Visibility in the freight industry is a loosely used term, says Trucker Tools CEO

The internet houses a countless number of load boards that carriers and brokers use every day to run their businesses. But the system has remained the same for ages, not witnessing any disruption in its process to make it easier for its stakeholders. Information on load boards is seldom checked real-time, thus making a lot of existing information on truck and load availability to be outdated and stale.

Trucker Tools, a carrier management platform has introduced the Smart Capacity feature, that helps brokers to proactively cover their loads with available trucks, while reducing operational costs. “About $50 to $75 is spent by a typical brokerage in finding an available truck to cover its load,” said Prasad Gollapalli, founder, and CEO at Trucker Tools. “And most of it is driven by a number of phone calls that brokers make to carriers, to find if they have available trucks and also get information from various sources like load boards, spreadsheets, and emails.”

The Smart Capacity feature aggregates information from all these sources to create a comprehensive database, which more importantly, is devoid of stale information. “When the trucks are being booked, we remove those trucks in real-time so that a broker is not wasting time calling those trucks that are already booked,” said Gollapalli.

Another problem with load boards is the widely prevalent trait where brokers are unwilling to share all the information they have over load availability, in fear of their clients being poached. This makes it difficult for carriers, who are forced to call up brokers every day to try and find out details on specific loads.

Gollapalli also addressed the ideological shift in what he dubbed the Silicon Valley startups, looking to disrupt the freight industry through solutions that cut parallels with the Uber model. “When Uber disrupted the taxi business, it brought in additional capacity. Whereas when you come into the trucking space, where a common man can’t just get into a truck and drive, you are not adding additional capacity, which makes disrupting the space much more difficult,” he said.

This situation also makes the freight industry all-inclusive, with the middlemen a.k.a brokers being vital cogs in the ecosystem, unlike other markets where brokers are largely disposable and do not add significant value. “Brokers build relationships with carriers and shippers. A lot goes into it – whether the carrier has enough insurance, whether it is reliable, and if it picks up and delivers a load on time and in top condition. A third-party technology platform can’t just replace this overnight,” said Gollapalli.

This led Trucker Tools to go down a path that most of the neo-age startups are disillusioned about – aligning and empowering brokers, rather than eliminating them. The company helps brokers reduce their operational costs and provide a better service to both the shipper and the carrier.

Then again, Trucker Tools is not a load board and does not aim to be one. Load boards have traditionally been charging carriers a lot more than they do brokers, and Gollapalli opined that they are in need of disrupting their own products, while also working on cutting out stale data. “Load boards don’t have an easy way of keeping the data clean, because most of these load boards don’t have mobile apps with critical mass,” he said. “The Trucker Tools app has over 500,000 downloads from truckers, which is a huge critical mass when it comes to owner-operators and small carriers.”

Visibility is another concern that faces brokers, and a term that Gollapalli felt is loosely used around, with various conversations surrounding it taking up different definitions for visibility. “Everybody talks about visibility now. When you talk about visibility in transportation, there are two parts to it. One is about the visibility of freight going from point A to point B in transit,” he said. “The other is to know where the available trucks are. Most of the companies have visibility of freight in transit, but don’t have information of when the truck is available again in the future.”

This is a huge problem that plagues the industry, turning a lot of trucking leads that brokerage firms have into ‘one-load wonders.’ Trucks vanish after carrying a load with brokers having no knowledge on when and where they would be available again – leading to a capacity crunch which in reality might not be prevalent with higher visibility. Trucker Tools looks to overcome this problem by providing visibility on truck capacity – detailing on where and when they would be available, helping brokers immensely.

Trucker Tools also recently reached one of its biggest milestones, wherein it signed up its 50th customer on the brokerage side, thus creating a network that is strengthened on both ends of the ecosystem; the truckers and the brokers. The company takes an open approach towards listening to its customers, and invites suggestions to improve its solution – while adopting a roadmap where it adds a new feature to its product line every two weeks.

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Vishnu Rajamanickam, Staff Writer

Vishnu writes editorial commentary on cutting-edge technology within the freight industry, profiles startups, and brings in perspective from industry frontrunners and thought leaders in the freight space. In his spare time, he writes neo-noir poetry, blogs about travel & living, and loves to debate about international politics. He hopes to settle down in a village and grow his own food at some point in time. But for now, he is happy to live with his wife in the middle of a German metropolitan.