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What is Carrier Contract Management? Navigate the 5 Stages and Implement 5 Best Practices for Optimal Results


By Komal Puri | June 15, 2023

What is a Carrier Contract?

A carrier contract is a legal binding agreement between carrier and a dispatcher that outlines the terms and conditions of their business relationship in the context of transportation operations. In this type of contract, the carrier is the transportation provider responsible for physically moving the goods or products, while the dispatcher acts as an intermediary or facilitator, coordinating and managing the transportation logistics on behalf of the carrier.

What are the 5 stages of Contract Carrier Management?

  • Contract Creation

  • Contract Negotiation

  • Contract implementation

  • Contract Performance Management

  • Contract Renewal or Termination

Each of the above stages are detailed in the below sections.

i) Contract Creation

Contract Creation is the initial phase of carrier contract management and involves the following key steps:

  • Defining contract objectives and requirements: This step involves identifying the goals and objectives of the contract, such as cost savings, service quality improvement, or risk mitigation. It also includes determining the specific requirements that need to be addressed in the contract, such as the scope of services, geographic coverage, and any special considerations.

  • Identifying key performance indicators (KPIs): KPIs are metrics used to measure and evaluate the performance of the carrier against the contract objectives. In this step, relevant KPIs are identified, such as on-time delivery percentage, cargo loss or damage rate, or customer satisfaction scores. These KPIs should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).

  • Drafting contract terms and conditions: This step involves preparing the contract document that outlines the rights, obligations, and responsibilities of both the shipper and the carrier. It includes defining the services to be provided, rates and pricing structures, service levels, liability and insurance provisions, payment terms, dispute resolution mechanisms, and any other terms relevant to the agreement. The contract terms and conditions should be clear, comprehensive, and unambiguous.

  • Legal review and approval process: After the initial drafting of the contract, it should undergo a legal review to ensure compliance with applicable laws, regulations, and industry standards. Legal experts or the organization's legal department review the contract to identify any potential legal risks or issues. Once the legal review is completed and any necessary modifications are made, the contract is ready for approval by the relevant stakeholders, such as management or procurement teams.

This phase of contract creation sets the foundation for a well-structured and legally sound carrier contract. It ensures that the contract objectives, requirements, and performance expectations are clearly defined and that the terms and conditions are carefully drafted and legally compliant.

ii) Contract Negotiation:

Contract Negotiation is a critical component of carrier contract management. During this phase, the following key steps are involved:

  • Identifying potential carriers: This step involves conducting market research, soliciting bids, or engaging in a request for proposal (RFP) process to identify potential carriers. It is important to evaluate carriers based on their reputation, experience, financial stability, service offerings, geographic coverage, and other relevant factors.

  • Analyzing carrier capabilities and qualifications: Once potential carriers have been identified, a thorough evaluation of their capabilities and qualifications is necessary. This includes assessing their fleet size, equipment types, technological capabilities, operational expertise, safety records, compliance with regulatory requirements, and any relevant certifications or accreditations.

  • Negotiating pricing and service level agreements (SLAs): Pricing negotiations with the carriers involve discussing and agreeing upon the freight rates, fuel surcharges, accessorial charges, and other financial aspects of the contract. In addition to pricing, negotiating SLAs is crucial to define the specific performance expectations and service levels that the carrier must meet, such as transit time, on-time delivery percentage, and response time for inquiries or issues.

  • Finalizing contract terms and conditions: Once negotiations on pricing and SLAs are complete, the next step is to finalize all other terms and conditions of the contract. This includes incorporating the agreed-upon pricing and SLAs into the contract document, addressing liability and insurance requirements, defining payment terms, specifying any special provisions or requirements, and ensuring that the contract aligns with the objectives and requirements established in the contract creation phase.

iii) Contract Implementation

Contract Implementation is a crucial phase of carrier contract management. It involves the following key steps:

  • Communicating contract details to relevant stakeholders: Once the carrier contract is finalized, it is important to communicate the contract details to all relevant stakeholders within the organization. This includes internal teams such as operations, procurement, finance, and customer service. Clear and effective communication ensures that everyone understands the terms and conditions, performance expectations, and their roles and responsibilities in relation to the contract.

  • Setting up performance monitoring and reporting mechanisms: Establishing performance monitoring and reporting mechanisms is essential to track and evaluate the carrier's performance against the agreed-upon KPIs and SLAs. This involves implementing systems and processes to capture relevant data, such as delivery times, cargo condition reports, and customer feedback. It also includes establishing reporting schedules and formats to facilitate regular performance reviews.

