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10 Logistics Challenges and How to Solve Them

It's nothing supply chain managers and procurement execs don't understand. Todays marketplace is full of logistics challenges and it takes a strategic ally to overcome. Find solutions to 10 common obstacles.

By

Jon-Michael Soracchi
July 14, 2021
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Even when everything goes perfectly for during the shipment of freight, many don’t see all of the things that have to go just right — through a lot of effort and proper planning — for it to go according to plan. In fact, there are many logistics challenges that must be addressed daily (and sometimes even from minute to minute) in order for everyone to complete their goals.

In fact, there are 10 logistics challenges and how to solve them remains a roadblock for everyone in the logistics industry to successfully navigate. These challenges, which are all things that can have an impact on a load of freight, must be considered or addressed to make sure the shipment can be completed according to plan.

1. Costs of Transportation

costs-of-transportation

One of the biggest things that everyone in the logistics world is cognizant of — whether you need the service or are the one providing it — is how much it will cost to get freight from one point to the other. In fact, cutting transportation cost is a goal not only for the customer but also the logistics company that wants to achieve profitability. 

It might be obvious but standard truckload shipping from one point of the contiguous U.S. to another is going to be the most cost-efficient option. However, it’s not easy to give an exact cost for any one load of freight since there are so many factors that go into the price. Some of the major factors include: 

  1. Diesel fuel prices/fuel surcharges
  2. Distance
  3. Truck driver or 18-wheeler availability
  4. The commodity being shipped
  5. Weight of commodity
  6. Type of destination
  7. Additional services (expedited shipping, refrigerated shipping, inside delivery, etc.)

Some of the things that are associated with the price of a truckload are hard to control or find a huge solution to. For instance, the real-time fuel costs are going to ensure that a price quote from day to day will be a little more or a little less to mirror the actual cost of diesel. Likewise, if your freight has to travel 1,000 miles, there’s no getting around that.

But going with a logistics company that has a large pool of drivers and trucks is a smart first step to take since supply and demand for these two aspects will dictate the price of your load. If there are an abundance of both, that should lend to lower prices.

Also, look at the additional services. Really determine if you need expedited shipping — which might be able to save a day or two on the shipping time but will carry an extra cost — or if you need your products delivered inside a building or if they can be dropped off outside and processed by the entity receiving the goods.  

Another solution to combating the rising costs associated with freight shipping are to go with a company like R+L Global Logistics that has many truck drivers with their own vehicles and can  

Looking for a solution to move truckload freight? R+L Global Logistics handles truckload shipping. Let us know when and we'll handle the rest.

2. Transportation Lead Times

transportation-lead-times

Currently, there is a huge demand for the transportation of goods for resale or retail, but not always the capacity of drivers to meet that demand. The growth of the supply chain looks to have no signs of abating but not all of the truck drivers who were sidelined because of the effects of COVID-19 have returned to work yet — and some might actually not return at all to the business. Therefore it has been harder than ever to successfully book a freight load.

The best way you can solve this as the one needing their goods shipped is two-fold:

  1. The best thing you can do that doesn’t take much more time or effort is to book your loads as far in advance as possible. This will give the logistics company you’re working with more time to secure a truck and driver, and help set you up to have the transportation method available when you need it.
  2. This one is somewhat related to the first but is broken out as its own point for those who have special commodities to be shipped. If you’re shipping hazardous materials (HAZMAT), it might take a little bit of additional work on the part of the carrier to provide one. This is because not every driver in the U.S. is certified to work with specialized freight.

Another good rule of thumb that will pare down transportation lead times is to have all the correct information available when you call up a logistics provider. Having the exact route (or even just the zip codes of the pickup and dropoff points), the specific commodities being shipped and the timeframe you need shipment to occur in will help you get an accurate time and price quote. This will not only save time (and possibly money), but also any surprises when it comes time for your load to be shipped.

