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What It’s Like Being a Freight Coordinator: Scheduling Pickups

The Pain of Scheduling Pickups

In a past life, I worked as a 3PL freight coordinator, mainly on the LTL side. Even though I usually handled smaller shipments than FTL, I found many of the same pain points applied across the board. One of the biggest sources of frustration for everyone involved is scheduling pickups.

Check out our blog post with information about 3PL, LTL, and FTL.

In the world of shipping, you’re constantly trying to force a square peg into a round hole, and many times, you’re juggling multiple square pegs at the same time.

For example, you might have a morning pickup scheduled in Bakersfield, a lunch time pickup in Fort Wayne, and afternoon pickups in Stone Mountain, Knoxville, Tulsa, and Boulder. When you’re trying to keep a million balls in the air at the same time, you’re inevitably going to drop a couple of them.

The Unpredictability of Shipping

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Here’s another brutal truth: shipping will always be unpredictable and challenging. Between traffic, accidents, and differing expectations, it’s going to be difficult to keep everyone happy all the time. With that being said, I did find 5 general rules of thumb to help make scheduling pickups a bit smoother for everyone. Some of these tips apply to shippers, some to carriers, and some to the coordinators. The main lesson is: we’re all in this together.

To see what it’s like using Alvys day to day, check out this blog post by FreightWaves.

How to Make Your Job Easier

1. Get Organized

We all know that logistics is an industry with mavericks who walk to the beat of their own drum. While this has up sides, flying by the seat of your pants isn’t always a strength.

If you’re in charge of shipping a bunch of things, managing a bunch of trucks, and juggling pickup and delivery times, you have to get organized.

When I first started managing freight, I was clueless. I had everything written down on a Steno pad. I caused many missed pickups, mainly because I wasn’t organized enough.

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If you want to work smarter and not harder, get a software specifically designed to keep things straight. Don’t try to do it alone; you’ll just be setting yourself (and your clients) up for failure.

2. Be Honest

This one goes out to all the shipping managers who think they’re being clever by saying they don’t take any pickups past 2:30 in the afternoon: you’re not being helpful. I’ve never seen a warehouse close that early.

What they were doing was trying to prevent trucks from showing up later in the afternoon. That kind of attitude is incredibly counter productive. If the warehouse actually closes at 5:00, but a truck can’t be there until 4:30, you just manipulated yourself out of a pick up.

Be honest and up front about your hours, processes, and schedules. Lying only makes things worse in the long run. On the other hand, if you’re a dispatcher or freight coordinator, don’t say you’ll make an impossible pickup time. Honesty really is the best policy.

Now, I understand that complications arise and a driver might not show up at the time they said they would. And that leads us to why it’s incredibly important to communicate.

3. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

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Technically, this tip could fall under tip 2, because it’s pretty similar. Scheduling logistics is about teamwork. The reason you’re hiring a company to find you trucks is because you can’t do it yourself. The reason you have a logistics job is because you know the industry better than your clients.

Everyone needs to communicate expectations on the front end to prevent issues on the back end. If you need a reefer, let your 3PL coordinator or dispatcher know before they send a standard 53’ out to you.

Do you need a flatbed? Are you shipping 1 pallet or 4? The more lines of communication are open, the more ability everyone will have to make sure the freight gets where it needs to go, when it needs to get there.

The easiest way to do this? Use a TMS that streamlines all communication. With Alvys, for example, users enter load information one time and it automatically circulates to everyone involved, including billing and payroll! When the driver pulls up to delivery, and when she pulls away empty, GPS lets everyone know. Everyone sees updates to the load in real time, and all relevant documents— lumper receipts, BOLs, etc.—are easily shared in the cloud and on the driver mobile app.

4. Don’t Get Mad

It’s 3:30PM on a Thursday and Nick Baker calls me dropping more F bombs than a drill instructor in a South Carolina summer. Getting angry might make you feel better, but it doesn’t help the truck get to your warehouse faster. We’re all people. Take a deep breath. We’re in this together.

5. Flexibility Helps Everyone

What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? Everyone gets crushed in the middle, that’s what.

When the shipper, 3PL coordinator, and carrier take hard lines, the results are delays, frustration, and missed opportunities. Understanding that the road is an unpredictable place, a little bit of flexibility can go a long way. Sometimes it can mean the difference between making pickups or not, missing deliveries or not, and extra spend on warehousing costs or not.

Everyone in shipping should take a “bend but don’t break” mentality. It’s the only possible way to deal with the inevitable Murphy’s Law rearing its ugly head on your loads.

To Summarize

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Few industries consist of so many points of friction. Every party involved has their own ideas and preferences. It’s ironic, given the road is the most unpredictable force of nature in our modern world. We can predict when a storm is going to rock Chattanooga, but we have no clue when I-24 is going to turn into a parking lot. Being organized, staying honest, communicating, keeping a cool head, and being flexible are the best ways to make sure our stuff gets from point A to point B in the best way possible. That and using Alvys.

Other posts in this series:

What It’s Like Being a Freight Coordinator: Deliveries

What It’s Like Being a Freight Coordinator: Tracking Drivers

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