  • Conducting carrier onboarding and training: Carrier onboarding and training is necessary to familiarize the carrier with the organization's operations, systems, processes, and specific requirements outlined in the contract. This may involve conducting orientation sessions, providing access to necessary documentation and resources, and addressing any questions or concerns raised by the carrier. Effective onboarding and training set the foundation for a successful partnership and ensure that the carrier understands how to meet the expectations outlined in the contract.

  • Ensuring compliance with contract requirements: Compliance with contract requirements is crucial to ensure that the carrier adheres to the terms and conditions set forth in the contract. This includes monitoring the carrier's performance, verifying adherence to service levels and quality standards, and addressing any deviations or non-compliance promptly. Regular audits and performance reviews help identify areas of improvement and ensure that both parties fulfill their obligations as per the contract.

iv) Contract Performance Management

Contract Performance Management is a critical component of carrier contract management. It involves the following key steps:

  • Monitoring carrier performance against KPIs: Regularly tracking and evaluating the carrier's performance against the key performance indicators (KPIs) specified in the contract. This may include monitoring metrics such as on-time delivery percentage, cargo loss or damage rate, customer satisfaction scores, and other relevant performance indicators. Monitoring can be done through data analysis, tracking systems, and periodic performance assessments.

  • Addressing any performance issues or deviations: If performance issues or deviations from the agreed-upon standards are identified, it is important to address them promptly. This may involve investigating the root causes of the issues, communicating with the carrier to understand their perspective, and collaboratively developing corrective action plans. Timely resolution of performance issues helps ensure that the contract requirements are met and that service quality is maintained.

  • Conducting periodic performance reviews with carriers: Periodic performance reviews provide an opportunity to evaluate the carrier's overall performance, discuss performance trends, address any concerns, and provide feedback. These reviews can be conducted on a scheduled basis, such as quarterly or annually, and involve a structured discussion that assesses the carrier's adherence to SLAs, compliance with contract terms, and overall service performance.

  • Analyzing and reporting on carrier performance data: Analyzing carrier performance data is essential for gaining insights into trends, identifying areas for improvement, and informing decision-making. Data analysis may involve identifying patterns, benchmarking performance against industry standards or internal targets, and identifying opportunities to optimize performance and reduce costs. Reporting on carrier performance to relevant stakeholders, such as management or procurement teams, helps ensure transparency and accountability.

v) Contract Renewal or Termination

Contract Renewal or Termination is an important phase in carrier contract management. Let's explore each of the topics briefly:

  • Assessing carrier performance and contract compliance: This step involves evaluating the carrier's performance throughout the contract period. It includes assessing their adherence to the agreed-upon service levels, meeting KPIs, and fulfilling contractual obligations. The assessment helps determine if the carrier has consistently delivered satisfactory performance and complied with the terms and conditions of the contract.

  • Evaluating market conditions and carrier options: Organizations should evaluate the prevailing market conditions and explore available carrier options before deciding on contract renewal or termination. This involves considering factors such as market rates, industry trends, carrier capabilities, and the competitive landscape. Evaluating market conditions helps organizations make informed decisions about continuing with the existing carrier or exploring alternatives.

  • Negotiating contract renewals or terminations: If the decision is made to proceed with contract renewal, negotiations are conducted to discuss and update the terms and conditions of the contract. This may involve adjusting pricing, modifying SLAs, or incorporating any necessary changes to better align with evolving business needs. In the case of contract termination, negotiations focus on exit strategies, transition plans, and any associated costs or penalties.

  • Managing transition to new carriers, if necessary: If a decision is made to switch to a new carrier, it is important to manage the transition effectively. This involves developing a transition plan that outlines the steps and timelines for transferring responsibilities, data, and assets from the existing carrier to the new one. Effective communication and coordination are vital during this phase to ensure a seamless transition and minimize disruptions to operations.

Benefits of Carrier Contract Management

Effective carrier contract management offers several benefits to organizations. Let's explore each of them:

  • Cost Savings and Efficiency: By effectively managing carrier contracts, organizations can negotiate competitive rates, optimize pricing structures, and identify cost-saving opportunities. Streamlining processes, reducing inefficiencies, and maximizing resource utilization contribute to overall cost savings. Effective contract management also helps organizations avoid costly penalties and fees associated with non-compliance or contract breaches.

  • Improved Service Quality and Reliability: Through well-defined contract terms and performance expectations, organizations can ensure that carriers deliver services that meet or exceed the agreed-upon service levels. This leads to improved service quality, on-time deliveries, and enhanced reliability. Clear communication and regular performance monitoring enable prompt identification and resolution of any service issues, contributing to overall customer satisfaction.

