Bulk chemical products are generally shipped over the road (OTR) in one of three ways. Liquid bulk products are shipped in liquid bulk tanks; dry bulk products in dry bulk trailers; and either product can also be shipped in totes, drums, or intermediate bulk containers (IBCs). In this article, we’ll look at the unique ways that a 3PL freight broker that specializes in bulk chemical shipping can facilitate these shipping options and provide optimal service levels.
Why ship bulk chemical products with a 3PL freight broker?
A 3PL bulk freight broker typically does not have truck and equipment assets of own (though rare, there are some asset-based brokers). Instead, it has relationships with both trucking carriers and bulk chemical shippers and acts as a ‘matchmaker’ to pair shippers’ loads with the most qualified carriers.
Advantages of entrusting your loads to a bulk freight broker include the following.
Freight brokers know your chemical products. Whether your product is liquid or dry bulk, hazmat or non-hazmat, a freight broker that specializes in chemical bulk transportation has likely shipped it – or a similar product – many times. It can combine that experience with information from your product’s Safety Data Sheet (SDS) to find the carrier that has the equipment to haul it safely.
Freight brokers have capacity during tight markets. Another advantage of freight brokers is that they are not restricted by a finite number of trucks, drivers and trailers. Their capacity is as big as their carrier network. So, when one carrier lacks capacity, the broker can turn to another in its network to get your load on the move.
Freight brokers are equipment agnostic. As freight brokers have no equipment of their own, there is no incentive to using its own equipment to handle your products. In the eyes of the freight broker, the best carrier and equipment match for your product gets the load. Period.
Freight brokers can offer one-stop pricing. Let’s say you have product that can be shipped in a bulk trailer or in totes. With one call to your freight broker, you can receive quotes for each mode of transport to help guide your decision. This saves you the time of hopping from carrier to carrier and going through repeated input processes to receive quotes for each mode.
Freight brokers handle carrier vetting for you. While a network of hundreds of carriers certainly sounds like a great benefit, you may wonder how a freight broker can vet so many carriers to ensure they’re all qualified to handle your products safely. Bulk freight brokers like Bulk Connection have dedicated teams of employees that are solely responsible for the management and updating of licensing, insurance, and regulatory compliance information for every carrier in its network. Not only does this give you peace of mind, it also saves you time as you don’t need to perform this vetting yourself.
Finding the best 3PL freight broker for your bulk chemical products
While these advantages are certainly enticing, it’s important to note that not all freight brokers are created equal. The truth is that some are much more reliable and trustworthy than others. By taking the time to perform due diligence, you’ll be able to separate the experts from the rest of the pack. Here are some of the important questions to ask of your prospective partners.
- How much experience does the broker have? When researching freight brokerage companies, you’ll find ones with decades of freight experience and ones with just a few years or even months. And, while experience isn’t everything, it counts for a lot – especially in a tight capacity market where you can’t afford to make a mistake. The experienced brokers should have long track records of timely payments as well as knowledge of shipping lanes, equipment, and ways to secure capacity.
- Does the broker have proof of compliance and insurance? You will need to ask your prospective brokers for operating authority and surety bonds, as well as regulatory compliance (as applicable). Failure to produce any of the required items should be a major warning sign. Most reliable brokers also carry their own insurance instead of simply relying on carriers’ insurance. Common types of insurance among brokers include contingent liability insurance, contingent cargo insurance, and errors and omissions insurance.
- Will the broker provide references? When you entrust your loads to a freight broker, you want to know it’s not the company’s first rodeo. You’ll want to learn how customers with products like yours view their experiences with the broker. Is there a history of problems like product damage, inadequate equipment, or payment issues? To obtain these insights, get a list of references that you can contact directly.
- Does your broker have a quality program? Certification within a quality management program like ISO-9001 shows that the company is committed to quality service and continuous improvement.
- Is there round-the-clock coverage? Among other things, you want a broker that will provide 24/7 customer service (i.e., an actual human to talk to when you need someone). As transportation is not a 9-5 operation, your freight broker’s customer service operation should be at the ready day and night as your load navigates the supply chain.
- Is the broker asking the right questions? When freight brokerage companies collect information on a load, they should be asking questions. Lots of questions. For example: what is the freight value? If it’s a bulk load, what type of liquid bulk tank is the product compatible with? Is the product hazmat? Brokers that ask the right questions offer a good indication they know what they are doing and are prepared to handle your product safely and effectively.
- Does the broker have industry affiliations? As with experience, membership in professional affiliations – whether it’s freight shipping affiliations like Transportation Intermediaries Association [TIA] and National Tank Truck Carriers [NTTC], industry-specific affiliations like the National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD), and even the Better Business Bureau (BBB) – can add to a broker’s trustworthiness. It shows that the broker is dedicated to the industry(s) and attaining the necessary knowledge and resources.
Lean on Bulk Connection for bulk chemical product shipping
Formed in 1987, Bulk Connection has decades of experience serving liquid and dry bulk shippers across North America. Whatever your products are, there’s a very good chance we’ve shipped it – or something very similar – countless times. To learn more about how we can put one of the largest networks of bulk carriers in North America to work for you, contact us today.