Need a tool to cut rates? Rate-shopping software lets shippers compare prices for trucking and parcel services to get better deals.
More and more transportation and logistics managers are finding that rate-comparison software provides the right tool for the job. These applications, as one vendor's brochure explains, "solve the problem of comparing multiple carriers with multiple rates and determining the best-service/least-cost routing."
You can make and analyze rate comparisons on your own, of course. Without this type of software, though, it can be very time-consuming to put together all of the data you'd need. And think how long it would take to manually compare rates for a large number of shipments going to the various destinations you ship to every day.
The beauty of these programs is that they speed up the rate-comparison process considerably. All of the rates are laid out before you, ready for analysis. The image on Page 54 gives you an idea of what an actual screen looks like.
This screen shot shows each carrier's rate per 100 pounds for the weight break covering the particular shipment being analyzed, along with all negotiated discounts and/or FAK rates. Total charges are shown in the left-hand column, ranked from the lowest cost to the highest.
One thing that really stands out when you do a number of rate comparisons is that no one provider normally ranks as the lowest-cost carrier on every lane. A carrier that shows up as the lowest-cost provider on one lane might be the fifth-lowest on another. That's why it's so important to "lane shop."
Most programs also list each carrier's scheduled transit times. This lets users compare not only differences in rates and total charges but also differences in transit times, helping them determine how much weight to give to each factor.
SOME SPECIAL FEATURES
More than a dozen vendors offer rate-comparison applications. Their basic features and capabilities are similar, but a few of those offerings include some noteworthy features that stand out from the crowd. Here are some examples:
* Zerodown Carrier Select shows the mileage on each rate-comparison screen. It also automatically brings up a truckload charge for every shipment weighing 5,000 pounds or more. If you've worked out a spot rate with a carrier or broker, moreover, you can insert that mileage rate next to the actual miles. The total truckload charge then appears on the screen, showing at a glance whether moving that shipment as a truckload would cost less than moving it by any of the LTL carriers shown.
* Freightnow software includes a "Schedule Pickup" feature. Once the user has selected a carrier, a click on that button will contact that carrier and schedule a pickup.
* Via Ware TMS from Provia Software is able to track accessorial charges. Accessorials can differ drastically from one carrier to another and, depending on the type of shipment, can have a significant bearing on total transportation costs.
Another useful feature of some programs is the ability to generate an appropriate bill of lading for any shipment. Zerodown Carrier Select's software, to name just one example, includes the Uniform Straight Bill of Lading, Straight Bill of Lading--Short Form, and the vies (Voluntary Interindustry Commerce Standards) Bill of Lading. Custom bills of lading can also be downloaded into the program.
Some programs generate daily reports showing the savings accrued by using alternative carriers identified by the software rather than using the shipper's primary carrier for all of those shipments. (See Figure 1 for one real-life example.)
One of the most useful features of some packages is the inclusion of UPS Hundredweight and FedEx Multiweight rates. This allows users to compare the parcel carriers' rates with those of LTL carriers--particularly helpful for shipments in the 400- to 700-pound range, where the Hundredweight and Multiweight services are highly competitive with LTL rates. A few programs even allow shippers to compare charges for small package shipments weighing up to 150 pounds, broken out by the various types of services. You'll be amazed when you see the difference in charges between such offerings as standard UPS Ground Service versus UPS NextDay Air, and all the options in between.
Before selecting a rate-comparison program, be sure to check out how easy it is to install and how long that will take. Some programs require some advance configuration work by the vendor, while other applications can quickly and easily be added to a computer by the end user.
Consider, too, whether an application is available as a stand-alone product (either computer-resident or Web-based), or as one module of a comprehensive transportation management system (TMS). Don't rule the latter out because it is part of a larger solution, though: More and more TMS vendors are selling their applications on an a la carte basis, so they may be willing to break out rate-comparison modules for individual sale.
And don't forget to look into the cost of purchasing compared to the cost of leasing rate-comparison software. Prices are all over the lot.
Shippers that use these programs usually find that they can realize significant savings. Most software vendors will suggest that you can achieve savings in the range of 5 to 10 percent, but in practice that figure could be considerably higher.
With the economy still in the doldrums, companies will continue trying to squeeze more cost out of their transportation budgets. Because rate-comparison software offers the chance to save so much money, it's a good bet we'll see more transportation and logistics managers turning to those products for help.
