Navigating the Increasingly Tangled Web of Supply Chain Laws

Compliance is a challenge in many industries, but it becomes particularly important — and more complex — when your company transports goods across state lines. Shippers that don’t prioritize compliance can discover too late that they’ve been breaking the law.

Whether it’s regulations on hazardous materials or guidelines on refrigerating perishables, the patchwork of state laws can quickly complicate even the most straightforward supply chain. For example, Michigan’s prominent agriculture industry means the state allows a maximum vehicle and freight collective weight considerably higher than its bordering states. While your gross vehicle weight can legally exceed 80,000 pounds on most Michigan roads, you cannot cross into Indiana or Ohio due to the lower maximum weight restrictions in those states.

Other laws that can be troublesome relate to load size, including restrictions regarding maximum trailer length and maximum payload. Certain states have more nuanced standards, with California posing unique challenges for logistics professionals. The Golden State historically is a lot stricter regarding emissions and agricultural inspections, though newer equipment is designed with these emissions standards in mind.

When shippers need to go one step further and deliver goods internationally to Canada or Mexico, requirements increase exponentially. Between customer paperwork, taxes, and border crossings, the various considerations can create significant delays. While this hodgepodge of regulations can feel overwhelming, a little knowledge goes a long way.

A Slow Push Toward Standardization

Despite these complications, the logistics world is slowly moving toward more nationwide standardization. Aside from a few outliers, most states are aligned regarding equipment size, gross weight, and emissions restrictions.

On the federal level, government regulations dictate legal driving hours — and electronic logging devices (ELDs) to ensure those guidelines are met — for anyone operating via a commercial driver’s license in the U.S. These devices are designed to automatically track driving time to provide more accurate hours of service for truck drivers.

The next big change coming down the pipeline is the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which aims to standardize food chain operations. As a response to outbreaks of listeria and salmonella caused by unsanitary freight transportation, the Food and Drug Administration has been empowered to enforce regulations designed to increase safety.

Large companies have already been affected by the FSMA, but the compliance deadline for small carriers that make up the majority of trucks on the road won’t take effect until September 17. Food safety is indeed crucial, but the FSMA presents a steep challenge for smaller companies with more limited resources. But a tech-focused approach can help companies of any size implement these changes smoothly.

There will always be some growing pains tied to massive shifts of this sort, but standardization ends up being a net gain for the shipping industry. While some rules are still in flux, there are a number of key regulations that should always be top of mind.

As mentioned before, ELD mandates are forcing carrier compliance as it relates to driving regulations. This will continue to affect shippers — particularly for 400- or 500-mile trips that once were considered same-day shipments.

Hours of service (i.e., legal driving time) is a law that affects customers and carriers equally. Only 11 hours of consecutive driving is permitted within a 14-hour “on duty” period, after which drivers must take a mandatory break of 10 hours. While shippers might be aware of these regulations, they often overlook that a driver’s wait time during loading and unloading is considered “on duty” time.

These regulations might seem like a lot to keep in mind as you attempt to move products from point A to point B, but it’s important to remember that they’re in place to ensure the safety of drivers and everyone else on the road.

How an Outside Partner Can Lend a Hand

Whether you’re trying to move goods between states or countries, you’re going to grapple with a complex web of regulations. It takes intricate knowledge of this web to develop a shipping strategy that is both efficient and realistic.

A dedicated third-party logistics (3PL) firm should be familiar with numerous rules and regulations, including anything that varies by location. When a reliable 3PL engages with your freight program, it will typically complete the following steps:

  1. Define freight requirements.This includes determining the type of trailer, special shipping needs, and shipping and receiving hours of all participating facilities.
  2. Define transit times and routing of shipments.This involves securing carriers to complete each shipment. Carriers are qualified by geographical service area, special service offerings, and certifications (e.g., hazardous material endorsement, team driver service, etc.). The 3PL should match carriers that meet all state-specific and federal regulations with your particular freight.
  3. Execute freight shipments.At this point, the 3PL will monitor shipments, track progress, manage exceptions, and measure and report performance metrics and carrier compliance to shipping rules. While facilitating a customer’s freight program, a 3PL must tackle tricky situations such as working with multiple shipping locations or outside vendors.

