Intermodal 101: Advantages of Commitment Pricing
Use of the Door to Door, transactional programs from the railroads might seem like the best way to take advantage of pricing that may go down at any given time. Locking in at a rate for a year’s commitment might not seem like a promising idea when the rates could drop next week.
However, it is important for the shipper to remember, what goes down will eventually come back up. Rates in intermodal have not fluctuated a lot in recent years, but the trend is to take them higher. Locking in your rate for the next year will enable a level of certainty for the shipper.
Due to its transactional basis, Door to Door pricing typically does not include capacity commitments between the shipper and the railroad. Locking in with certain programs will allow all parties to commit to each other. The Shipper commits a certain number of loads on a scheduled basis, the railroad commits to providing capacity to move those shipments. With expectations set, it is easier for both parties to perform their part of the commitment.
Budgeting is simplified for the shipper when they know the rate they will be paying to move freight in each lane. When the shipper is creating the budget for the next fiscal year, if they know they have to move 100 shipments from point A to point B, and the rate for the year will be $1,000 per move, they must budget $100,000. Doing this against all lanes is the best way for the shipper to accurately calculate their transportation spend for the year.
Finally, the operations within the shipper as a company are simplified. Each person in payables will know the rate they need to pay, which could allow a level of automation. The personnel in the order tendering department will know who the order is going to, which allows them to focus on shipments that aren’t committed and locked in.
Understanding the two different approaches will enable the shipper to maximize shipping dollars and get product delivered to the customer. Typically, though, the shipper is not in the transportation business, so their focus is not on minimizing rates. Use of a 3PL or even a 4PL will allow the shipper to focus their attentions on their core business and leave the program selections to the experts.
In the next update, we will discuss the advantage of bringing in a 3PL to assist with shipping.