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Location intelligence is business intelligence

Data is enabling businesses across industries to optimize their resources and become more efficient, and commercial trucking is no exception. The U.S. economy may run on the trucking industry, but as the sector gets more competitive and the margins get thinner, the fleets that succeed will be those that leverage location intelligence to run as smoothly as possible. 

As a form of business intelligence (BI), location intelligence (LI) brings business and location data together. ESRI defines LI as “the capacity to organize and understand complex data through the use of geographic relationships. LI organizes business and geographically referenced data to reveal the relationship of location to people, events, transactions, facilities and assets.” This has major implications for the transportation industry. According to Gartner, the number of organizations using LI will grow four-fold by 2021, while Dresner Advisory Services’ 2018 Location Intelligence Market Study found that 66 percent of enterprises questioned consider LI “decisive to improve their revenue and growth strategies.”

LI is a game-changer because it provides fleets with unprecedented insight into all aspects of their operations. With LI, fleets can better understand accurate detention time calculations by knowing when the truck arrived and departed the site. They can see where drivers stop for fuel or break locations and how long they stay, which in turn leads to better asset utilization and understanding of the driver’s preferences. Fleets can use LI to look at trends or patterns related to time of day and/or day of week, which leads to better predictability on trip durations, next pickup or delivery timing. Furthermore, LI can make border calculation wait times more accurate when vehicles move between the U.S. and Mexico or Canada. For all these reasons, LI can lead to better predictions on disruptions or delays so they can be avoided and better operational decisions can be made.

Organizations have discovered that data can provide insights about customers and how to serve them better, increasing brand loyalty and improving customer relationship management, according to McKinsey. Before the digitization of everything and the explosion of Big Data, trucks that were empty, sat for hours at facilities or got delayed due to inaccurate directions were considered inevitable costs of doing business. That is no longer the case. Today, fleets of all sizes can use data insights to make smarter decisions, minimize wasted time and money, and boost productivity. According to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, companies that adopt “data-driven decision making” achieve productivity that is 5 percent to 6 percent higher than could be explained by other factors, including how much the companies invested in technology.

Faced with complex road networks, increasing government regulations, rising inventory-carrying costs, disruption from different types of competitors and heightened customer expectations, location intelligence gives carriers an important competitive edge. When fleets are able to extract high-value information from data and make smarter decisions, they can optimize their operations to be as efficient and smart as possible. 

Using Location Intelligence to conquer the ‘Last Mile’

“Last-mile issues” can make up 28 percent of a shipment’s total cost, according to Cerasis. A huge amount of time and money is wasted when drivers are sent to an address that is not the actual, specific entrance where they are supposed to go. Making matters more complicated, non-public driveways or facility access roads don’t show up on many maps. This can also pose safety risks if the driver has to resort to unsafe maneuvers to get where he needs to go.  

Drivers need to know the exact door or dock at their destination. Generic addresses don’t cut it. Carriers can use rich location intelligence to predefine customized location information to ensure drivers have precise mileage, routing and turn-by-turn directions to the correct gate. Shippers can also contribute by supplying information like dock numbers and delivery time windows. Both shippers and carriers can benefit from more efficient arrivals, less truck idling, safety for drivers and better relationships by sharing information. 

One way fleets can define custom locations is by using latitude and longitude to pin a location on a satellite map. Taking it a step further, they can then define a boundary polygon around a specific location and/or build “sites” that define a location’s truck-specific entry and exit gate, or even define a “gate path,” which specifies which roads drivers should take to approach or to depart a site. Location data can travel two ways, so not only do drivers have more precise routing, but dispatchers and shippers can also know in real-time when a vehicle arrives or leaves a destination by using geofences. 

Customized location intelligence helps drivers get to the right location without unnecessary delays, wasted miles or safety risks. From a carrier’s perspective, detailed location information produces better mileage results, improves last-mile routing, provides more precise drive times to the right gate and ultimately provides better turn-by-turn directions to drivers. This leads to better on-time delivery success and customer service. 

The concept of location intelligence may seem complicated, and even overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. As competition heats up and margins get thinner, it’s is a powerful way to achieve optimal and efficient operations while fostering mutually beneficial relationships between carriers and shippers. According to a recent McKinsey Global Survey on data and analytics, the companies that derive new value from data are more likely to be leaders in their industries and experience rapid growth. Location intelligence is a game-changer.  

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