40th Annual Quest for Quality Awards: Service stars in the new era of collaboration

Which carriers, third-party logistics providers and U.S. ports reached the pinnacle of service excellence over the course of the past year? Our readers have cast their votes, and now it’s time to introduce this year’s winners of the coveted Quest for Quality Awards.

The editorial staff of Logistics Management (LM) is proud to unveil the results of the “40th Annual Quest for Quality Awards.” This year, our survey results yielded 142 providers of transportation and logistics services that have received the ultimate vote of confidence, posting the highest scores across our lists of critical service criteria.

Over the course of four decades, LM’s Quest for Quality has been regarded in the transportation and logistics industry as the most important measure of customer satisfaction and performance excellence. To determine the best of the best, qualified LM readers rate carriers, third-party logistics (3PL) service providers, and U.S. port operators strictly on the basis of service quality, making it the only survey of its kind in the market.

To determine who wins the vote, LM readers evaluate companies in all modes and service disciplines, choosing the top performers in categories including motor carriers, railroad and intermodal services, ocean carriers, air carriers, freight forwarders, third party/contract logistics services, and ports. From January through May of this year, LM and Peerless Research Group (PRG), a division of Peerless Media, surveyed readers who are qualified buyers of logistics and transportation services.

This year our research group received more than 3,512 total responses. In order to be a “winner,” a company had to receive at least 5% of the category vote. The result of this overall effort offers the logistics market a crystal-clear look at not only the overall winner in any given category, but also a broad list of companies that finished above the average.

Transportation service providers are rated on LM’s five key criteria: On-time Performance, Value, Information Technology, Customer Service, and Equipment & Operations. Due to the nature of services offered by third-party players, a different set of criteria is used to judge this category. Third-party logistics providers are rated on the following attributes: Carrier Selection & Negotiation, Order Fulfillment, Transportation & Distribution, Inventory Management, and Logistics Information Systems.

Again, this year we split our third-party logistics (3PLs) providers into two categories in our ballot questionnaires with the help Armstrong & Associates Inc., the leading third-party logistics analyst firm in the market.

Eight years ago, we re-established our Ports category, using Ease of Doing Business, Value, Ocean Carrier Network, Intermodal Network, and Equipment & Operations as the five key criteria to measure service success. We’re pleased to be delivering the scores of the top North American Ports once again this year—and for many years to come.

Evaluating who reached the top

The evaluation itself is a weighted metric. The scores take into account the importance readers attach to each attribute. Each year, readers are first asked to rank the attributes in each category on a five-point scale, with 5 representing the highest value and 1 representing the lowest value.

The PRG research team then uses those attributes’ rankings to create weighted scores in each category. For example, readers have historically placed the single highest value on the On-time Performance attribute—and they’ve done so again in 2023. In fact, the attribute was rated between 4.59 and 4.42 across the various carrier categories. The second highest value this year was also once again placed on Value.

After readers have ranked these key attributes in order of importance, they then grade each provider that they currently use on each of the five core Quest for Quality attributes, rating them on a scale of 1 to 3 (1=poor, 2=average, 3=outstanding).

To produce a weighted score, the research team then multiplies the provider’s average scores for each attribute by the attribute’s ranking. Next, the weighted scores are calculated for all five attributes for a given vendor and added together to create an aggregate number.

Companies score a quality win when their total scores exceed the average total weighted score in their category. But remember, providers must receive a minimum number of reader responses to qualify for a win—at least 5% of the total base for the category. 

Performance Attributes’ Importance

Importance ratings are captured on a 5 point scale: 5 = Highly important/1 = Not important
  Carrier selection/ Negotiation Order fulfillment Transportation/ Distribution Inventory Management Logistics information systems
Rated highly important (5,4) 90% 88% 93% 83% 90%
  Customer service/Value added services Order fulfillment Transportation/ Distribution Inventory Management Logistics information systems
Rated highly important (5,4) 92% 90% 93% 87% 90%
  On-time Performance Value Information technology Customer service Equipment & operations
TRUCKLOAD (mean rating) 4.59 4.22 3.33 4.19 3.82
Rated highly important (5,4) 91% 81% 52% 79% 70%
RAIL & INTERMODAL (mean rating) 4.42 4.25 3.77 4.28 4.02
Rated highly important (5,4) 85% 87% 68% 87% 74%
OCEAN (mean rating) 4.54 4.19 3.56 4.2 3.84
Rated highly important (5,4) 90% 85% 60% 79% 69%
LTL (mean rating) 4.54 4.14 3.3 3.99 3.59
Rated highly important (5,4) 91% 80% 52% 74% 60%
AIR CARRIERS & FREIGHT FORWARDERS (mean rating) 4.62 4.26 3.63 4.3 3.58
Rated highly important (5,4) 92% 84% 65% 82% 60%
  Ease of doing business Value Ocean carrier network Intermodal network Equipment & operations
PORTS (mean rating) 4.13 4.17 3.94 3.69 3.84
Rated highly important (5,4) 77% 83% 69% 63% 69%

Source: Logistics Management, Peerless Research Group (PRG)

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