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FreightWaves 3PL Summit: Software, personal relationships drive carrier compliance and safety (with video)

“At the end of day no matter how sexy or trendy the tech is, we’re providing transportation as a service.”

Managing carrier quality and compliance requires a balance of software and personal relationships, logistics experts said during a fireside chat that took place during  FreightWaves’ 3PL Summit on Tuesday, July 21.

“At the end of day no matter how sexy or trendy the tech is, we’re providing transportation as a service,” said Lorin Seeks, director of quality and compliance for Convoy, the Seattle-based digital fright network. 

“Our  customers want to know that the network of trucks they are accessing are going to perform well and when Joe or Sue shows up at the dock, that the driver is going to be safe.”

Seeks spoke with Alicia Ruiz, vice president of compliance and legal affairs for Johanson Transportation Service, a third-party logistics provider (3PL) headquartered in Fresno, California.

The conversation between a tech-driven digital intermediary and a family-owned logistics company showcased the dualism at play in today’s trucking marketplace, as the industry must rely on two very different methods – personal relationships and cutting-edge digital solutions – to manage an increasingly complicated risk management environment.

“We both know there are many risks in transportation – more and more each passing year,” said Ruiz. Trucking has become more litigious, she said, and brokers and shippers increasingly are drawn into the fray.

Ruiz said Johanson wants to work with shippers and build trust, and to do that “we use technology but we also use really good people.” When it comes to regulations, “there is a lot to having deep knowledge of the industry.”

As a data-driven tech company, Convoy’s carrier vetting process starts by aggregating great data, both in-house and through third-party monitoring services, Seeks explained.  

“But we also go beyond that with additional measures,” he said. In June, Convoy announced that it was rolling out a novel application of machine learning and automation that identifies the safest carriers to allow into its network. The program yields 16% fewer accidents than the industry average, the company claims.

The model helps Convoy select in real time which carriers are compliant, Seeks explained. A carrier might be fine one day, only to have their insurance expire 24 hours later.

Johanson partners with third parties to applying machine learning to speed up processes, according to Ruiz.

“For us it is being diligent, day in and day out in our process, not just  to vet carriers and keep them on board,” she said. “Part of our longevity is developing relationships. How you do that in a very digitized world right now – that’s hard.” Customers  want quick turn-around, she said, but providers want to make sure they are selecting carriers that are safe.

Ruiz and Seeks participated in a back-and-forth about the coronavirus pandemic, and how it has shaped carrier safety. 

“We’ve had to be really nimble and adjust on the fly with our customers,” Seeks said. Convoy worked with shippers that were moving critical supplies at the same time regulators were adjusting or removing restrictions on how much they could haul and for how long.

COVID-19 has “thrown a wrench in every one of our processes,” Ruiz said, as drivers were not allowed out of their trucks and truck stop services shut down. “We’ve had to adjust very quickly.”

But there is a silver lining, she said, doubling down on her messaging. “What I like about COVID-19 is it has opened up communication. It’s brought a lot of personalization back into the industry that we have lost with technology.”

Related articles:

Convoy employee earned his chops managing real convoys — in Iraq

Convoy rolls out new software to qualify safe drivers

Behind the scenes with the Convoy gang

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Linda Baker.

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Linda Baker, Senior Environment and Technology Reporter

Linda Baker is a FreightWaves senior reporter based in Portland, Oregon. Her beat includes autonomous vehicles, the startup scene, clean trucking, and emissions regulations. Please send tips and story ideas to lbaker@freightwaves.com.

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