It’s Time to Automate Your Spot Freight Strategy

Are you still navigating the complexities of spot freight using manual methods? Recent research, including studies sponsored by C.H. Robinson in collaboration with MIT, highlights the need for shippers to shift to a digitally-enabled approach for freight best suited to the transactional market.

The true cost of manually handling spot freight rates

Long tail strategy

Many shippers still rely on the "long tail" route guide strategy for transactional freight. This often leads to wasted time and low chances of load acceptance. Research from C.H. Robinson and MIT reveals that building a route guide with only 2 or 4 backup providers is more effective in reducing lead time and cuts down on unnecessary costs when the load inevitably moves to the spot market. Plus, it sets more realistic expectations with carriers on what freight will be tendered to them.

Extra coverage strategy

Some shippers opt for an extra coverage strategy to secure contract rates for anticipated demand. The goal is to reduce exposure to the spot market and limit the last minute scramble for carriers.

However, this often results in inefficiencies during annual procurement, with a significant portion of contracted lanes becoming “ghost lanes” when the freight never materializes. It’s estimated that 65–80% of lanes contracted during procurement events become ghost lanes. This approach can lead to unforeseen costs, including upfront resources during procurement and higher contract rates later on.

Why a digital spot freight strategy is more effective

To address spot freight that’s not suited for contracts—like low lane density or inconsistent freight—a real-time rating strategy is often a better strategy. Using an approach like integrating real-time truckload rates into the route guide through API connectivity can create various benefits for your business.

Swiftly adapt to any market phase

In tight markets (under supply), automation increases lead time, enabling access to the best market rate. Plus, you get capacity assurance that the load will move at the provided rate. 

Market phases: Under supply, Later Cycle: Balance Recovery, Early Cycle: Balance Recovery, and Over Supply.

In loose markets (over supply), a real-time rating strategy offers pricing transparency, additional savings opportunities when contract rates fail, and insights into current market rates. And if you don’t already have a real-time rating strategy developed, the over supply phase is the perfect time to create one by helping maintain stability.

Streamline the procurement process

In the traditional landscape, procuring truckload rates often involves negotiations, manual tendering, and prolonged lead times—which works well for consistent, predictable freight volumes.

However, due to the last minute or inconsistent nature of spot freight, a structured spot strategy, like a route guide integration, can help you get the load in front of carriers sooner. This is especially helpful compared to a lengthy route guide process that eats into your lead time with every rejection. You can also improve predictability of first tender acceptance for your low volume lanes.

Save time and reduce errors with automation

By automating the process, you can instantaneously access rates from multiple carriers, automatically select the best rate of available contracted and transactional prices using pre-set rules, and tender the load—no negotiation required. Not only can you significantly accelerate the decision-making process, but you can also feel confident it’s at a competitive rate.

Furthermore, the automated nature of real-time truckload rates reduces the likelihood of errors associated with manual data entry and negotiation. By leveraging technology to interface with carriers through APIs, you can expect information to be accurate and up to date.

Identify a quality solution with the right spot freight capabilities

Not all real-time rating tech offerings are created equal. Only the best have a full range of options to keep you on track.

TMC, a division of C.H. Robinson, offers an automated real-time rating solution through Navisphere® that quotes and books North American truckload freight loads instantly—securing the best rates without manual intervention. Because rates are available from multiple providers, you can feel confident you’re always finding the right service at the right price. It’s the perfect complement to your existing contract freight strategy.

How real-time transportation rates work

The graphic below shows the real-time rate process—from quoting to tendering—through the C.H. Robinson TMS. Essentially, your system calls on carrier APIs using a standard payload provided by TMC. The transportation providers then automatically return their response, which shows up instantly.

Flow chart of how real time rating works.


Furthermore, if you choose C.H. Robinson as a carrier, you can access more robust tools like Procure IQ®, which identifies the best procurement strategies for each lane, and Market Rate IQ™, which compares prices to the DAT market average so you can easily benchmark your freight. Using advanced connectivity from C.H. Robinson, you can connect to more carriers and routes than with any other provider and deconstruct your rate to pinpoint savings opportunities.

Transform your spot freight strategy with digital excellence

Strategies that once worked are proving inadequate in today's fast-paced market. As you navigate the complexities of our dynamic industry, digitally enhancing your strategy is the key to unlocking unprecedented efficiency and cost savings. Our customers have seen an average savings opportunity of 29% per shipment.

Our experts and tech not only pinpoint the optimal freight for route guide integration but also provide seamless connections to automate your truckload spot freight. With many popular providers and carriers already integrated and more on the horizon, we can help you stay ahead of the competition.

Get more details about real-time rating in Navisphere and see if it is right for you. Setup typically takes only 45 minutes for existing customers using C.H. Robinson to manage their tendering process or TMC, a division of C.H. Robinson, customers. Connect with an expert today to optimize your freight strategy together.

Andrew Welch
Principle Project Manager, TMC
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