Retailers Say Don’t Let Your Freight Be Early Or Late

The transportation industry is perhaps one of the most daunting when it comes to rules and regulations. Hours of Service and Electronic Logging Devices are just a few of the most recent roadblocks to come up recently. Merely staying in compliance with these new regulations can be a costly endeavor. What’s worse is that being caught out of compliance could mean penalties, fines, or even a trucker losing their job.

As if all that wasn’t bad enough, truckers and freight forwarders have to balance all of that on top of growing customer expectations. WalMart, in particular, is starting to crack down on deliveries with their OTIF program. Kroger, another heavy-hitting retailer, is also beginning to levy penalties on tardy shipments. Missing the delivery window could mean hefty fines for carriers. However in this case, missing the delivery window doesn’t just mean being late, but even arriving early could prove costly for carriers.

Tardy Carriers Will Pay the Price

Retailers are warning retailers that disputes simply won’t be tolerated. On Time. In Full. Or Else.

WalMart can be rather ruthless when it comes to their profit margins, but other retailers are starting to rally to the call, creating an unforgiving environment for errant carriers. Retailers expect their loads to be packaged properly, delivered in full, at the designated time. To that end, retailers are taking a very defensive stance over their new initiative, warning retailers that disputes simply won’t be tolerated. On Time. In Full. Or Else.

Wal-Mart has signaled it could do more than levy fines if problems persist. Charles Redfield, executive vice president of food for Wal-Mart U.S., told suppliers they could also lose shelf space if they don’t solve their delivery issues, according to people in attendance at a supplier meeting earlier this year. “Retailers can threaten suppliers with loss of promotional space in stores”, analysts said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In the few short months that the program was unleashed upon carriers, WalMart has already been dishing out the penalties. For example, late or missing freight could cost a carrier up to 3 percent of its value. Early arrivals are no less forgiving due to the fact that they create an overstock. This overstated Just In Time philosophy keeps the shelves full and the WalMart customers spending, which is all well and good for WalMart as it means they can run with the big dogs like Amazon.

it’s likely only a matter of time before more retailers jump on the no-nonsense bandwagon.

“Wal-Mart executives say a more-precise delivery window keeps shelves stocked and the flow of products more predictable, while reducing inventory—all of which are increasingly important to the retailer as it invests heavily to compete online. The change could create $1 billion in additional sales over time, they said. “We hope we don’t have to collect any fees from suppliers. We would much rather have all the product we ordered on time,” said Wal-Mart spokesman Kory Lundberg,” the WSJ adds. While Kroger is seemingly more lenient, simply charging a flat $500 for late shipments, it’s likely only a matter of time before more retailers jump on the no-nonsense bandwagon.

Carriers Feeling the Pressure

These new policies will be costly for carriers for more reasons than just the fines.

These new policies will be costly for carriers for more reasons than just the fines. Simply implementing the procedures and equipment necessary to hit that 95 percent compliance mark could prove to be too much for smaller carriers. While bigger carriers can just add some new factory processes to help with packing and loading, smaller carriers don’t always have that luxury. Many new carriers are just hoping to break even for their first few years of operation until they can build both a steady reputation as well as a customer base.

Furthermore, WalMart and Kroger’s steadfast approach to “no excuses” will mean that carriers can be slapped with a fine for circumstances that are beyond their control. Anything from heavy traffic and construction work that causes serious delays to severe weather events that makes travel all but impossible will all have a negative impact on carriers. Conversely, what happens if a carrier does happen to show up early? Is it better to take the financial hit for the early delivery or shell out for extra meals and more time on the road for the driver?

There’s also the concern that drivers might take it upon themselves to exceed the daily drive limit to ensure their delivery is on time. Not only is this dangerous, not to mention illegal, but soon driver’s won’t even have that as an option when the ELD mandate goes into effect this December.

The Bitter Citrus Industry

A growing concern over these new on-time delivery policies is what it will mean for Florida’s citrus growers. As both Walmart and Kroger are considerable retailers of foodstuffs and produce, that makes them some of the biggest customers for such items. As Florida citrus groves have not only been ravaged by HLB for several years, but hurricane Irma caused some considerable damage.

“Andrew Meadows, a spokesman for Florida Citrus Mutual, a trade organization for growers, predicts growers statewide will end up losing more than half of this year’s crop to Hurricane Irma. The Florida Commissioner of Agriculture has estimated the cost of Irma to Florida’s farm sector at $2.5 billion, with projected losses to citrus producers the worst of any sector, at $760 million,”according to an article from Marketplace.

Suffice it to say, this policy might create better profit margins for retailers, but it’s not going to make them any friends among the carrier community.

This puts both the growers and their carriers in a serious predicament. As much of the damage won’t be fully realized for another two years at least, making guesses on shipments is a dangerous gamble. Guessing too low means crops left unsold which is money wasted. Guessing too high, however, means that carriers won’t be able to make full deliveries which means the fines will get passed down the line back to growers. In either case, it’s a lose lose for an industry that’s already in danger. Suffice it to say, this policy might create better profit margins for retailers, but it’s not going to make them any friends among the carrier community. As the regulations begin to tighten from both retailers (who will undoubtedly add more to the list) as well as the ELD mandate, we’ll have to wait and see how carriers respond to the growing pressure.

Do You Need Help With OTIF Issues?

A 3PL, such as BlueGrace, can help your business overcome the challenges of OTIF and other supply chain issues. If you have questions about OTIF or just how to simplify your current transportation program, contact us via phone at 800.MY.SHIPPING or using the form below, we are here to help!

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