Technology has revolutionized the transportation and logistics industry. Over the past few years, tracking has been seamlessly integrated, check calls have been significantly reduced and physical paperwork has been all but eliminated. A historically opaque and resistant industry has opened up to transparency and technology.
“If you look at 2018, that was a turning point year. Shippers were struggling with high rates and having a hard time finding capacity,” Adelante SCM President Adrian Gonzalez said. “There were a lot of inefficiencies in general in transportation management, including empty miles, deadhead and missed revenue opportunities.”
These new technologies intended to tackle those inefficiencies, however, came with headaches of their own, namely incompatible operating systems and app overload.
When different systems are being used to perform each task, syncing up those systems ranges from time-consuming to impossible. Using three different softwares to book loads, track freight and file paperwork leads to missing information and delayed payments. Ultimately, using fragmented technology just replaces old inefficiencies with new ones.
That is where homogenous, multiparty, multiuser digital platforms come into play. By aggregating all the tools brokers and carriers need into one system, these platforms cut down on processing time, reduce the potential for lost information and create a simpler workflow for all parties involved.
“The key word ‘homogenous’ is so important because it decreases steps. If you’re an owner-operator, you want to know if there is a load through any brokerage network, not just one. You want to see all the loads that apply to your needs,” Trucker Tools CEO Prasad Gollapalli said. “These platforms help small carriers and owner-operators become profitable by integrating everything they need into one space. This helps them find loads, provide visibility and facilitate electronic invoicing.”
For brokers, these homogenous platforms provide access to a wider array of carriers and help reduce the number of one-load wonders they encounter.
“Small and midsize carriers move over 80% of volumes today. If you’re a broker, you want this group of over 200,000 carriers on one platform so that you don’t have to jump between different systems to find these carriers,” Gollapalli said. “A broker would love to move maybe 10 or 15 loads with a small carrier, which gives the broker consistency. If you’re a broker moving 5,000 loads per month and getting one load per carrier, you need to find far more carriers than if you’re moving 15 loads per carrier.”
It isn’t just about carriers and brokers, though. In order to be successful, these platforms must provide incentives for individual drivers as well. One obvious benefit for drivers is that these platforms reduce app overload, providing all the tools they need in one app. Still, platforms that take this convenience a step further are likely to be more popular among drivers.
“This is still a people business. Relationships matter in transportation,” Gonzalez said. “It is really about finding areas of waste and automating menial tasks. This is helpful for drivers too, especially when everything is running smoothly.”
The Trucker Tools mobile app, for example, also provides drivers with rest stop information, helps locate parking and provides updated fuel pricing information.
“These platforms are centered around drivers. You have to make it valuable to the driver because you need them to download the mobile app,” Gollapalli said. “If a driver is fragmented, you don’t reap the benefits of this program.”
It is no surprise that these platforms are both growing in numbers and expanding vertically at breakneck speed. Gollapalli predicts that this growth will continue over the near term, with one or two flagship players coming out on top in the end.