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Convoy CEO: Things I learned at warehouses and truck stops

CSCMP town hall speaker says applying technology and data to the trucking industry a “win-win” for everyone

Convoy CEO Dan Lewis’ presentation on Tuesday was titled “Your Problems are Our Obsession: Things I Learned by Sneaking into Warehouses and Camping Outside Truck Stops.” (Photo: Convoy)

Dan Lewis, co-founder and CEO of trucking services firm Convoy, spent time at truck stops, warehouses and other places, talking with logistics professionals to figure out why supply chains “weren’t reaching their full potential.”

“When Convoy was founded, there was a lot of talk about how technology was going to revolutionize the industry,” Lewis said during the town hall series at the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals’ (CSCMP) 2020 EDGE Supply Chain Virtual Conference and Exhibition.

Lewis’ presentation on Tuesday was titled “Your Problems are Our Obsession: Things I Learned by Sneaking into Warehouses and Camping Outside Truck Stops.”

“Everything was going to be online and visible with different tools. You were going to have the Internet of Things connecting all the different physical assets. Blockchain was going to help us track and organize everything,” Lewis said. “But with the many advancements in those technologies, the implementation in your supply chain or in your company hasn’t solved these problems; they still exist.”

Founded in 2015, Convoy is a leader in the digital freight-matching marketplace, one of the companies that have created trucking apps that allow drivers to book loads instantly via smartphone.

Convoy, based in Seattle, has around 700 employees. The company added offices in Atlanta and also secured $185 million in a Series C funding round last year. 

“Today, our digital freight network is comprised of hundreds of thousands of trucks, pulling dry and refrigerated loads. We operate over 3,000 Convoy trailers in a universal trailer pool available to our small carriers and operators, and we have over 50,000 carriers on this platform,” Lewis said.

Some of Convoy’s major brand clients include Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Anheuser-Busch Cos. and General Electric. Convoy also works with large and small carriers to help maximize earnings by keeping their trucks full, Lewis said.

“One of the owner-operators that I know personally out of Washington, who runs a small family trucking business, did a lot of longer hauls, sometimes all the way down to Florida,” Lewis said. “One of the things that he told me was when he’s running down to Florida, he doesn’t get his next load until he’s waiting at the dock unloading or at the truck stop in Florida that night.”

Lewis said he wondered why the carrier wouldn’t arrange the next load on the way down from Washington.

“There were two big things: One, he lives by his reputation. If he’s late to that next load, that broker’s not gonna trust him anymore. He wanted to make sure he was free and clear before he signed up for the next load. The next reason is that there’s often more money in last-minute freight,” Lewis said. “How do we help de-risk the business for small trucking companies?”

One of the issues Lewis heard from shippers was that “the process can be pretty last minute and there’s a lot of stress involved.”

“Shippers said it’s hard to know who’s really going to come through and who’s not, I don’t have great visibility into where the truck is, I don’t get a lot of data and insight as to what’s happening, and how those trucks are actually experiencing my facilities, and what works and doesn’t work,” Lewis said.

To help resolve some of these issues, Convoy has several tech-enabled features on its app, including more transportation management system integrations that expand access to its real-time pricing and capacity guarantee tools; fuel cards and low-cost factoring; a spot rate benchmarking tool for shippers; a streamlined and automated contract rate process for smaller shippers; personalized shipment insights and supply chain visibility metrics; green appointment windows; and dedicated freight opportunities for small fleets and owner-operators.

“Solving these problems starts with a deep understanding of the challenges that our shipper, carrier and trucking partners face,” Lewis said

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Noi Mahoney

Noi Mahoney is a Texas-based journalist who covers cross-border trade, logistics and supply chains for FreightWaves. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English in 1998. Mahoney has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working for newspapers in Florida, Maryland and Texas. Contact [email protected]