Why Freight Brokers Must Stay the Course on Digital Transformation

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” That saying is especially true this year with what companies across all industries, including freight brokers, are experiencing during the pandemic. What are the leaders in the industry doing? Are they hitting the pause button on their digital transformation efforts or accelerating them? What are they focusing on first and how do they prioritize what to work on next? Those are some of the questions I discussed with Geoff Turner, Founder and CEO of Choptank, and Prasad Gollapalli, Founder and CEO of Trucker Tools, during a recent episode of Talking Logistics.

No time to pause

During times of uncertainty and economic turmoil as we have experienced this year, the natural tendency is to pull back on new initiatives, including investments in technology. So, I began our discussion by asking Geoff if pausing these initiatives was a good idea this year. Geoff said it’s just the opposite at Choptank, a broker for perishable goods that ships about 4,000 loads per week — they’re accelerating their digital transformation efforts.

“We’re focused on a lot of projects that provide value to our customers and our carriers. Anything we can do to streamline the operation right now is critical to our growth, critical to developing our people and critical for supporting our customers who are depending on solid solutions to help them navigate through the disruptions in their supply chains. The more we can innovate to make their job easier is a leg-up for us.”

Prasad says Choptank is not an exception. “What leading brokers have done is double-down on their technology investments. Scalability is important for brokers and you can’t have scalability without technology. What the pandemic has done is help people to focus on what is important to moving freight and cut out the noise. People are getting more efficient using technology.”

The digital transformation journey

Geoff related how Choptank started 20 years ago with large ledger sheets and progressed through Access-based and Unix-based systems to SQL systems. “The problem with off-the-shelf solutions is that every customer and every carrier is different. Expecting customers to conform to your systems is crazy. They want to look at their data their way.

“So, we went to a digital strategy with customizable APIs to give each customer what they want, and the visibility that Prasad and Trucker Tools provides is a big part of that. Adapting to customer needs is critical for growth in this industry.”

Prasad notes that COVID has created shifts in demand and freight lanes, and travel restrictions too, which have effectively reduced capacity. This makes enhancing the carrier experience important, as well. 

But Prasad points out that if a carrier has to use multiple systems to accomplish various tasks such as providing visibility, finding loads, finding the cheapest fuel or where to park on the road, etc., it actually can make their life harder. So, providing a better carrier experience involves unifying all those things via a single platform. “If we can help a small carrier find one or two extra loads per week, that helps their bottom line.”

Geoff says some next steps on their transformation journey include a dynamic pricing app that allows customers to price and tender a load without human interaction and giving customers access to Choptank’s customizable apps so they can effectively have a TMS without buying one themselves. “Customers are looking for solutions.”

The formula for success

I wrapped up our conversation by asking Geoff and Prasad what will be the formula for success going forward and what will separate the leaders from the laggards. Geoff notes that the need for technology and innovation is not going away. He says, “If you’re not investing in it, you are going to fall behind.”

Prasad agrees and notes that hitting the pause button now will lead you to become a laggard. He sees continuous innovation as key and he shared five key points that are important for brokers to become and remain leaders in the industry. I encourage you to watch the full episode for all the details, as well as other great insights and advice that Geoff and Prasad shared on this topic. Then keep the conversation going by posting your own thoughts and ideas.