April 2018

Fleet Management News & Business Info | Commercial Carrier Journal

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40 commercial carrier journal | april 2018 technology Who needs an app? New tech automates freight transactions without smartphone apps BY AARON HUFF I n early 2018, the pressures on truck capacity have picked up where they left off last year. Spot market rates climbed to record levels in December 2017, according to the DAT Freight Index. DAT Solutions also reported nine loads were available for every truck in its network — its highest monthly average in history. With shippers and third-party logistics providers scrambling to find capacity and lock it down, 2018 could be a breakthrough year for new freight-matching technology. Over the past few years, a number of technology startups have set out to solve a persistent challenge in freight transportation — matching trucks with loads in an automated fashion. That's why 3PLs have many new options, and competitors, in the race to streamline these processes for pro- curing capacity. AFN Logistics specializes in transporting retail goods to fulfill supply chains, many connected to e-commerce and final-mile deliver- ies. In this fast-growing sector, "the demands on shippers are as high as they've ever been," said Rob Levy, chief financial officer and chief infor- mation officer of the Niles, Ill.-based 3PL. In response to rising transportation costs, tighter delivery windows and capacity constraints, "we are really driving a greater level of technology to make our operations more efficient and drive value to the customer," Niles said. Building automated processes with software is a top priority to transfer AFN's employees away from more repetitive tasks and toward more "solution-oriented conversations" with customers by using data to make the best possible decisions, he said. The AFN Engine is an internal automation tool the 3PL designed for its operational needs, such as capacity procurement. The AFN Engine uses track-and-trace information from FourKites to manage shipments and provide visibility to customers. The company also built internal systems to increase the efficiency of matching available trucks from its dedicated carriers to available loads. "We are very relationship-oriented and focused on the people we are working with," Levy said. Personalized freight matching As the pace of technology develop- ment accelerates, 3PLs will be looking for more ways to keep the personal touch with carrier relationships while making behind-the-scenes transac- tions more efficient. In 2013, chemical engineer Paramvir Sandhu was working on new formulations for the Armor All/ STP Products Co. when an "entrepre- neurial itch" led him to the trucking industry. Sandhu started a trucking com- pany, WF Logistics, with his cousin who had attended the same master's program at Colorado State University. Sandhu said that by 2016, their company was generating "a couple million" in revenue, but he could see the prospects for growth were dim- ming due to the difficulty of scaling an asset-heavy business. at's when Sandhu met Apple employee Luxmi Dutt during an entrepreneurial event in Silicon Val- in focus: FREIGHT MATCHING Because of ELDs, more technology companies will create freight-matching platforms that use locations and hours-of-service data to give carriers load offers.

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