There has always been a great need for end-to-end freight visibility, but as customer expectations for delivery performance have become more stringent, it is becoming a “must have” capability, especially for third-party logistics providers (3PLs). How are 3PLs responding to this trend? What are the main challenges involved and how is technology helping? What are the main benefits of freight visibility for 3PLs and their customers?
Since some of our readers may not be familiar with Syfan Logistics, I began our discussion by asking Diana to tell us a little about the company. Diana noted that the owners of Syfan have been involved in the transportation industry since 1986, and founded Syfan in 2011. Syfan is a truckload-focused 3PL that handles temperature-controlled, van, expedited, and flatbed loads across a broad range of industries using its own small fleet of trucks, as well as a network of small and mid-sized carriers.
The value of freight visibility
I asked Diana if she agreed that freight visibility is a “must have” capability for 3PLs today. She says yes, many of their customers expect to have visibility to where their shipments are at all times, with updates every 15 minutes in most cases. This allows customers to adjust and reoptimize dock schedules, assembly lines and warehouse operations if a shipment is going to be late, especially for expedited freight. “This allows you to stay on top of the issues and be proactive instead of reactive,” she says.
Prasad notes there have been three main challenges for brokers trying to obtain freight visibility. First, only 20%-30% of loads are successfully tracked through traditional solutions, leaving wide gaps in information for customers. Second, drivers are often reluctant to download multiple proprietary apps onto their smartphones, especially if each app only does one thing.
The third challenge is carrier compliance to any technology. For example, Prasad notes that although visibility data may be available from the mandated ELD devices, many carriers are reluctant to share that information because they aren’t sure how the data will be used and for how long. These three issues result in a lot of inefficiencies and frustration for brokers and customers.
The journey to real-time freight visibility
I asked Diana how Syfan Logistics came to partner with Trucker Tools for freight visibility. She explains that they are always on the lookout for new technologies and met Prasad and his team at a conference. She and her associates were intrigued and asked Prasad to come in for a demonstration. She says the demo surprised them with its accuracy, and that Trucker Tools’ pricing model was also more cost-effective for them. She mentions that other vendors use geo-fencing and non-app-based tracking, but that isn’t accurate enough for Syfan’s needs, especially in the congested Atlanta roadways near their site.
Diana also notes that, “A big advantage was that their app wasn’t just a tracking solution. It gives the truckers visibility to truck washes, restaurants, gas stations, and other helpful information. This greatly increases the incentive for them to adopt it.”
Benefits of freight visibility
Diana explains that one of the major benefits of working with Trucker Tools is their integration to the McLeod Software TMS Syfan uses. This enables Syfan to have immediate visibility to loads without having to call and bother truckers. Trucker Tools also integrates to the transportation management systems used by Syfan’s customers, giving them direct visibility to the status of their loads.
Syfan also uses Trucker Tools’ Smart Capacity solution. “This gives us visibility to the capacity of our trucks versus other carriers in the area so we can match freight to the best truck to carry each load, which is amazing,” says Diana. She also emphasizes how important Trucker Tools’ customer service and willingness to work with them to enhance the app for their needs has been for Syfan.
Our discussion of what’s next for freight visibility took two paths — what Prasad sees as important upcoming innovations for the industry and what Diana sees as next steps in Syfan’s journey. I encourage you to watch the full episode for their perspectives on what’s next, as well as their recommendations for what companies should ask vendors when evaluating freight visibility solutions. Then post a comment and share your own thoughts and experiences with freight visibility.