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Unrisky business: Carrier monitoring software hopes to reduce legal perils

Transportation lawyer describes process of combining legal lessons into carrier monitoring FreightTech

Transportation lawyer Cassandra Gaines describes the process of building Carrier Assure. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Routinely, brokerage carrier sales and operations teams work to eliminate potential risks when choosing transportation partners for the brokerage’s shipper clients. These decisions, which call for manual review of carrier specifics, often must be made in less time than it takes to brush one’s teeth in the morning.

Now multiply that risky decision by the vast number of loads booked by U.S. brokerages in a day, and the outcome is a jeopardized load-matching system.

This problem is what inspired Cassandra Gaines, a young lawyer and entrepreneur, to take the lessons she has learned as a member of legal teams at companies like Echo Global Logistics and Schneider National and build a FreightTech product, Carrier Assure, to help protect carrier teams from the risky outcomes of their compulsory decision making.

FreightWaves sat down with Gaines, who hosts MadGaines Live on FreightWavesTV, for a Q&A. Questions and answers have been edited for clarity and length.

FREIGHTWAVES: What motivated you to build a carrier vetting software solution?

GAINES: “I spent years leading and developing carrier compliance departments, working with carrier sales and operations teams to handle issues that derive from working with bottom feeder carriers who did not have our best interest in mind. I grew tired of the carrier monitoring options that currently exist in the market. 

“We need more than a regurgitation of FMCSA data, which is sometimes out of date, on websites that still require manual labor and look like they were developed in the ’80s.

“To make matters worse, training a new employee on how to use these platforms or how to use the FMCSA’s websites takes so much time. The industry deserves better.

“Carrier Assure took me a long time to develop, but I took all my knowledge, experience, legal training and data science to give users a simple, easy-to-understand score on how the carrier will perform. 

“Users immediately understand whether a carrier is inexperienced, which could lead to problems, and if the carrier can be trusted with an expensive, sensitive full truckload interstate shipment.”

FREIGHTWAVES: Did you have any concerns building a carrier vetting solution, being a lawyer and the moderator of the MadGaines network, which consists of a number of carriers and associations?

GAINES: “Not at all. I felt grounded building this software. I feel as though this is what I was put on earth to do. 

“Because of my knowledge, experience and network, I have a unique understanding of how to develop a product that this industry needs and a product that won’t alienate our carriers who are out there working hard for shippers and brokers. 

“Carrier Assure helps illuminate the top-performing carriers and helps users avoid hiring unfavorable carriers that could cause harm with their inexperience.

“I’ve been in the position of carrier representatives, analyzing the carriers  or training the teams on how to try and consistently apply data to their carrier matching process. I’ve seen everything that goes wrong when a carrier is hired to move a shipment they should not have been trusted with. I can help the industry weed out those carriers and tender shipments to carriers who work hard every day to build upon their industry experience.”

FREIGHTWAVES: What was most important to you in the design and look of the product? 

GAINES: “I wanted simplicity. A software that is easy for users to navigate, understand and build operating procedures upon.

“I want my software to do all the work for users so they don’t have to learn how to understand FMCSA data, dig through multiple websites for driver reviews, build training programs off of those inefficient processes and stress out about consistent application and understanding.”

FREIGHTWAVES: Once you started building the algorithms powering Carrier Assure, did you experience any inefficiencies in its vetting capabilities? If so, how did you go about working those out of the software?

GAINES: “I am very good at understanding the FMCSA data and the context behind it, so I drafted all of the calculations and brought them to a developer to create a prototype. 

“During that development process, I did discover a lot of issues. It was a lot of hard work and required so much re-drafting of calculations and changes in the data being considered.

“We are fortunate that the FMCSA provides our industry with so much data, but there are major inefficiencies if you don’t select the right data set to process.

“For example, there are so many types of authorities that just when you think you have the right calculations and algorithms, you discover a new type of authority and have to re-draft. This happened with Enterprise authority, when a company transports international cargo and is headquartered in the U.S. but is owned or controlled by a Mexican citizen or resident alien.”

FREIGHTWAVES: Are there certain data points Carrier Assure weighs more heavily or less than others? 

GAINES: “At first, I did weigh certain data points, such as the existence of inspections, very high, and then I realized that my algorithms were too subjective. As a result, I turned to data science. 

“I hired an amazing analyst and we separated carriers into different peer groups based on truck count. Then we looked at those peer groups like you would a class of students who are taking a test. We compared the students to each other and used a bell curve. This way when a carrier has a poor score, we can objectively state that it’s because the rest of the class is more experienced in long-haul shipments and has the data to support the score.”

FREIGHTWAVES: If carriers currently have a bad rating, is it possible for them to make up for their past driving mistakes?

GAINES: “Yes, Carrier Assure will not alienate hard-working carriers. It will offer carriers many options to make up for mistakes.

“In a few months, carriers will have their own login and carriers can learn all the ways they can increase their score. For example, they can provide more information about the company, its history and dispute data that may link the carrier to bad actors.

“In addition, we will have third-party consultants who can work with the carrier and provide a certification process that will increase a carrier’s score.”

FREIGHTWAVES: While working on the data science behind Carrier Assure, were there any realizations you had about current FreightTech offerings?

GAINES: “I quickly realized that some platforms display out-of-date FMCSA data. There is a 2019 lawsuit, Scott v. Milosevic, that discusses [carrier monitoring platform Carrier411’s] out-of-date data. 

“If users are concerned about the software or website they are using, just compare the data against what information is displayed on the FMCSA’s Safety Measurement System, Licensing and Insurance, and Safety and Fitness Electronic Records (SAFER) websites for each carrier being analyzed. 

“On Carrier Assure, you will find buttons you can press that will immediately send you to the respective government website for that specific carrier so users can quickly compare our data and research more if users so desire.

“I have a newfound respect for those companies and leaders who have consistently been driving innovation, development and growth with their software over the past decade. 

“It is easy to just sit on a stale website or software and rely on the industry’s gaps in competitive offerings to keep the business running. Now I understand it takes hard work and dedication to make sure that your software, website, code and servers are consistently updated, both aesthetically and functionally. 

“That type of drive and dedication individuals have to build FreightTech deserves mad respect.”

FREIGHTWAVES: As a lawyer, do you have any concerns with FreightTech sectors using algorithms for decision-making purposes?

GAINES: “It is better to rely on algorithms that consistently apply and analyze carrier data versus relying on employees who may misinterpret data or improperly use it.

“Plaintiff attorneys will purposely ask for a broker or shipper’s vetting procedures, compare those procedures to the case at hand and find when they have not been applied consistently. 

“Such inconsistencies make their case easy.”

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Grace Sharkey

Grace Sharkey is a professional in the logistics and transportation industry with experience in journalism, digital content creation and decision-making roles in the third-party logistics space. Prior to joining FreightWaves, Grace led a startup brokerage to more than $80 million in revenue, holding roles of increasing responsibility, including director of sales, vice president of business development and chief strategy officer. She is currently a staff writer, podcast producer and SiriusXM radio host for FreightWaves, a leading provider of news, data and analytics for the logistics industry. She holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Michigan State University. You can contact her at [email protected].