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Digital disruption will speed up supply chains, says J.B. Hunt’s Simpson (with video)

(Photo Credit: Eric Kulisch)

CHICAGO – The technology transformation that’s underway in freight transportation is badly needed to eliminate billions of dollars in annual waste and improve service for shippers and carriers of all sizes, in the same way that consumers have been empowered by shopping online, Shelley Simpson, chief commercial officer at intermodal transportation provider J.B. Hunt, said Wednesday.

Since trucking deregulation in the 1980s, the number of carriers has exploded to more than 1 million and there are more than 17,000 brokers trying to aggregate the capacity of small trucking companies seeking available loads. But benchmark information about rates, service levels, supply and demand is very limited because of the extreme industry fragmentation. 

Now, new technologies, enabled by smartphones, are available that give truck drivers, dispatchers, brokers and other stakeholders the power to make more informed decisions by easily connecting with business partners. 

J.B. Hunt has created a transportation network through it’s Carrier 360 portal designed to make technology accessible for small carriers so they can automatically connect to thousands of potential customers rather than manually trying to capture shipments one-by-one over the telephone or through email. And J.B. Hunt revealed its new Shipper 360 portal at FreightWaves LIVE that enables shippers to access multiple modes of ground transportation as well as information about carrier performance.

”We actually don’t think we can do it ourselves. There won’t be one winner inside this space. We have to transform our shippers, brokers and carriers. We have to move forward together for everyone to benefit,” she said, referring to the importance of scale to democratize the industry and make information meaningful.

More operational information about railroads and the quality of intermodal service, for example, she said, could eliminate 7 to 11 million costly highway shipments. Access to information about loads, carrier performance and available equipment makes it easier for parties to comparison shop rather than defaulting to truck transportation as the fastest, or most reliable option, she said.

Transparency about carriers pricing and performance will transform how shippers make purchasing decisions, much like online reviews guide people about which restaurants or services to choose, the J.B. Hunt executive vice president explained.

 “I don’t show up to a hotel and not know what I’m going to pay or what the amenities are,” she said Nov. 13, noting that Carrier 360 has 600,000 reviews from truck drivers about treatment at 50,000 shipper facilities. Armed with that information, shippers can correct and any delays and improve driver conditions to attract better trucking providers.

The overall experience and ease of doing business, not price, will be the differentiator between companies in the future, Simpson said.

Facility reviews will help correct detention problems at shipping docks, helping to add an hour of lost driving time from the 11-hour daily limit for each of the 3.5 million drivers in the U.S., which is equivalent to a 13% to 14% increase in pay and in the number of trucks available to haul shipments. Meanwhile, better load matching can eliminate $3 billion in annual empty miles traveled, she claimed.

“We don’t have a driver shortage,” Simpson said, “we have a shortage of information to understand where the waste is occuring.”

Organizations will need to become open to innovation to succeed in today’s collaborative, digital environment, she said. J.B. Hunt made a concerted effort to change its truckload culture and become an agnostic provider of truckload, less-than-truckload and intermodal service, using technology to drive decisions.

“Just because you’re a late adopter doesn’t make you wrong. You’re only wrong if you never adopt,” Simpson said. 

Eric Kulisch

Eric is the Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government coverage and news analysis, and was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. Eric is based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached for comments and tips at [email protected]