Freight broker and logistics provider C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc. on Wednesday took the public wraps off software that enables truckload appointment scheduling without any human intervention.
The software automates a historically manual task that is executed about 1 billion times a year, Eden Prairie, Minnesota-based Robinson (NASDAQ: CHRW) said in announcing the program. With so-called touchless appointments, a load can be electronically scheduled at the time it is picked up and scheduled again for the time and place of delivery. Robinson’s technology uses AI to analyze transit-time data from millions of shipments to determine the optimal appointment, the company said.
The software, which today does touchless appointments for 2,545 customers at more than 25,000 facilities, actually began gaining traction in September 2022. The company wanted to ensure that the software helped meet its internal productivity goals before publicly announcing its availability.
Touchless appointments, considered one of the last frontiers of logistics technology, are seen as offering myriad benefits to the trucking supply chain. Shippers save time they might otherwise spend to manually handle appointment requests. Touchless appointments allow brokers to expedite load availability to their carrier networks, giving carriers better access to freight while saving shippers money. In addition, the faster a load is offered and booked, the more likely a shipper can avoid paying a premium for a carrier to drive out of its way.
In a Robinson customer survey earlier this year, shippers said that more efficient appointment scheduling is their second-biggest IT priority this year, behind the quest to achieve real-time shipment visibility.
“It’s far more efficient for technology to find an appointment slot that’s open, that works for both the loading dock and the carrier, and gets the freight where it needs to be on time,” said Michael Castagentto, Robinson’s president of North American Surface Transportation, the company’s largest unit.
Robinson’s announcement comes two days after Uber Freight said it has taken the first steps toward activating an API technical standard produced by the Scheduling Standards Consortium industry group. The scheduling standard arose from the idea that fragmented processes in appointment scheduling hinder the efforts of FreightTech companies seeking operational efficiency.
Uber Freight told FreightWaves that it has incorporated those standards into its proprietary transportation management system, allowing for automated scheduling across 1,500 facilities and distribution centers for 10 large consumer packaged goods companies.