Excerpt from Kevin Rutherford’s “Broker Connect” interview with NATCO VP Cori Eckley for the “Trucking Business & Beyond” radio show, February 19, 2021 on SiriusXM Radio Channel 146.
Kevin Rutherford: So, Cori, would you be interested in single-truck owner-operators with their authority that want to build a real relationship and help you serve customers?
Cori Eckley: Yes. That’s something that I highly encourage with my operations team. Probably 75 percent of our carriers fall within that small owner-operator or less-than-ten trucks in a fleet. We very much gravitate toward the smaller fleet.
Kevin Rutherford: So, tell us a little bit about your operation. What do you look for in a carrier? What kind of freight do you specialize in? What parts of the country? And what would you be looking for in a carrier?
Cori Eckley: About 90 percent of our freight falls within the flatbed, open-deck trailer, including RGN, over-dimensional heavy-haul freight. As for the market sector, from Texas—we’re based in Arlington, Texas—up to the midwest, over towards the east coast. We do a significant amount of work in the northeast, as well. Then down to Florida and back to Texas. And then we have a presence as well in California, up the west coast to Washington.
Kevin Rutherford: One of the reasons I want to do more of this is because of the attitude I get all the time. I belong to a bunch of groups on social media. When I go in, I talk about customer service and the broker really being your customer, and we need to start thinking that way, and it’s about building relationships, not just negotiating transactions and rates. One of the things I try to get across to people: negotiation without a relationship is just haggling. That’s all it is. It’s just price. And if price is the only thing we’re negotiating, it’s always a win-lose. Somebody probably got less than what they had hoped for. And many times, both parties get less than what they had hoped for. Sometimes negotiating without a relationship is a lose-lose. We see that over and over and over. And I tell people: if you want true win-win negotiations, it has to start from a relationship. Otherwise it’s just haggling. And then you have to work on things other than price. What can we negotiate as we build this relationship to provide value? The feedback I get immediately: The owner-operators will say, “Brokers don’t want to negotiate. Brokers don’t want a relationship. They just want to tell us this is what the rate is.” But that’s not true, right? Don’t you really work and build relationships?
Cori Eckley: Yes. And a key point with that is the rates are a big piece of the discussion, as well as if the carrier and I are going to work together. But we also have—and I tell my girls in operations this a lot—we have a lot of flexibility in some of our scheduling. We know in advance that we need to move a piece of equipment in five-to-seven days. Let’s get with those carriers we have the relationships with, or the best fit. If they can work it into their schedule, or if there’s flexibility on loading and delivery that we can coordinate to make that transaction work for them, let’s do it. There are different points that we can work on to make it beneficial for everybody, whether it’s a loading time or date. If we have that flexibility, let’s use it so that way we continuously work with our carriers who we have that strong relationship with. And we’re looking out for them in the process for their business.
Kevin Rutherford: You know, in this industry we can look at freight many many times as a commodity. It’s hard not to have freight become a commodity. It’s not impossible. We can find ways to provide more value than just price. And I think we have to work hard in an industry like this, otherwise everything just becomes a commodity and it’s just who has the lowest price. And I hate business models like that. So, that’s where we have to start looking at how we provide more value, how we negotiate in a way that everybody gets a benefit. And what you just talked about, I think, is awesome.