Flatbed freight is a highly specialized transportation service and differs from traditional van freight in many ways—the highly fragmented market and array of equipment requirements can present many challenges. Flatbed trailers are used for shipments that cannot be accessed from a standard loading dock and to carry over dimensional objects. Whether you know a little or a lot about the flatbed market, there are several ways to improve your flatbed procurement processes.
- Plan ahead for your flatbed needs. Understanding the seasonality of the flatbed market is critical. Several industry verticals depend on flatbed, including oil and gas, steel, building materials, lumber, concrete, machinery, and manufacturing. Almost all of these verticals are sensitive to seasonal changes and dramatic shifts in supply and demand for flatbeds. Flatbed capacity may be harder to find in early spring when construction and produce seasons pick up and typically remains challenging throughout the summer. Good planning and securing capacity in advance can help ensure access to the equipment when you need it. Having a long-term plan makes it easier to navigate the highs and lows of the volatile flatbed market.
- Build trusted relationships. Having a stable provider with deep expertise and the ability to execute regardless of seasonal or economic conditions is paramount. The flatbed market is highly fragmented with the majority of trucking firms landing in the smaller to medium size range. Having a team that can efficiently and effectively tap into these resources is critical to flatbed procurement success.
- Leverage Technology. Having TMS tools to effectively organize, manage, and deliver important data is vital to success. From managing rates and routing guides to freight optimization and load tendering, utilizing technology is a key ingredient to succeeding in the flatbed market.
- Seek Value. Trying to beat the market and always chasing the lowest cost providers can cause a lot of heartache, not to mention waste a lot of time and ultimately drive up costs. Finding mutually beneficial relationships that are based on collaboration is important. Alignment between shippers and flatbed carriers can result in better rates and service over the long haul.
If you would like to learn more about applying this information to your own flatbed procurement process, download and read this case study, Flatbed Collaboration Drives Innovation and Value. These points just scratch the service of the flatbed market, so please comment below with any additional questions you may have or ideas you would like to share.