Choosing a truckload services company to move your shipments a short distance—say from port to local warehouse—might seem like a no-brainer. But you need to know that drayage providers are not all the same, and picking the best company to move your shipments is about more than which one quotes you the lowest rate. Here are seven questions you should ask to ensure you get the most for your money.

1. Are they safe? You’ll be hard pressed to find a carrier which doesn’t claim they’re committed to safety, but what you really want is evidence. Ask each carrier if their trucks are properly equipped with anti-collision and rollover prevention devices. While you’re at it, ask them about their Compliance, Safety and Accountability (CSA) metrics, an objective measure of their safety record. In fact, the safest companies will make it easy for you, posting their safety metrics right on their website. If they don’t, or if they give you a runaround, that’s a red flag.

2. Are deliveries made on time? This is important. When deliveries are late, that doesn’t just reflect poorly on the trucking company—it’s also a black eye for your business. Ask carriers about their on-time delivery history.

3. Can they cover the job? Some trucking companies will take on more shipments than they can handle. Make sure the one you choose has the capacity to handle yours.

4. Will they respond to my calls? The best partnerships are those with robust, two-way communication. You’ll need to have your calls returned and your questions answered, whether these are about the status of your shipment or the confirmation of a work order receipt. Are they responsive before you hire them? If they’re not, look for someone who is.

5. Will they give you the data you need in a timely manner? You need to know if your shipment is being tracked and traced, and when it arrives. Shipments which are not picked up on time could cost you storage fees. Make sure your carrier will be able to provide you with these and other data you need.

6. Will they keep you apprised of billing changes? There are always going to be unforeseen circumstances, such as wait-times, which change the original quote, but a good carrier will notify of these immediately so you’re not surprised when you see the invoice.

7. Is your carrier informed? An informed carrier can save you money. Knowing ahead of time about inclement weather conditions or an impending dock strike is important. An informed carrier is one who can spot trouble before it happens and make the necessary adjustments to keep things running smoothly and efficiently.

When it comes to picking the best carrier for your drayage shipments, you don’t have to settle. You don’t have to sacrifice safety, smart logistics and commitment to customer service to get the best cost. You just need to do your homework.

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