  • Risk Mitigation and Compliance: Effective carrier contract management helps mitigate risks associated with transportation operations. Contracts outline liability and insurance provisions, ensuring that carriers assume responsibility for any potential loss, damage, or delays. Contractual compliance requirements, including regulatory and safety standards, are established and monitored to mitigate operational risks. This helps protect the organization's interests, reputation, and compliance with legal obligations.

  • Enhanced Supplier Relationships: Through effective contract management, organizations can build and nurture strong relationships with their carriers. Clear communication, collaborative negotiations, and mutually beneficial agreements foster a sense of partnership and trust. This can lead to improved collaboration, responsiveness, and willingness to go the extra mile in delivering services. Strong supplier relationships contribute to long-term sustainability and a competitive advantage in the market.

5 Best Practices for Carrier Contract Management

Best Practices for Carrier Contract Management involve the following key strategies:

  • Centralized Contract Repository: Maintain a centralized repository or contract management system to store and organize all carrier contracts. This ensures easy access to contract documents, reduces the risk of loss or misplacement, and facilitates efficient contract administration and retrieval when needed.

  • Standardized Contract Templates and Terms: Develop standardized contract templates and terms that align with the organization's requirements and industry best practices. This helps streamline the contract creation process, ensures consistency in contract terms, and reduces the time and effort required for drafting and review.

  • Clear Performance Metrics and Reporting: Clearly define performance metrics and reporting requirements in the contracts. This enables effective monitoring of carrier performance against agreed-upon KPIs and SLAs. Regular reporting and analysis of performance data facilitate timely identification of issues and opportunities for improvement.

  • Regular Communication and Collaboration: Foster open and regular communication with carriers throughout the contract lifecycle. This includes sharing updates, discussing performance, addressing concerns, and maintaining a collaborative relationship. Effective communication promotes transparency, alignment of expectations, and timely resolution of any contract-related issues.

  • Continuous Evaluation and Improvement: Continuously evaluate the effectiveness of carrier contracts and contract management processes. Regularly review contract performance, seek feedback from stakeholders, and identify areas for improvement. Adjust contracts and processes as necessary to optimize outcomes and address evolving business needs.

Challenges and Solutions in Carrier Contract Management

Complex Contractual Language and Terms:

Challenge: Carrier contracts often involve complex language and terms that can be difficult to understand and interpret. This can lead to misunderstandings and potential disputes.

Solution: Engage legal experts or contract specialists to review and simplify contract language. Use plain language to ensure clarity and comprehension. Provide explanations or definitions for any technical or industry-specific terms. Effective communication and collaboration between legal, procurement, and operational teams can help ensure that contract terms are clear and understood by all parties.

Managing Multiple Carrier Contracts:

Challenge: Organizations may have multiple carrier contracts to manage simultaneously. This can create challenges in terms of tracking, monitoring, and administering contracts efficiently.

Solution: Implement a centralized contract management system or software that allows for easy organization and retrieval of contract information. Maintain a comprehensive contract repository with contract details, key dates, and related documents. Establish contract tracking and renewal reminders to ensure timely actions. Standardize contract templates and terms where possible to streamline the contract creation process and simplify contract management.

Changing Market Conditions and Regulations:

Challenge: The transportation industry is subject to evolving market conditions, including fluctuating fuel costs, capacity constraints, and changing regulations. These changes can impact carrier contracts and require adjustments.

Solution: Stay informed about market trends and regulatory changes that may impact carrier contracts. Regularly review and update contract terms to align with market conditions and regulatory compliance requirements. Maintain open lines of communication with carriers to discuss any necessary contract amendments or modifications due to changing circumstances. Flexibility and adaptability are key in navigating changing market conditions and regulations.

Leveraging Technology for Contract Management:

Challenge: Traditional manual contract management processes can be time-consuming, prone to errors, and lack efficiency. Leveraging technology is essential for streamlining contract management tasks.

Solution: Adopt contract management software or tools that automate contract creation, storage, tracking, and reporting processes. These tools can facilitate efficient contract administration, improve visibility into contract data, and provide automated reminders for critical contract milestones. Additionally, consider implementing electronic signatures to expedite the signing process and reduce administrative overhead.

By addressing these challenges through clear communication, standardized processes, the use of technology, and staying updated with market conditions and regulations, organizations can enhance their carrier contract management practices and ensure successful contract outcomes.

