Above the Fold: Supply Chain Logistics News (October 13, 2023)

“I am haunted by humans.” 
The character Death from ‘The Book Thief’ by Markus Zusak

My daughter’s friend’s husband was killed in Israel this week. He and his wife were not married for very long. He was only 23 years old.

The atrocities committed against Jewish civilians in Israel — the beheading of babies, the raping and killing of women, the gunning down of young adults at a music festival, the burning alive of families in their cars, the kidnapping of children and grandparents — is a harrowing reminder that pure evil exists in the world. And almost as troubling is that there are people who justify these evil acts, or worse, celebrate it. 

I too am haunted by humans. Is it any wonder why I can’t sleep anymore?

I pray that the world regains its moral compass, because if we don’t, we’ll be lost forever.

In this week’s supply chain and logistics news…

The Problem is Driver Utilization, Not Driver Shortage

First came the so-called Digital Freight Brokers, promising to disrupt the freight brokerage industry with technology (see “What Digital Freight Isn’t”). Now we’re seeing the emergence of a “tech-driven trucking company” that leverages “AI to reshape the future of trucking,” which is how airfleet describes itself.

This week the company announced that it raised $14 million dollars in a venture round. Here are some excerpts from the press release:

Powered by its proprietary, cutting-edge AI technology, aifleet is building the first scalable trucking fleet. By optimizing route planning and scheduling, and building end-to-end automation, aifleet is able to generate over 35% higher driver utilization than industry average. 

“We founded aifleet because we saw a unique opportunity to solve the under-utilization challenges of the trucking industry through a full-stack tech/trucking company,” said Marc El Khoury, Co-Founder & CEO. “Despite the current freight recession, we are proud to have maintained best in class driver retention, driver utilization, and reliability metrics.”

In a podcast earlier this year, El Khoury commented, “The problem is not that there’s not enough drivers in the market, it’s that the drivers who are currently in the industry are just not utilized enough.” 

And in a recent FreightWaves article, he said, “We put all of this [available freight we have visibility to] into our solution and ask it to draw routes that not only connect lane to lane and then back home but connect based on drivers’ schedules for delivery and the time for the next pickup. … There is no good lane or bad lane or good deadhead or bad deadhead. There is only a focus on what is a good route for the driver to maximize their profitability.”

Per the company’s website, its technology platform includes AI-powered algorithms that deliver the highest revenue plans; proprietary dynamic pricing tools; and efficient, driver-centric scheduling.

airfleet currently has 150 drivers and the company has grown its revenues 4X since its last funding round in 2021.

I haven’t been briefed by the company or seen a demo of its solution, but there’s no doubt that there is a lot of waste in transportation — specifically, wasted time (driver detention), wasted space (poor loading of trailers), and wasted miles (empty backhauls). In short, El Khoury is right: the industry has a lot to gain by finding ways to eliminate this waste and improve the productivity and utilization of drivers and assets. Will airfleet “disrupt” the trucking industry? I don’t think so (true industry disruptions are very rare). However, I believe they are developing the right business model and focus for any new trucking company entering the market today. 

And with that, have a happy weekend!

Song of the Week: “Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M.