Technology is challenging the notion that freight is predestined for one mode over another. Here’s how.

by Lu Saenz, chief technology officer at Flock Freight

For as long as the freight industry has existed, there’s been a notion that any given load of freight is predestined for one mode of transportation and one mode only: large quantities of freight belong to truckload (TL) or intermodal (IMDL), small shipments belong to less-than truckload (LTL), and so on.

In the traditional supply chain, decades-old transportation modes continue to operate much like they did at their start, often limiting shippers’ options to a single mode for their freight — typically determined with a one-time static analysis of capacity, transit times, handling requirements, and cost. Limited modes have meant limited decision-making ability for shippers. And service providers and supply chain executives have had little incentive to change the status quo, as traditional methods have so far failed to offer any superior alternatives.

Ideally, any given load of freight should be able to move via multiple modes, depending on the shipper’s needs. In the same way e-commerce transformed how many retail businesses sell products, new supply chain technologies are transforming the way businesses and service providers ship freight.

The way we currently think about moving freight doesn’t benefit most shippers and carriers. With so many innovative technologies being deployed into shipping operations, it’s time we rethink outdated beliefs about freight being predestined for one mode and become open to a new approach to shipping.

Shared truckload: reimagining the way we ship freight

From robotics and IoT (internet of things), to warehousing, increased connectivity, and inventory management innovations, digital technologies have improved much of our supply-chain-management and demand-planning processes. However, a relatively unchanged process that is ripe for supply chain disruption is freight shipping.

When Flock Freight entered the market, the company introduced an innovation to expand shipping options for both shippers and carriers. Flock Freight’s proprietary technology platform enables supply chain optimization by combining multiple shipments from multiple customers, at scale. In other words, Flock Freight pools shipments. This pooled freight moves via shared truckload (STL), a mode that enables multiple shipments to be hauled by a single truck directly, without consolidation at warehouses. To successfully pool freight, Flock Freight’s technology accounts for a laundry list of factors like shipment and pallet size, pallet orientation, shipment weight, pickup and drop-off locations, scheduling and appointments, commodity types, and more. Two additional factors that further increase complexity and make the STL mode challenging to deliver at scale are the need for a fast turnaround and the constant stream of shipments to consider as new orders come in. Flock Freight’s pooling technology enables shared truckload by solving a computationally complex problem quickly and at scale.

By enabling midsize freight shippers to share truck space, STL lowers their shipping costs and reduces their environmental impact. Eliminating consolidation and transloading at hubs and terminals eliminates potential for product damage, loss, and delays due to error (and ultimately, resources needed for product replacement or claims), and greatly improves the speed of  transport. Flock Freight’s pooling technology also enables shippers to significantly cut carbon emissions, supporting sustainability goals while remaining competitive.

STL benefits carriers by providing access to previously unavailable loads and a more profitable way to haul. Because STL matches truckload carriers with pools of small and midsize loads, they’re able to haul freight that wouldn’t otherwise be economically viable. The Flock Freight technology platform ensures carriers receive efficient routes and the timing, sequence, and scheduling of every pooled shipment is feasible. By transporting pools of smaller shipments that fill up a truck, carriers who haul shared truckloads can generate greater profits when compared to typical, single-truckload shipments.

Saving truck space is an especially beneficial feature in the post-pandemic global supply chain, which is ridden with shortages of labor, supplies, and trucks, making supply chain planning and ERP (enterprise resource planning) incredibly challenging. Adding STL to your supply chain strategy can mitigate risk and elevate customer experience, creating a win-win shipping experience.

The technology behind digital supply chains is changing the way companies ship freight, and it’s time we change our approach of limiting certain shipments to predestined modes. Flock Freight goes beyond incremental improvements to freight shipping; the company has reimagined the entire process. It’s now possible to move shipments of arbitrary size via shared truckload.


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