A 2001 versus 1991 longitudinal assessment of shipper-to-shipper perceptions, carrier-to-carrier perceptions, and shipper-to-carrier perceptions indicates that carrier understanding of shipper needs may be improving. The shipper-to-shipper analysis revealed that in 2001 shippers were even more concerned with information access, consistent carrier performance, solid customer relations, and the availability of desired services. The carrier-to-carrier analysis indicates that in 2001 carriers appreciated the increasing importance of such factors, as well as the value of providing rate leadership. In 2001, statistically significant differences resulted between shipper and carrier mean ratings for eleven of the thirty-six selection criteria, an improvement from nineteen of thirty-five significant differences in 1991. Basically, carriers must key on offering more flexible rates, providing desired services, and developing a Web-enhanced EDI.
The Motor Carrier Act of 1980, which deregulated the industry, combined with a liberal interpretation of the law by the Interstate Commerce Commission, fostered a much more competitive environment for motor carriers. These events constituted a major change for both carriers and shippers. Carriers were faced with greater competition and shippers were able to select from numerous services and rates. Since the mid- 1 990s competition in the industry has greatly intensified, with globalization, NAFTA, and the move toward requiring technological information support systems (Milligan, 88-97). With competition intensifying, carrier understanding of the importance of various motor carrier selection variables to shippers is critical. Additionally, motor carrier selection may be moving away from a transactional process to more of a relational process, which makes mutual understanding even more important (Richardson, 43-48). The purchase of transportation services focusing on carrier selection criteria has been the subj ect of some empirical investigation both before and after deregulation. However, few studies have sampled both shippers and carriers regarding the importance of motor carrier selection variables.
A 1974 study by Evans and Southard of manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, and motor carriers in Oklahoma investigated how shippers and carriers perceived twenty-eight factors thought to be important in the selection decision. Respondent evaluations were measured on a five-point scale and perceptions were compared by means of t-tests. The t-test is a special case analysis of variance that compares two independent sample means to determine if significant differences exist, beyond mere chance. Evans and Southard found that there were six perceptual differences between shippers and carriers (Evans and Southard, 145-147). Prior to deregulation, only the Evans and Southard study sampled both shippers and carriers and specifically investigated the variables related to the selection of motor carriers. In the 1970s, other empirical investigations relating to carrier selection did not specifically investigate the views of both shippers and motor carriers (McGinnis, 25-34). In the 1980s, studies had a narrow focus, e xamining only the shipper perspective of the transportation seller-buyer relationship (Krapfel and Mentzer, 117-124; Baker, 20-29).
After deregulation, our original 1991 study was the first motor-carrier-specific study to investigate the importance of certain motor carrier selection variables to both shippers and carriers (Abshire and Premeaux, 3 1-35). No other researchers have investigated the importance of motor carrier...