If you use electronic data interchange, satellite tracking, Web portals or other technologies to communicate with customers, you may be wondering why they would require proof-of-delivery documents to pay invoices.
But if you use technology to manage documents efficiently, you may not care. Whereas you once had to wait for days to collect paper documents from drivers and invoice customers, it now is possible to bill electronically within minutes of delivery.
This dramatic change of events did not occur suddenly. For more than a decade, drivers could place trip envelopes into TripPak dropboxes at truckstops and other convenient locations for overnight delivery. Document imaging systems arrived later, followed by remote scanning and the ability to capture images on the same day as delivery.
Today, drivers are scanning documents at the delivery dock, and mobile technologies also have made it possible to eliminate paperwork altogether. Taking this next step may not be necessary, as revealed by how the latest applications of technology are being applied in many trucking operations.
Southeastern Freight Lines conducts soup-to-nuts EDI with many customers. The Columbia, S.C.-based less-than-truckload carrier receives electronic load tenders/pickup requests (204) and bills of lading (211). It also sends shipment status updates (214) and invoices (210) electronically.
SEFL currently receives electronic BOLs for about 18 percent of shipments. Not all come through EDI, however. Customers also can enter BOLs directly into the company’s Website, www.sefl.com, where online orders have increased 10 percent this year. Excluding electronic BOLs, EDI transactions are involved in more than 80 percent of the shipments handled.
Receiving orders electronically makes it possible to go paperless, but the company prefers to have physical shipping documents at the point of pickup for several reasons. In some cases, paper documents are required to be carried with the load, such as for hazardous materials. Having a paper BOL also provides backup in the unlikely event that IT systems go down.
When making pickups, drivers attach and scan a PRO number to a paper BOL. Next, they enter information about the freight – shipper, destination, pieces, weight, etc. – into the company’s onboard computing platform. This information is used for advance planning of linehaul and deliveries once drivers return to the terminal. SEFL scans documents received at pickup and uses the images to update its freight management systems.
Once freight arrives at the destination terminals, SEFL’s computer systems produce delivery receipts. Paper shipping documents used to be important for dock operations and traveled with the linehaul movements, but now the company only produces delivery documents at the destination city.
When delivering, drivers enter details – such as the person who signed for the shipment – into the onboard computers. Delivery receipts then are scanned when drivers return to the terminal. Invoices are created centrally and sent out two days after delivery to allow time for rate adjustments.
One possible way for LTL carriers to improve document handling and billing processes would be to scan documents remotely or capture signatures electronically. For SEFL, in-cab scanning would not be cost-effective due to the volume of images to scan. SEFL also feels that capturing POD signatures electronically is not justified.
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