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Who says relationships won’t be part of digital future?

Connections still have place in increasingly digital world

Image: Jim Allen (FreightWaves)

As digitization continues to transform the freight landscape, many brokerages are wondering what the industry’s technological future will look like and how to embrace the changing status quo.

This has led to the rise of “fully digital” booking platforms in recent years. But while many brokerages are going fully digital on a whim, others are taking a more calculated approach.

ARL Logistics is one such brokerage that was looking to go digital the right way. The Pittsburgh-based company was ready for a change but not at the expense of what made it successful — long-standing carrier relationships.

ARL’s cradle-to-grave brokering forged many relationships over the years, but inefficiencies were starting to show. Though each employee was relatively effective using their own methods to source carriers, ARL knew that such disorganization was insufficient in the digital age.

So the brokerage turned to Parade and Tai Software to equip its brokerage for a digital future with the latest capacity and transportation management systems. ARL’s digital transformation was highlighted in a recent case study that detailed its progress since implementing Parade’s capacity management integrated with Tai TMS.

“ARL is the perfect example of a company that is actively adopting the industry’s most innovative technology to become more efficient,” said Sean McGillicuddy, vice president of sales and marketing at Tai Software. “They recognize that if you follow a good workflow and adopt new technologies, your company will grow.”

With the addition of Parade, ARL was able to build a carrier sales team focused on the digital side of the business.

“We don’t want to enhance carrier relationships by just adding a bunch of bodies to the carrier sales team,” said Jordan Reber, executive vice president of ARL Logistics, in explaining how one-off relationships benefit neither party. “We want those bodies to promote the technology to digitally book freight and get rid of one-and-done carriers in our network.”

What impressed Reber was Parade’s emphasis on carrier reuse. He described how challenging it can be to maintain a carrier for a second, third and subsequent loads.

“Once we get a carrier into our network, we want to find ways to reuse them as much as possible,” Reber said.

With Parade’s Smart Rules and lane preferences, ARL’s carrier sales team knows exactly what freight their carrier network desires, thus sending the right loads to the right carriers. Such precision was hard to come by before Parade, Reber noted, lamenting how cradle-to-grave brokering often can be hit or miss. 

“If you gave the same load to three different employees, they’d reach out to three different carriers at three different prices,” said Reber in explaining how there was no standard procedure for finding the “right carrier.”

But the ability to present carriers with only the data they’re interested in can show how much you appreciate their business — as well as their time.

“The inefficiency of having data that you never do anything with goes away with Parade,” said Keith Reeher, ARL’s director of strategy.

In fact, ARL’s carrier reuse has risen sharply in the past six months. The case study notes that the number of carriers that took 20 or more loads rose nearly 25%. In addition, ARL saw a margin gain over 10% on those 20-plus load carriers.

The seamless integration between Parade and Tai allows ARL’s sales reps to work mostly in Tai TMS, as booking and quoting information from Parade flows directly into Tai in real time. 

For ARL, it didn’t take long to see results. ARL received its first “Book Now” — an instantly booked digital load — its first day online.

Through July, the case study found that 8.9% of ARL’s loads booked have been digitally assisted by Parade with an average of 17% of quotes converted in the last 90 days. What’s more, ARL has realized gains of 4.32% to 8.47% in gross margin on digital freight.

In an increasingly technological world, digitization is often equated with “replacement.” However, Reber assures his carrier customers that this isn’t the case with ARL. The brokerage believes the ideal balance will have carriers book loads themselves digitally but have personal assistance available if needed.

“If you’re just posting to load boards, you’re going to be left out,” he said. “With tech like Parade and Tai, we find a middle ground between digital transactions and human interaction.”

ARL anticipates digitization and human interaction to be the industry’s balancing act in the coming years. Until then, the brokerage enjoys the ability to connect with carriers digitally before the industry moves away from load-board posting, booking by phone, and manually onboarding and assigning carriers to loads.

“I think the industry will move away from posting loads, and Parade and Tai are helping us get ahead of that,” Reber said.

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Jack Glenn

Jack Glenn is a sponsored content writer for FreightWaves and lives in Chattanooga, TN with his golden retriever, Beau. He is a graduate of the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business.