FIGURE 1 Carrier Rate Comparisons Origin Destination Zip City Zip City Class Weight 89431 Sparks, NV 80011 Aurora, CO 50 282 89431 Sparks, NV 84737 Hurricane, UT 50 3505 89431 Sparks, NV 97230 Portland, OR 50 1000 89431 Sparks, NV 95531 Crescent City, CA 50 593 89431 Sparks, NV 95695 Woodland, CA 50 1094 89431 Sparks, NV 95131 San Jose, CA 50 666 89431 Sparks, NV 92881 Corona, CA 50 285 89431 Sparks, NV 95834 Sacramento, CA 50 400 89431 Sparks, NV 91355 Valencia, CA 50 311 89431 Sparks, NV 30024 Suwanee, GA 50 564 89431 Sparks, NV 23060 Glen Allen, VA 50 452 89431 Sparks, NV 95838 Sacramento, CA 50 228 89431 Sparks, NV 97838 Hermiston, OR 50 1077 89431 Sparks, NV 76266 Sanger, TX 50 584 89431 Sparks, NV 93257 Porterville, CA 50 425 89431 Sparks, NV 85043 Phoenix, AZ 50 2110 89431 Sparks, NV 95131 San Jose, CA 50 274 89431 Sparks, NV 95695 Woodland, CA 50 1906 89431 Sparks, NV 90631 La Habra, CA 50 900 89431 Sparks, NV 96080 Red Bluff, CA 50 1172 Carrier Cost Carrier cost CARRIER B $52.00 CARRIER A $58.83 CARRIER B 264.38 CARRIER A 543.41 CARRIER B 77.63 CARRIER A 106.50 CARRIER C 49.94 CARRIER A 72.92 CARRIER B 64.31 CARRIER A 73.80 CARRIER B 52.00 CARRIER A 57.14 CARRIER C 40.69 CARRIER A 52.00 CARRIER C 36.68 CARRIER A 52.00 CARRIER C 45.04 CARRIER A 52.00 CARRIER D 99.54 CARRIER A 124.17 CARRIER B 86.96 CARRIER A 118.48 CARRIER C 36.68 CARRIER A 52.00 CARRIER C 83.61 CARRIER A 114.70 CARRIER D 86.45 CARRIER A 105.88 CARRIER D 43.94 CARRIER A 58.26 CARRIER B 215.21 CARRIER A 267.85 CARRIER C 36.68 CARRIER A 52.00 CARRIER B 102.08 CARRIER A 117.31 CARRIER B 72.24 CARRIER A 89.92 CARRIER B 80.42 CARRIER A 100.06 Total daily cost $1,626.48 Total daily cost $2,269.24 Total Daily Savings $642.76 Annualized Savings $167,117.60 Many shippers assume that their primary motor carrier will always have the lowest price. Rate-comparison programs clearly show not only that other carriers may offer lower rates, but also how much money a shipper could save by choosing the lowest-cost providers. It's apparent from this example why "lane shopping" can be a big money saver. FIGURE 2 Who Offers Rate-Comparison Software? This partial listing includes some of the better-known providers of rate-comparison software, along with the name of any stand-alone products, their Web addresses, and telephone numbers. CT LOGISTICS FreitRater www.ctiogistics.com (800) 243-4100 DISTRIBUTION SOLUTIONS Allrate, Netrate, and Negotiator www:distribution-solutions.com (614) 833-0150 FREIGHTOUOTE.COM Freight Now www.freightnow.com (888) 595-5664 LAND-LINKTRAFFIC SYSTEM www.land-link.com (800) 743-1099 LOGILITY INC. Logility Voyager Systems www.logility.com (800) 762-5207 MANHATTAN ASSOCIATES www.manh.com (877) 596-9208 MANUGISTICS www.manugistics.com (877) 331-0728 MERIDIAN IQ PowerTMS www.meridianiq.com (877) 285-9126 PROVIA SOFTWARE ViaWareTMS and ViaWare SPS www.proviasoftware.com (877) 776-8421 SHIPMATRIX Saver www.shipmatrix.com (724) 934-9400 TRANZACT TECHNOLOGIES DirectQuote www.tranzact.com (800) 701-8456 TRANSNET RATING SYSTEMS Net Rater, Quick Quoter, Delta Rater, and Manifest Rater www.transnet-rating.com (952) 653-2600 TSi LOGISTICS iMpact www.tsilogistics.com (770) 474-1555 ZERODOWN CONSULTING Zerodown Carrier Select www.zerodownconsulting.com (954) 753-7006
Ray Bohman is president of The Bohman Group, consultants and publishers in the freight-transportation field. His popular column, Bohman on Pricing, appears monthly in Logistics Management.
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