Keep Drivers Safe While Giving Shippers Real-Time Visibility

Where’s my truck or shipment? When will it arrive? Is the truck available? Answering these questions has traditionally involved making time-consuming “check calls” to carriers and drivers which are annoying and potentially a safety risk. Are you still operating that way? What problems or challenges does this create? How can real-time visibility technology help? Those are the key questions I discussed with Will Maurer, Brokerage Region Lead at Napa Transportation, and Prasad Gollapalli, Founder, Strategic Advisor, and CCO of Trucker Tools, in a recent episode of Talking Logistics

What Customers Want

Napa Transportation is a fast-growing, family-owned transportation company with 430 drivers based in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, with terminals and customers throughout the eastern U.S. Will works for the brokerage division of Napa. 

I began our discussion by asking Will what led Napa to look for a technology solution. Will indicates it was driven by customers’ demand for real-time visibility to their shipments, so they could make adjustments when disruptions occur.

“Before implementing the solution, we spent a lot of time making calls to drivers and carriers to find out where our loads were, and sweating out whether the driver was going to arrive on time to pick up the load,” says Will. “There was a lot of guess-work involved with our check call process. But we were smaller then. I can’t imagine doing that now at our current size.”

The Problem with Check Calls

From the drivers’ perspective, both Will and Prasad point out that check calls are perceived as pestering them for information about where they are and what they’re doing. Maybe they got stuck in traffic, or stopped for lunch. Prasad notes, “Over time, drivers think of these check calls as ‘Big Brother’ watching over their every move. It appears to them as a lack of trust.”

Prasad also comments that the check calls can pose a safety hazard because they can take the driver’s eyes and attention off of the road. “It’s a big pain for the drivers and the brokers.”

A Win-Win-Win Solution

I next asked Will what benefits implementing a digital solution offered Napa. Will says, “It allows our employees to concentrate on revenue-generating business opportunities rather than being reactive to checking on loads all the time. Brokers want to focus on finding new customers, better lanes, and improving carrier relationships. We found a lot of success implementing Trucker Tools by making it a requirement for carriers to do our loads. When we qualify a carrier who wants to book a load with us, we are upfront that we require Trucker Tools tracking on our loads. We get that buy-in upfront. We also make the shipment pickup number only available through the app, so that’s another way we get the drivers to use the app.

“This enables our logistics coordinators to track the shipments on the Trucker Tools platform and be proactive in resolving issues. Drivers also use the platform to upload paperwork like PODs and lumper receipts which eliminates the need for us to track it down later, which we don’t like to do. 

“For the customers, the Trucker Tools app provides the tracking they need in real time. They can see where the loads are at and have the confidence that they’ll get delivered. It’s a win-win-win for us as the broker, for our carriers, and for our customers. It makes it a lot easier for us.”

The Market and Digital Transformation

With some people saying the trucking market is slowing and with demand lessening due to the current economy, I asked Prasad if this impacts companies’ digital transformation. Prasad agrees there is some softening, but states that ups and downs are normal.

“The ups and downs are mainly about pricing and capacity,” Prasad says. “But digital transformation is on an upward slope because it helps companies to find greater efficiencies when the market slows, which is really important. But when the market is high and capacity is tight, companies lean on technology to help navigate that as well. We are in the early stages of digital transformation and that will continue to ramp up over the next 5-10 years.”

Will agrees and says, “We’re using the technology now and I don’t see that changing. And I expect we will continue to integrate more technology down the road.”

Getting Started on the Journey

How should companies get started on their digital transformation journey? What should they be looking for and what mistakes should they avoid? Will says, “If you haven’t started yet, you need to jump on board now.” He and Prasad provided lots of great real-world recommendations on these topics, so I encourage you to watch the full episode for all of their insights and advice. Then keep the conversation going by posting a comment and sharing your experience or perspective.