Mentioned in the previous section, if the overall cost of the load of freight is less of a concern than making sure it gets there very quickly, then expedited shipping could be a part of the equation. Some logistics customers actually factor in the additional expense of expedited shipping at certain times of the year, or for certain merchandise to really shorten the overall time of freight on the road.

Increasing transportation lead times can help you reduce freight costs. See our post with 15 Easy Ways to Reduce Freight Costs to learn more.

3. Offering Stellar Customer Service

offering-stellar-customer-service

In normal times, it takes a concerted effort — some would argue a culture — to consistently deliver amazing customer service. On the other side of the same coin, anyone eliciting services from a company really sees getting an outstanding customer service experience as a differentiator when choosing between various options.

According to a Forbes.com article, 96 percent of customers said they would stop giving a company their business after receiving poor or bad customer service. Think about that for a second — if you gave consistently poor customer service, there’s a real chance that nearly all of your customers would be willing to look elsewhere.

So this isn’t the kind of challenge you can afford to have no solution for, or thought put into. It’s not an easy challenge but one that needs to be completely addressed. Also, it’s hard to say exactly how to render or receive excellent customer service since each customer might have slightly different needs but there are some general rules of thumb to follow in order to really ramp up positive experiences for customers:

  • Readily available customer service (via phone, email, text, chat and even in-person if possible)
  • Employees that treat customers like valued people
  • Quickly addressing any questions or concerns
  • Making the customer feel as if you’re a stakeholder in their success
  • When selling, not rushing to business; instead, engaging the customer before launching into a sales pitch

Furthermore, for the most successful companies, outstanding customer service isn’t just a branch on a tree but needs to be a “mantra” of every employee in the company. It’s being willing to be helpful with any issue, even if not each employee is an expert on any subject. In a situation like this one, it’s cheerfully putting the customer in contact with the right person for their questions or issues. 

It also entails making the customer feel like they’re truly valued and not just another booked load before moving onto the next one. Many companies invest time and actual money — in the form of additional employees and training — trying to nail an aspect of their business that is crucial but can be overlooked.

4. Let Customers Track Their Shipment

let-customers-track-their-shipment

Years ago, having an entire truckload of merchandise tracked would have been a nearly impossible request to both make or receive. Until recently, there was no predictable way for this information to be logged or transmitted.

This would lead to a logistics company having to give a date for pickup and dropoff, and the customer having to trust that those were correct

As the 21st century has progressed, the use of the global positioning system (or GPS) has exploded in its use and availability. With the ability to place a GPS tracker on the truck or a device in the cab, logistics companies can now provide real-time freight updates to their customers with little effort.

While there might be an upfront cost in equipping vehicles, this is not an expensive undertaking and one that — at the very least — keeps a logistics company up to date with its competitors and for all its customers. 

So in actuality, there’s no excuse as the freight shipping company to not offer it to customers and no reason as a customer to not expect it to be available. While customer service was discussed in the previous section, this is another example of providing an added benefit and additional level of service that can truly differentiate one company from the next.

Looking for a solution to move truckload freight? R+L Global Logistics handles truckload shipping. Let us know when and we'll handle the rest.

5. Limit Theft or Damage

limit-theft-or-damage

It’s important to use the word limit here, as there will never be such a thing as no damage, loss or theft (unfortunately). Instead, it’s imperative to not only acknowledge this will be an issue but also come up with constructive ways to mitigate the risk of any of this occurring.

Limiting Theft

It might be hard to hear but the threat of cargo theft is inevitable. So one of the things you can do to protect your own investment is to get insurance against such an occurrence. Sure, it will be an additional cost yet it could easily pale in comparison to having a six-figure freight load vanish into the night with no idea where it went.

Also, using a logistics company that puts a priority on stopping and also deterring theft is a big advantage to have. This can be as simple as having experienced drivers who don’t leave their load unattended for any longer than they must, or having drivers work in tandem so that a high-value truck is never left alone at all.

Good situational awareness will pay dividends as well, where a competent driver will park in areas that are well-lit or that they know to have security cameras. But it’s not just the truckers themselves — it’s going with a company that has trusted employees.

