Companies across the US are extending pay terms, leaving suppliers to pay the price.
Days payables outstanding at the nation’s 1,000 largest companies averages nearly 57. More than 40% of all shippers require pay terms greater than 30 days. Some of the nation’s largest companies even stretch days to pay to 120.
Extended pay terms financially strain suppliers, especially smaller businesses susceptible to cash flow struggles. This is particularly true for transportation providers, 97% of which fall into the small business category with fewer than 20 trucks.
Factoring addresses conflicting capital interests between companies and their suppliers by providing accelerated receivables at a fee. If leveraged correctly, factoring improves liquidity and profitability for suppliers. However, lack of understanding sometimes leads people to give factoring a bad rap as a poor business practice rather than a helpful financial tool. Those individuals might be the ones leaving the most money on the table.
Bad Rap #1: “Anyone who factors isn’t running their business properly.”
Transportation requires many large upfront investments for equipment and insurance, in addition to several thousand dollars spent weekly for fuel and pay. Businesses must have good cash flow to survive, which factoring provides. Receivable delays have a ripple effect contributing to financial impacts like late payment fees, loan defaults or credit line interest that could cost a transportation provider more than a factoring fee. Extended pay terms also stymie business growth in an industry currently short 50,000 drivers. Every business is different; therefore, factoring does not indicate poor cash management. Rather it shows companies working to thrive in this very capital-intensive industry.
Bad Rap #2: “I do all the work for you to get paid.”
The right factoring partner should decrease a client’s workload. Good factoring companies, like FreightRover’s partner Rover180, assume responsibilities for much of the back-office work around payments. First, factoring companies check shipper credit before a carrier picks up a load to ensure they are hauling for solvent businesses. Clients then submit invoice images by mobile phone or email. The factor issues payment to the client and collects on the invoice as it becomes due from the payor. The transportation provider can spend their time and resources moving more freight rather than calling multiple shippers collecting on invoices.
Bad Rap #3: “I’ve got bad credit. Factoring won’t help me.”
Factoring cares about the credit worthiness of the shipper/payor, not the payee. Many transportation providers that struggled with credit in the past prefer factoring. It often results in a lower rate than high interest short-term loans and provides quick payments to businesses unable to obtain credit otherwise.
Bad Rap #4: “You never know what you’ll actually be paid when you factor.”
Not all factoring companies are created equal. Understanding the factoring contract is key to managing receivables and knowing deposit amounts in advance. Some factoring companies offer a low invoice factoring rate, and then make additional money from monthly minimum requirements, invoice processing fees, and payment issuances. Other factoring companies might offer a slightly higher factoring rate and eliminate all other fees. Non-recourse agreements command higher rates than recourse. Factoring companies also consider how quickly they receive payment on invoices. Shippers with extended terms beyond 30 days could prompt higher factoring rates on invoices to account for the cash float. Businesses that know their contract and shippers, know their receivable amounts due.
Bad Rap #5: “Factoring costs too much.”
Companies have many financing options for their business, and factoring represents one of them. Transportation providers should compare factoring fees to other options like loans or credit to see what rate works best for their business. Factoring often proves to be the lowest fee option. Many suppliers that factor include the rate in their linehaul agreements with shippers to get paid quickly without compromising overall income. Businesses also benefit from other savings factoring companies may provide around equipment, fuel and insurance.
Factoring also creates some parity among shippers. Freight decisions transition from when a transportation provider will get paid to better metrics like lane quality, utilization and load rate to maximize profitability.
Bad Rap #6: “Factoring takes too long to get paid.”
Factoring issues quick payments by design. If a transportation provider does not receive payment within 24 hours, which is industry standard, a broken process with the factoring company likely exists and it is time to ask questions.
Bad Rap #7: “Once you start factoring, you can never stop.”
Factoring companies work hard to keep your business, but you can cancel based on contract terms. Contracts for reputable factors include defined durations and reasonable termination notice periods. To switch factoring partners, the process typically requires a written notice of termination and an authorization agreement to transfer receivables. The new factoring company will issue notice of assignments on the transportation provider’s behalf to each payor to update them on where to send funds. Switching factoring companies does require coordination between all parties, but the cost savings can be worth the work.
Businesses letting the myths outweigh the math might be missing out on money. To learn more about how the best factoring companies set themselves apart, watch our quick video on FreightRover Factoring, test our savings calculator, or request the right questions to ask factoring companies.
Major parcel carriers are sounding the warning bell on possible significant service disruptions this holiday season, which could dramatically decrease capacity as soon as November 8. This also comes on the heels of announcements of free holiday shipping from Target, Walmart and Amazon to boost sales. With annual ecommerce sales expected to peak during Q418 under already constrained less-than-truckload conditions, losing another 7-10% of total LTL capacity will impact everyone.
What does this mean for you?
You already may be experiencing freight rejections. Many 3PLs are actively directing customers to alternate carriers to keep freight moving. This is tightening capacity across the entire domestic LTL network, an effect felt by all shippers, not just parcel carrier users. As available capacity lessens during the Q4 peak season, rates will rise. Shippers should expect to pay more this season, which means consumers will too.
