The ability to leverage the carriers and services they need is
mission-critical to global shippers. In the QAD Precision Report we
examine different methods of carrier onboarding.
When you select a transportation
execution solution provider you are choosing more than a vendor to
help ship your goods. Firstly, you are also selecting the look, feel,
performance, reputation, flexibility and support of their solution.
Secondly, you are also selecting their ability to provide the
carriers that your organization uses to ship its goods. Furthermore,
you are also deciding on their ability to offer options to scale. You
may wish to expand your capabilities by adding
additional carriers, services and countries of origin.
You explore the carriers your solution provider has available, which
services they offer and where. Luckily, a very good portion of the
time, the provider already offers the carriers and services you need.
However, there are times that the provider does not have specific
carriers onboarded and ready to leverage.
This article focuses on the process of carrier onboarding. We will
discuss the available options for adding new carriers, new services
and new origin locations.
What is Carrier Onboarding?
“Carrier onboarding” is the process of adding a new carrier, carrier
service or geography. The following information is typically required
when a carrier is on boarded:
Carrier record (establishes unique carriers in the transportation solution)
Carrier full name
SCAC code and/or global carrier code
Customer internal carrier “Ship Via” code
Carrier services (e.g. next day, 2nd day or ground shipping)
Tracking number generation
Negotiated rates – your specific rates per your carrier contract
Customer rates – rates that reflect what you charge customers (optional)
Accessorial charges (e.g. fuel surcharges)
Geographical data that describes the area for where each service
Typically differentiated by service level and geography served
Certified/accredited shipping labels
Optional, but often a requirement to ship via a carrier
End of day manifest/carrier close out file(s) generation, reports
Options for Carrier Onboarding
There are several methods used to onboard a new carrier. Below, the
three most typical methods. We also examine each of their pros and cons.
Web Service API – Application Programming Interface
With this method, the solution provider builds a connection to your
carrier. This allows them to pass transactions over and receive rates
directly from the carrier. The carrier maintains your rates,
accessorial charges, routing guides, transit times, tracking numbers
and shipping label formats on your behalf.
The web service API can, and often is used for end of day
manifesting/carrier close out file transmission. For some carriers,
web service API is the only integration method available.
Web service API integrated carriers can generally be quickly
onboarded. The carrier must provide support for a web service API
interface. Therefore, your transportation solution provider can
implement a change within their application that can use the web
Using a web service API means the carrier is responsible for ongoing
compliance. This includes:
Your solution provider and carrier(s) maintain the web service API.
Your carrier maintains their systems for your usage.
Your transportation execution provider can optimize your solution for
high speed processing. However, you do not have any control of how
quickly the carrier’s system responds to the web service API call.
Speed of Processing
Leveraging web service API calls for carriers may not satisfy your
response time requirements. As a result, you may not achieve the speed
you need in a busy shipping environment.
Reliability of Processing
Although infrequent, carrier systems do go down or become
unresponsive. Issues such as a network problem, outage or maintenance
could severely impact your ability to ship.
With this method, your provider builds and maintains carrier
compliance. Once again, this includes:
Alternatively, you can license or subscribe to this data for usage in
Your transportation management solution provider may create or modify
system programs and end of day/carrier close out manifest process.
This approach to carrier onboarding typically requires more effort
from your solution provider. However, most transportation execution
solution providers offer some form of easy onboarding services. These
are processes to formalize onboarding with definitive and accurate
time frames and cost values.
Speed of Processing
Leveraging internal system logic to read and process data from within
the database is very fast and efficient. In our own benchmark studies,
the results showed several tens of thousands of transactions processed
Reliability of Processing
You will need an appropriately sized and functioning cloud solution
and/or hardware. You should be able to process your shipments for
carriers that are not configured to use web service API calls.
It takes time for your solution provider to work with you and your
carrier to do this. Your provider must first acquire the data. Then
the provider builds the logic in the solution, loads the data, and
tests the programming. The provider must also get shipping label
certification and finally, deploy the carrier to your environment.
Cost could be a downside of this approach as well. Some solution
providers either charge (or cost share with) their customer for
onboarding a new carrier using this method. Which means that adding
multiple carriers can become expensive.
Manual Entry or File Create and Load
Your transportation execution solution likely has a utility that
allows you to enter carrier data manually. This includes rates,
accessorial charges, services, routing guide and transit times. Most
solutions allow you to create comma separated value (CSV) files or
spreadsheets. This information is then loaded into your system.
This process can be the least expensive of the options available to a
customer. If onboarding a small carrier it could take just a few
minutes or hours to accomplish manual entry. Small carriers may have
very simple data. This makes it easy to capture rates, accessorial
charges, services, routing guide and transit times.
Speed of Processing
The data would process with the same speed and reliability as the
This oftentimes is the most time consuming and expensive option
available. It could take weeks, even months to enter all of a large
carrier’s data into your system.
Large carriers often have a complex rate structure, multiple complex
accessorial charges, numerous services, with routing guides and
Updates to the data for a complex carrier could be as much of a
nightmare as entering the data. You would also need to spend
significant time testing the data for accuracy.
The “Right” Approach
Some carriers provide options to obtain their data either via web
service API or system integrated. Weighing the pros and cons above,
should help you choose the right option for you.
For high volume shippers onboarding a mission critical carrier, a web
service API may not be the best choice. Remember, it will be slower to
process than the other options discussed above.
If you are a low volume shipper, choosing a carrier web service API
approach might be the best option for you. However, this means you
need to accept the processing speed and reliability concerns. Ideally,
you want a transportation execution solution provider that supports
all three types of carrier onboarding we discussed because:
Some carriers only provide web service API access.
Other carriers provide either web service API access or system
integrated data. Therefore, you should base your decision on
processing speed and reliability factors.
Some carriers are small and are not complex. Manual entry or file
create and load would be an option here.
The QAD Precision solution provides access to an industry-leading
global parcel carrier network. Our customers continue to move into new
geographies. Furthermore, carriers continue to introduce new services
and origins. As a result, our network continues to expand through our
Carrier Onboarding Program.
The vast majority of parcel carriers have specific requirements.
Carriers stringently insist that providers meet these requirements to
integrate their technology. Furthermore, customers must complete each
carrier’s accreditation process before they can start shipping.
Our approach is to ensure that there is agreement between all
parties: the carrier, the customer and the solution. This may seem
straightforward. However, due to the myriad of carrier services
offered across origin countries, this is not always the case. Our
framework ensures that this information is clearly defined and agreed
upon up front.
Our dedicated team of solutions consultants have decades of
experience. We can help you examine your current processes, and
leverage industry best practices. We will then provide a roadmap to
help you achieve your objectives in a timely, cost efficient and
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