Another place cargo theft can occur is right at the warehouse. Emboldened criminals can try to pass themselves off as truck drivers and enter the facility where the trucks are loaded and unloaded. So going with a logistics company that makes security a heavy part of its strategy is also ideal.

Limiting Damage

Damage can also be known as loss since it refers more to the loss of the value of the product than outright theft. This is a huge issue since it can cost either the logistics company, the business itself or even a company insuring the products.

And when most people think about damage, they might think about the products being absolutely destroyed. But even that is a bit misleading because damage can refer to any type of defect that prevents a good from being sold at the desired price on the open market. So a dent in a microwave, for instance, will not render it useless but will lower its appeal — and value — to a customer.

So in order to meet the challenge and solve this issue, it takes a three-pronged plan:

  1. The first is to make sure to package whatever the good is as secure as possible. This will prevent shifting during transit, as well as protect from possible damage from impact with another boxed or otherwise secured item. This is something that can be controlled before merchandise is ever loaded onto a truck.
  2. Consider insuring your load. Mentioned earlier, insurance is not only for theft. It can also help limit your own losses for products you can no longer sell.
  3. Pick the right logistics partner. In a world with a lot of competition, it might be difficult to really figure out how one freight hauler operates over another. But any logistics company you partner with should treat your load with the utmost care and attention and strive to treat the commodities in the back of their truck as their own. Also most logistics companies will include some level of insurance in their price quote, so definitely include that in your decision-making process.

6. Can You Find Any Shipping Containers?

can-you-find-any-shipping-containers

This might not impact whether you can find a truck with the right specifications you’re looking for. But if you plan to import any of your products from overseas, the chances are pretty good that they’re coming over on an ocean freighter in shipping containers. Currently, there is a worldwide shortage on the availability of these containers, which can put a huge roadblock up in front of your wholesaling or retail plans.

Since everyone is dealing with this same shortage and everyone is scrambling for the same limited amount of containers, what can conceivably be done? That’s a challenge without a lot of great answers but there are two things that could possibly help in this case:

  • Schedule your request to the logistics company as far out as possible. This will most likely increase the likelihood of them being able to fulfill your request.
  • Go with a logistics company that has multiple pipelines from which they can source shipping containers. This might seem like common sense but if a logistics company relies on a single source to get the containers and that source is unable to accommodate them, then that’s a problem for you. If they have a bunch of different preferred partners, then they have a much better chance of filling your needs. 

7. Will Your Freight Be Kept Cold?

will-your-freight-be-kept-cold

There’s a possibility that you might need a refrigerated truck regularly or even just once in a blue moon. Regardless of how often you might need one, you’ll absolutely not be the only one. Two industries that make big-time use of climate-controlled trucks are the food industry and the pharmaceutical industry, especially in relation to the COVID-19 vaccines.

So knowing this, it’s important to not only be able to locate a truck that offers cooler temperatures but also go with a logistics company that properly maintains the cold chain from start to finish. So in actuality, this is a two-part challenge for people needing products shipped to overcome.

First, finding the truck; while that’s not necessarily the easier of the two challenges, without initially securing a climate-controlled truck. This might sound like a broken record but the more time you can give the logistics company, the easier it will be to book one.

The second challenge comes from finding a logistics company that has a stellar track record with cold chain management. The biggest aspect of this in terms of importance is taking the steps necessary to make sure that the goods transported never rise above the temperature needed. This is hard to do under the best of circumstances for any logistics outfit but the best ones have practices in place to make sure it’s not broken.

In fact, as the customer, you could ask for a copy of a logistics company’s cold chain compliance process. If the logistics company in question does a great job at it, they’d probably be happy to share their information with you. 

8. Navigating the Crush of E-Commerce

navigating-the-crush-of-e-commerce

Each year prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of transactions and total value of online orders for any good under the sun was on the rise. The coronavirus turned the gradual increase into a bit of a rocket. In fact, 2020 was a big year for digital sales and the first quarter of 2021 is already up nearly 40 percent over the first quarter of 2020.

