While Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) and its shipping partners like UPS (NYSE: UPS) and FedEx (NYSE: FDX) are able to tell customers where their package is at all times, the reality for most less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping is somewhat more complex. Multiple stops, drops and pickups, along with traffic and last-minute schedule changes impact the ability to provide narrow delivery windows for LTL customers.
Citing a data science breakthrough and the large volume of data from loads within its system, FourKites said it is now capable of providing real-time tracking of LTL shipments with narrow two-hour delivery windows through its Dynamic ETA for LTL solution.
“The Amazon experience along with the [electronic logging device] mandate have been the single biggest trends we’ve seen [in shipping],” Priya Rajagopalan, chief product officer for FourKites, told FreightWaves. “With UPS or Amazon, you’re talking about a private fleet and you can get extremely granular when you are talking to just one fleet. LTL customers could have between 80 and 1,000 customers and it is very complex because of multiple pickups, multiple drops, etc.”
Like the trucking market in general, the LTL market has seen some unevenness from COVID-19 impacts. E-commerce, though, has been a bright spot, and it is a segment that is expected to continue to grow, according to speakers on a recent Deutsche Bank call.
Curtis Garrett, with pricing and analytics provider Recon Logistics, said there has been an increase in the number of shippers placing their LTL freight out for bid recently and carriers are seeing slightly lower annual rate increases. He added that demand was up slightly since April and the LTL industry was not seeing normal seasonal trends.
As that demand continues to pick up, the need to effectively track shipments will increase.
Dynamic ETA for LTL provides increased visibility into these shipments for shippers, carriers and third-party logistics providers, covering tracking from pre-pickup through proof of delivery. Rajagopalan said the dynamic nature of the technology, which is available at no cost for any FourKites LTL customer, allows the company to narrow estimated time of arrival (ETA) windows and update that window as conditions change. It adds document retrieval capabilities to streamline processing for those involved in the transactions.
“The ability to proactively manage exceptions for LTL shipments means better planning, smoother operations and improved visibility for customers,” Dustin Braun, senior director of logistics for FourKites’ customer Land O’Lakes. “Predicting accurate arrival times for LTL loads has always been one of the harder problems in supply chain operations. This is a genuine breakthrough in real-time visibility, and we are happy to have collaborated with FourKites to help make this innovation happen.”
Rajagopalan explained that FourKites’ extensive catalog of information has helped it create this product.
“Data science requires a ton of data, so we are fortunate. We were first to launch our full truckload ETA because of how much information we had,” she said. That same approach has been applied to the new product. “What we discovered is that we can in fact provide a window, and it will depend on the variables based on lanes… but we can predict a two-hour window.”
Rajagopalan said that having access to more accurate arrival information helps shippers, especially larger shippers such as a Land O’Lakes, more effectively schedule dock time and communicate delivery time to retail outlets or other end customers.
Improved customer service
FourKites said that a food and beverage customer testing the product experienced a 67% reduction in customer service calls and a 147% improvement in customer service ratings after rolling out the product to one of its customers.
Users of the system are able to deploy notifications to customers based on parameters they determine, such as ETA changes or when a truck is two hours away.
FourKites is hosting a webinar on June 10 to further dive into the Dynamic ETA for LTL product.
Dynamic ETA for LTL follows a path of new product announcements for FourKites in 2020. In May, it launched paperless document processing through its Advanced Mobile Package, which includes electronic proof of delivery (ePOD) and electronic bill of lading (eBOL) documentation so that transportation workers can process all applicable paperwork on their smartphones from start to finish.
On April 29, the company announced an interactive network congestion map that tracks cross-border freight movements in North America, Mexico and Europe. Earlier, it announced a scalable GPS solution called Partner Hub that creates tailor-made tools for brokers, carriers and shippers, with carriers retaining full control over their data and having the ability to share data with the stakeholders that make sense to them.
In March, FourKites acquired TrackX’s Yard Management, Dock Management and Gate Control solutions. These solutions are highly scalable, serving the smallest facilities up to multiple enterprise locations, the company said. The solutions are hardware-agnostic and integrate seamlessly with enterprise resource planning (ERP) and warehouse management systems (WMS), as well as RFID and IoT sensors.