets across the country. This new brokerage model proved to be a reliable pressure release valve for bottlenecks occurring in other areas of the business. The result provided the customer with improved capacity at sustainable service levels.
- Robust carrier density in imbalanced markets is completely attainable with the right approach. When transactional brokerages build transactional relationships with carriers, “what have you done for me lately” can become the defining mantra of how carriers prioritize whose loads they accept. Brokerages have to keep carriers engaged by offering long-term partnerships, continuous freight worth committing to, and the operational expertise to run freight.
Reinventing an old business model is as much about the journey as the destination. Pursuing ambitions this bold is an exercise in measuring outcomes and learning lessons along the way. Xpress Technologies’ efforts to reimagine brokerage are ongoing, but they’re already beginning to understand the possibilities that are in store.
To hear more about the exciting things that can happen when the right tech and people meet, check out this edition of our Delivering Ideas webinar series.
Interested in seeing what Xpress Technologies can do for your business? Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org, and a customer experience representative will help answer any questions you may have.