So what does this mean for you, even if you’re not selling exclusively online? Regardless of if any of your business is from online sales or not, you’re going to be competing for the same trucks in an increasingly competitive climate.

Another thing to think about with the ubiquity of e-commerce is how well your logistics company can get in and out of warehouses. With a big-box retailer, truckloads go directly to them. With e-commerce many times, truckloads are offloaded into warehouses, where the product might sit until the moment a customer places an order. So even if you’re utilizing your own warehousing or that of a logistics company, you want expert drivers who know exactly what they’re doing.

Looking for a solution to move truckload freight? R+L Global Logistics handles truckload shipping. Let us know when and we'll handle the rest.

9. Will You Be Able To Clear Your Goods Through Customs?

will-you-be-able-to-clear-your-goods-through-customs

Many products are made in the USA. However, many more goods are not. Which means there’s a better-than-average chance that you’ll be importing the commodities you’re looking to sell. A truly diverse logistics company is going to either be able to help you themselves with customs clearance as an additional service they offer or, if they can’t, will most definitely be able to refer you to one of their preferred partners in order to help you with this service.

The solution to needing help with customs is to employ a licensed customs broker. This person or business will help you fill out the paperwork required and knows at a high level exactly what to do in every aspect of the importing process.

While you might wonder how this is related to booking a truckload, it’s pretty simple: if you struggle with importing the items you plan on selling, they won’t even be here for you to get them onto a truck. Obviously, this will stop you in your tracks before you can even begin, making this something to give due diligence to. 

Looking for a solution to move truckload freight? R+L Global Logistics handles truckload shipping. Let us know when and we'll handle the rest.

10. Dealing With Additional Steps In The Supply Chain

One last thing that has been a challenge and will be one for the foreseeable future is the extra steps needed to undergo to actually work the supply chain in order to get to what’s often the final step of booking a truckload.

With shortages of materials to make products, or needing to source from a variety of suppliers now when a single one sufficed in the past, this will affect businesses in a way where none are immune. This also trickles down to longer lead times in warehousing where extra precautions to keep workers safe might slow down normal transactional speeds.

One solution, which is easier said than done, is to be patient. That doesn’t mean you lower your business’s standards but both look for any way possible to quickly undertake the steps needed to navigate the supply chain while also managing the timeliness expectations of your customers.

Another potential solution in dealing with any supply chain disruptions is to go with a logistics company that offers all your supply chain needs. There are some out there that offer not only trucks for freight shipping but also warehousing, fulfillment and distribution, importing/exporting and even customs clearance. If one company is able to handle all those things on your behalf, it should cut down on the juggling act of requiring multiple companies to provide the various tasks needed for the full range across the supply chain.  

Solving Your Logistics Challenges With R+L Global Logistics

Once you’re confident that you fully comprehend logistics challenges and how to solve them, take your transportation to the next level by partnering with R+L Global Logistics for your full truckloads. We can help you navigate the unique problems facing the shipping of full freight loads and provide solutions to make it less of a challenge.

Besides normal truckload shipping, R+L Global Logistics can offer specialized services such as:

  • Expedited shipping
  • Climate-controlled shipping
  • Flatbed trucks
  • Heavy-haul trucking
  • White-glove delivery

Furthermore, with R+L Global Logistics, you’ll be able to enjoy real-time freight visibility which is included with the cost of each load. So you’ll never have to worry about where your goods are and can check in on their whereabouts at any given moment.

So once you’ve identified the logistics challenges you can be expected to face, give R+L Global Logistics a call. With excellent capabilities and a wealth of experience in the arena, we can give you a free quote for your next truckload by calling 866-353-7178 to talk to one of our experts. 

Looking for a solution to move truckload freight? R+L Global Logistics handles truckload shipping. Let us know when and we'll handle the rest.
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