Getting all parties fully engaged is one of the biggest obstacles at the outset of any partnership. A qualified 3PL should boast an implementation team of experts who can address these challenges and help set a positive tone for customers and other relevant participants. If you’re interested in partnering with a 3PL that can guarantee this level of service, contact the Sheer team today.

Logistics Firm vs. Logistics Partner: A Personal Touch Makes All the Difference

Companies that don’t have a dedicated logistics department don’t always have insight into how complex shipping their freight can be. Some of them, however, are aware of this shortcoming and, therefore, rely on big corporations with high brand/name recognition that they see as leaders in the transportation industry. Unfortunately, the biggest name in the business isn’t always the best partner for your company.

Instead of handing shipping responsibilities over to a brokerage firm, your company could benefit more from partnering with a consultant who understands the logistics of shipping your specific type of freight. At Sheer Logistics, we don’t come in and dictate how we’re going to ship your freight. We collaborate closely with you to determine the best approach, help you find carriers that best suit your needs, and help you handle as much of the operation as you want to.

Building a Better Mousetrap for Clients

Any professional working in transportation understands that the more complex your supply chain is, the more factors you’ll need to consider when looking at potential carriers. For instance, if you make a small product, how much should be shipped at a time? Shipping a less-than-full load could prove more expensive than you initially thought, and you could risk a loss if the carrier isn’t properly equipped to handle the small size of your freight.

Some carriers specialize in transporting certain types of products, while others are experts in handling different sizes of freight. Choosing the right providers can be confusing, which is why a logistics partner offers much more than just transportation. We share our expertise and apply it to helping clients determine which strategy works best for them and their unique situation.

To remain client-centric, our consultative approach focuses on three major factors:

1. Engagement

Sheer combines specialized expertise, advanced technology, and powerful analytics to help you streamline your shipping operations. Yet what truly sets us apart is our dedication to engaging strategically with our clients, which begins with an unique level of transparency.

As your consultants, we’re able to engage with you from a project management perspective. When you have complicated freight to ship — like shopping carts, for example — factors such as multiple drops and steepness in the road can make shipping a challenge. We add value by analyzing the entire project, leveraging our systems to find the most cost-efficient shipping methods, and participating as one of several different carriers.

2. Empowerment

Transparency and engagement also allow us to provide a diverse range of solutions that truly empower you to drive the process yourself as much as you wish. You can be more confident in the process when you know that operations are in your control, and we can leverage our services accordingly depending on your desired level of engagement.

Rather than take over the shipping aspects of your operations, we empower you to work with existing carriers and even procure new carriers that offer the best service. We also participate as a carrier, but at the same time, we give you the option to be in charge of tendering your own freight. Our service complements what your program already looks like, and it drives value by helping you save money and be more profitable while remaining in control.

3. Personalization

Giving clients options and power over their shipping processes is only possible thanks to our ability to personally qualify opportunity areas, which is driven by strategic reporting and analysis. We didn’t invent the wheel, and we don’t try to dictate which way you should turn it. Instead, we help you figure out how the wheel would work best for you.

The backbone of our versatility is the ability to provide business intelligence and technology that’s best in class. The difference is that we use our resources to deliver relevant data points in a manner that’s tailored to your specific business needs. That means delivering the information you need, when you need it.  Through our online portal, you can obtain real-time logistics data on carriers that are en route with your freight and receive real-time email notifications with customized updates.

The difference between working with a big-name firm and partnering with a more consultative company like Sheer is the customized approach that the big guys simply can’t provide. We’re consistently committed to engaging and empowering clients through excellent service, transparency, communication, and cost savings, regardless of their size.

Ready to team up with a true logistics partner? Contact us to discuss how Sheer can help you meet your transportation goals.

Broker or Logistics Service Provider?

Investing in a logistics partner often requires a crash course in acronyms. Companies talk at length about 3PLs, 4PLs, and other equally confusing designations, sprinkling in terms such as “brokers” and “brokerages.” It’s enough to make anyone’s head spin.
To cut through the confusion and determine whether your company needs to partner with an LSP or a broker, ask yourself a few questions.