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CarrierDirect: Effective trucking technology is more than a checklist item (with video)

CEO Peter Rentschler says solid technology strategy requires ongoing evaluation.

Peter Rentschler, CEO of CarrierDirect takes audience questions during FreightWaves LIVE Chicago on Nov. 13. (Photo: FreightWaves staff)

When it comes to technology adoption, a chief information officer with a seat at the management table makes significantly more progress than one who reports to another executive, according to CarrierDirect CEO Peter Rentschler.

“I fundamentally believe that technology strategy needs to be a capability of the business as a whole,” Rentschler said during an audience question-and-answer session during FreightWaves LIVE Chicago on Nov. 13. “Innovation doesn’t have to be a grand concept. It just has to work for your business.”

CarrierDirect is a Chicago-based management consultant to shippers, third-party logistics and less-than-truckload carriers that tries to fill gaps in business strategy and technology planning, in part through custom software development. 

Checklist item

“To look at (technology) as a checklist item is to say, ‘We’re going to go out and buy 100 trucks and run them for 30 million miles,’” Rentschler said. “It becomes something that you set once and never reevaluate.”

A solid technology strategy that impacts the business as a whole requires ongoing evaluation of both core and secondary technology bets, he said.

Rentschler worked for three years in technology strategy at business consultancy Accenture before becoming managing director at CarrierDirect in 2015. He became CEO the next year.

He offered a four-fold approach to technology implementation: 

  • Buy what’s needed and avoid “being sold a shiny object.”
  • Be intentional about configuring and implementing the technology, whether doing it in house or contracting an installation specialist.
  • Maintain the technology by following upgrade schedules and providing resources for support.  
  • Effectively train people on the new product.

“That’s not a one-hour demo,” he said. “We run interactive one- to five-day training programs. It’s expensive. It takes a lot of time.”

He pointed to positive and negative reactions to Salesforce (NYSE: CRM) customer relationship management software. Haters typically spent little time making the most of the product. 

“Salesforce is designed to be configurable to match any sales process,” Rentschler said. “But out of the box, it just matches the default Salesforce-recommended process.”

Pay schemes

Rentschler was asked where trucking trails in technology. He did not hesitate in responding.

“No one has done anything around compensation,” Rentschler said. “What we’ve seen is that it is still a very manual process at companies of all sizes.”

He told of a carrier with $60 million in revenue that acquired a company with 30 trucks. Parent company drivers were paid per mile. Drivers at the acquired company were paid a percentage of revenue. The parent company solution was a complex Excel spreadsheet.

“There seems to be a lot that can be done,” Rentschler said.

Alan Adler

Alan Adler is an award-winning journalist who worked for The Associated Press and the Detroit Free Press. He also spent two decades in domestic and international media relations and executive communications with General Motors.