How FarEye's SHIP Software Can Help in Carrier Contract Management

FarEye's SHIP software can greatly assist in carrier contract management by providing efficient and streamlined processes. Here are some ways in which SHIP software can help:

  1. Centralized Contract Repository: SHIP software offers a centralized repository to store and manage all carrier contracts. This ensures easy access to contract documents, allowing users to quickly retrieve and review contract details as needed.

  2. Contract Performance Monitoring: The SHIP software enables the monitoring of carrier performance against contract terms and conditions. It provides real-time visibility into key performance metrics, such as on-time delivery, service levels, and compliance. This helps organizations track and evaluate carrier performance, ensuring contractual obligations are met.

  3. Automated Alerts and Notifications: SHIP software offers automated alerts and notifications for contract milestones, such as contract expiration, renewal dates, and pricing adjustments. This ensures timely actions and helps organizations stay on top of contract management tasks.

  4. Compliance Management: The software assists in managing compliance with regulatory requirements and industry standards. It can track and validate carrier certifications, licenses, and insurance documentation, ensuring that carriers meet the necessary compliance criteria.

  5. Reporting and Analytics: SHIP software provides robust reporting and analytics capabilities. It allows users to generate comprehensive reports on carrier performance, contract compliance, and financials. These insights help organizations assess the effectiveness of carrier contracts, identify areas for improvement, and support data-driven decision-making.

  6. Collaboration and Communication: SHIP software facilitates communication and collaboration between the organization and carriers. It offers features such as messaging, document sharing, and real-time updates, ensuring seamless communication and transparency in contract management processes.

FarEye's SHIP software empowers organizations with efficient tools and features to streamline carrier contract management. It helps optimize contract performance, enhances visibility, and promotes effective collaboration, leading to improved operational efficiency and better control over carrier relationships.


a) What is the difference between Common Carrier Vs Contract Carrier?

Common Carrier: A common carrier is a transportation service provider that offers its services to the general public. It operates on a regular schedule or route and provides transportation services to anyone who requests them. Common carriers typically have a predetermined set of rates and do not have the ability to select or refuse customers based on their preferences. They must adhere to specific regulations and legal obligations, such as providing a reasonable duty of care to protect the goods being transported. Examples of common carriers include airlines, railways, and public transportation systems.

Contract Carrier: A contract carrier, on the other hand, provides transportation services under specific contractual agreements with individual customers or businesses. Unlike common carriers, contract carriers have the flexibility to negotiate terms and conditions, pricing, and service levels based on the specific needs of their clients. Contract carriers typically work with shippers or organizations that require regular or dedicated transportation services. They enter into contracts that outline the scope of services, pricing structures, and other relevant terms.

Contract carriers may specialize in specific industries, operate on dedicated routes, or offer specialized equipment tailored to the needs of their contracted customers.

Key Differences:

  • Service Provision: Common carriers provide transportation services to the general public, while contract carriers offer services based on specific contractual agreements with individual clients or businesses.

  • Flexibility: Contract carriers have more flexibility in negotiating terms, pricing, and service levels based on the needs of their contracted customers, whereas common carriers operate on predetermined rates and schedules.

  • Customer Selection: Common carriers cannot selectively choose their customers and must provide services to anyone who requests them, while contract carriers have the ability to select their customers and enter into agreements with specific clients.

  • Regulation: Common carriers are subject to specific regulations and legal obligations to ensure public safety and protection, whereas contract carriers have more freedom in terms of contractual agreements and obligations.

In summary, common carriers provide transportation services to the general public, while contract carriers operate under specific contracts with individual clients or businesses. The key differences lie in the flexibility of service provision, customer selection, and regulatory obligations.

b) Is Amazon a common carrier?

No, Amazon is not considered a common carrier. While Amazon operates its own logistics network and transportation services, it does not provide transportation services to the general public. Instead, Amazon is primarily an e-commerce company that utilizes a combination of its own delivery infrastructure, third-party logistics partners, and independent contractors to fulfill and deliver orders to customers.

Amazon's transportation services are typically limited to the fulfillment of its own orders and supporting its e-commerce operations. It does not operate as a public transportation service provider that offers transportation services to anyone who requests them, which is a characteristic of common carriers.

Komal puri

Komal Puri is a seasoned professional in the logistics and supply chain industry. As the Senior Director of Marketing and a subject matter expert at FarEye, she has been instrumental in shaping the industry narrative for the past decade. Her expertise and insights have earned her numerous awards and recognition. Komal’s writings reflect her deep understanding of the industry, offering valuable insights and thought leadership.

Komal Puri
Sr. Director of Marketing | FarEye

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