What can you do about it?
- Strengthen your bench – many shippers prefer specific LTL carriers, whether for price, service or speed. Despite having a favorite, savvy shippers often establish relationships and rates with multiple LTL carriers to ensure they always have options for moving their goods.
- Plan ahead – the LTL shipment you’re used to tendering same-day might not move as planned. Give LTL providers as much notice as possible so they can maximize trailer space and routes to move your shipment on time.
- Know your ‘stuff’ – providing inaccurate information to carriers regarding shipment dimensions, weight or class that impacts their asset utilization is a quick way to get kicked to the curb. It’s also a way to get your shipments left on the dock while working out the details. When competing for capacity, the easiest shippers often get the space.
- Ask for help – using multiple LTL carriers under different rates without a transportation management system is tricky and time-consuming. Look to leverage a system or 3PL for easy quoting and dispatch that doesn’t break the bank.
How can FreightRover help?
FreightRover’s SmartLTL offers multiple quick fixes for shippers responding to the looming LTL capacity dilemma:
- Capacity options – The system provides shippers immediate access to multiple carriers specializing in all US regions.
- Rates – Shippers can leverage their existing carrier rates or use pre-established carrier rates without individual contract negotiations needed.
- Speed – SmartLTL offers quick quote-to-tender capabilities in under 60 seconds. Shippers receive immediate quotes from multiple carriers and can sort by rate or speed of delivery.
- Efficiency – Easy data saves accelerate shipment builds. Create the information once, save it, and use the easy search and click option for creating future shipments.
- In-system shipment tracking – Shippers receive a tracking link at shipment dispatch to monitor their shipment or can leverage the customer service team for shipment information.
- One-click invoice approval – SmartLTL publishes invoice amounts online for easy review without the unnecessary paperwork.
- Streamlined payments – FreightRover acts as a third party to issue carrier payments, so shippers move to one payee. This eliminates the need for long carrier onboardings and managing multiple carrier pay terms.
Perhaps most important, regarding the impending capacity question, FreightRover can get shippers operating in the platform within 24 hours. Launch includes three easy steps: 1) agreement signatures, 2) quick system tutorial, and then 3) shipment builds begin.
The system doesn’t require subscription fees or licenses, so shippers only pay a low fee per shipment for SmartLTL access. They can use the system permanently or until LTL capacity returns to normal.
It’s always good to have a Plan B when it comes to shipping. Block some time to think about your alternative strategy as the capacity crunch lingers. SmartLTL is here to help. It makes a great Plan B, but after trying it, we think you’ll consider it your new Plan A.
In the last five years, nearly $600 million has been awarded in independent contractor misclassification lawsuits in trucking. Adding insult to injury, the April 2018 decision in Dynamex Operations West Inc. v. California Supreme Court ruled that the ABC Test must be applied in analyzing whether workers are employees or independent contractors. The ruling applies rigid guidelines for classification and presumes workers are employees unless proven otherwise. This volatile legal environment has many wondering if independent contractors can be utilized by transportation providers at all.
Worker misclassification is a costly issue. However, by understanding the law and addressing risks, independent contractors can provide tremendous business benefits. Plus, eliminating the use of owner-operators would increase the current driver shortage by seven times overnight. The industry needs independent contractors to meet shipper demand, but companies must know how to work with them.
Employee vs Independent Contractor
Let’s start with the basics. The level of control a business has over a worker defines classification.
Employees are hired for a regular, continuous period. They work for an employer who maintains control over the work performance and product.
Independent contractors typically work under contract for a defined period. They perform a service for a company while maintaining their own financial independence. The contractor controls how the service is delivered and the final product.
Understanding the ABC Test
ABC is one of the most common tests used to classify workers. The test generally applies to compensation considerations. Under the ABC Test, independent contractors must meet three criteria:
- The hiring business does not control or direct the worker’s service performance (A test);
- Work performed is outside the usual course of business for the hirer (B test);
- The worker operates an independent enterprise from the hiring entity (C test).
The B test draws the most concern and elicits the question, can independent contractor drivers work for trucking companies that also have drivers as employees?
There are a few things to consider that leave California’s verdict under debate. First, while about two-thirds of states use the ABC Test, the Dynamex case was specific to drivers in California. Second, California applied the ABC Test in its ruling regarding minimum wages, overtime, meal and rest breaks, and wage statement violations. This application of the test omits other variables commonly used to establish independent contractor autonomy. Third, the Court left it open that other types of businesses involving product delivery may be viewed as outside of the usual course of the hiring company’s work even if they provide a similar service. Fourth, California’s application of the B test could conflict with economic regulation prohibited under the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act, which provides a broader definition of the B test. The FAAAA already struck down applications of the ABC Test in Massachusetts that limited the rights of independent business owners. Overall, California’s ABC Test raises as many questions as it answers.
Assessing Worker Status
In addition to the ABC Test, government agencies also frequently use the Common Law Test and the Economic Reality Test. The ABC Test may be the most stringent, but also the most ambiguous. Businesses seeking to classify workers as independent contractors would be wise to assess that decision using the Common Law and Economic Reality tests as well, which provide additional clarity.
