On the Minds of Shippers: What Are Their Biggest Concerns?

By Brian Everett

There are plenty of complicated issues on the minds of transportation executives these days, even as lack of time, budget and staff resources compounds their challenges. This was underscored in feedback recently obtained through the 2007 NASSTRAC Member Survey, an annual online research project that serves as a "barometer" of shipper concerns, issues and opportunities.

Nearly 50 shippers participated in this year's survey. Of those responding, nearly 32 percent were manufacturers, 18 percent were retailers and nearly 10 percent were pharmaceutical companies. In addition, 25 percent were third-party logistics providers (3PLs).

So what are the biggest challenges currently facing shippers and 3PLs — those who control freight? More than 62 percent of respondents said that managing transportation costs was one of their top challenges. "With rising fuel and labor costs, managing the financial impact on the supply chain is a struggle," said one shipper.

Biggest Challenges Facing Shippers and 3PLs

Nearly 30 percent cited increasing customer demands, as well as fuel surcharges, among their top challenges. Interestingly, one shipper claimed that although there continues to be an increase in costs, there doesn't appear to be an improvement in service reflective of the costs incurred. "LTL service in particular seems to be getting worse, not better," he said.

Security issues along with government compliance are among the top five concerns for 20 percent of respondents. Government policies and regulations affecting transportation have an important impact on transportation and overall capacity. Carrier pricing regulations, as well as social regulations addressing safety, labor, environment and energy issues, tend to reduce capacity, service levels and costs. My own sense is that although engine emissions controls, energy efficiency standards, hazardous materials regulations, speed limits, and other rules and policies are necessary to protect the public or to promote social objectives, they can have a tremendous impact on transportation and our overall U.S. economy, and this impact must be considered.

Other concerns that are top of shippers' minds continue to be the consolidation of the carrier world, highway infrastructure and roadway congestion, and the driver shortage. For more information on transportation trends and industry developments, visit www.NASSTRAC.org and click "Transportation News."

About the Author: Brian Everett is the executive director for NASSTRAC, a shipper's association that provides education, advocacy, provider relations and networking for professionals involved in all areas of transportation, ranging from full truckload and LTL to containerization and global logistics. For more information, visit www.NASSTRAC.org.

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