The Common Law Test is primarily used by the Internal Revenue Service. It looks at who has control of the work – the business or the contractor. It assesses 20 factors, not all of which must be present to assign classification. Factors include:
- Instructions and sequence – who determines how the work is performed?
- Training – is ongoing training required from the hirer to ensure work is performed in a certain way?
- Services rendered – must the work be performed personally, or can it be subcontracted/given to the contractor’s employees?
- Hours of work – who sets the hours when services are performed?
- Profit and loss – is time and labor pay provided regardless of who gains or loses economically based on the work provided?
- Location – who chooses where services are performed?
- Relationship duration – at service completion, can the worker move on to other projects outside of the hirer?
- Integration of services – do provided services significantly impact overall daily business success?
- Payment method – are workers paid by project or by regular intervals (hour, week or month)?
- Business expenses – who is responsible for paying the worker’s business expenses?
- Investments – who provides the tools, equipment, materials, and facilities to execute the project?
- Service availability – is the worker free to provide services to the general public while partnering with the hiring entity?
- Right to terminate and quit – does the employer have discretion to discharge the worker or can the worker quit without a breach of contract?
The Economic Reality Test establishes an employer-employee relationship when a worker economically depends on a business as services are provided. The test uses five factors collectively and examines the strength of each factor to determine a worker’s status. Factors include:
- Degree of control – who controls the worker and the work product?
- Opportunities for profit or loss – who profits from the success or failure of the business?
- Investment in facilities – who pays for the facilities, tools and equipment?
- Relationship permanency – is the relationship duration indefinite or periodic?
- Skills and initiative – are the worker’s skills benefiting one business or being leveraged in the open market to support multiple businesses?
The three tests help the government protect workers. However, the government aims to avoid overly regulating the business of employers or independent contractors. Therefore, government entities typically assess the entire working relationship to make classifications. Factors indicating employee status may be balanced by other factors indicating independent contractor status. The major takeaway – failing to meet a factor among the tests may not necessarily change employment classification. However, better safe than sorry, and transportation providers should consult with their legal counsel to act on the criteria for risk mitigation.
What’s the Solution?
Should trucking just do away with independent contractors? No company wants to pay several million dollars in misclassification lawsuits. Companies also don’t want to miss out on millions in freight revenues and adding employee drivers is difficult, expensive, and time consuming. One possible solution? Modify business practices to shift more entrepreneurial control to independent contractors. For help with that, there’s FreightRover’s CarrierHQ.
CarrierHQ provides an online marketplace of fleet services designed for one-truck operations all the way to the largest carriers in the US. The technology was created specifically to address the industry’s increasing struggle to maintain the independent contractor model. When assessing who has control of the worker, CarrierHQ offers flexibility to fleets working to establish contractors as truly independent. Here’s how:
- Autonomous enterprise operations – contractors have access to business formation services to create and manage their own business entity (LLC) and may apply for their DOT authority through CarrierHQ (requires Auto Liability insurance). By managing their own business under their DOT authority, they are capable of offering their services in the open market and aren’t affiliated with the hiring fleet’s DOT number the same as employee drivers.
- Payment method – CarrierHQ offers driver settlement services. The benefits are twofold. First, contractors have the option to select how they want to be paid – weekly or by trip (addressing the pay by project consideration). Second, hiring fleets leverage a third party to provide differentiation between how contractor and employee pay is processed. Contractors with their DOT authority also can access FreightRover Factoring to further control the speed of their settlements.
- Investments – CarrierHQ provides access to affiliate leasing entities for equipment needs. This allows contractors to acquire trucks and trailers for lease or purchase independent of the hiring fleet.
- Business expenses – contractors can sign up for Comdata fuel cards with limits established by their credit score rather than using a card with financial attachments to the hiring fleet. This addresses classification concerns stemming from fuel advances or price-based access to fuel stations and per-gallon costs. Physical Damage, Occupational Accident, and Non-Trucking Liability insurance are available for purchase in the contractor’s name as well. Using a series of questions and answers, contractors receive quotes from multiple insurance providers to self-select their plan based on coverage and cost. The system delivers insurance certificates electronically to the driver and the hiring fleet. Online access to Auto-liability insurance is coming soon.
- Control of the work – hiring fleets can launch a private load board inside CarrierHQ. Through a mobile app, contractors self-select freight eliminating the error of forced dispatch and supporting contractor control over the profits and losses of their business. Contractors determine what work they perform and how they perform it while still providing capacity to the hiring fleet.
CarrierHQ provides the blend of control and choice the industry has desperately needed. Fleets take back control of their business and have new means of addressing the potential dangers of worker misclassification. Contractors have an online marketplace providing choice around their work and flexibility on how they manage their enterprise. Independent drivers remain entrepreneurs, not employees. These contractors present more rewards, with more manageable risk, and the industry keeps moving forward.
Interested in learning more? Let’s connect to discuss how CarrierHQ can benefit your overall classification risk strategy.