Rounding up the 8th annual ALK Summit

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Senior transportation and IT executives met with leading technology providers at the 8th annual ALK Transportation Technology Summit, May 15-17, to discuss solutions to critical industry challenges. Attendance broke last year’s record by more than 45 percent, noted Princeton, N.J.-based ALK Technologies, which hosts the event.

Transportation companies need to migrate and evolve as a matter of survival, said Derek Leathers, president and chief operating officer of Werner Enterprises, who delivered the keynote address. “The days of competing for a customer with regional or national coverage are gone.”

On the economic front, Leathers predicted freight volumes will continue growing at more than two percent annually but that capacity will shrink due to high equipment costs and a driver shortage. New regulations are also adding to a rising-tide of transportation costs and rates.

“We have been dealing with regulation after regulation,” he said. “I can’t price for crazy. We will not stand behind a price if we are impacted by something coming out of D.C.” Carriers will have to find creative ways to move freight. Converting truckloads to rail intermodal is the best strategy to add capacity, but 77 percent of all domestic surface freight will continue moving by truck, he said.

Barry Glick, chief executive officer of ALK Technologies, described the company as a “GeoLogistics” provider; everything it does relates to location information, map visualization, and routing tools for transportation and logistics. “These products are the ‘connective tissue’ for many technologies deployed by fleets. Our business model is based fully on partnering,” he said. “Our goal for the Summit is to help participants, through information and interaction, get the most out of technology.”

Jason Riggs, senior product manager of Qualcomm, said that onboard computing platforms are a complex ecosystem of applications. Recently, some customers have been leveraging Qualcomm’s web browser to create driver portals and communities using iGoogle. “There is a lot you can do. People have different focuses,” he said. Co-presenter John Elliott, president and CEO of Load One Transport, discussed the benefits of using the Qualcomm MCP200 platform with integrated dispatch, routing, and in-cab navigation with ALK’s CoPilot Truck. The carrier has seen improved driver satisfaction, reduced mileage and eliminated the root cause for its highest frequency of accidents — drivers getting lost.

James Stevenson, vice president of sales for TMW Systems’ Appian optimization line of business, said transportation providers are using routing and scheduling systems to differentiate themselves.
Co-presenter Clay Holmes, CIO of Cardinal Logistics, explained how the company’s dedicated 3pl services have evolved by using Appian software for real-time, dynamic route planning and execution.

The company created a unique Software-as-a-Service product, Cardinal Activity Tracker, which integrates with Appian to optimize routing and driver workflow according to specific customer needs.

Christian Schenk, vice president of product development and marketing for Xata Corporation, said the Android and Apple operating systems are driving trends in mobile technology adoption for fleets. Truck drivers are major consumers of smart devices and apps and transportation companies are migrating to the Android platform and high-speed wireless networks to save money and quickly deploy new productivity and compliance applications.

Jeff Sibio, director of industry marketing for rugged handheld provider Intermec, said that innovation is often a result of grouping technology in a new way to solve the problems or “pain points” in business by improving visibility and workflow.

Mark Cubine, vice president of marketing for McLeod Software and Robert Nathan, CEO of Load Delivered Logistics, showcased a number of “next-generation” automation tools. Load Delivered has developed smartphone apps to speed its procurement process and new software tools to calculate instant quotes and monitor employee performance.

Dave Ffowcs Williams, chief sales officer of Blackbay, discussed how carriers can expand their visibility and grow revenue with Delivery Connect, a Blackbay tool that combines its mobile proof-of-delivery software with compliance, route optimization, navigation and other tools in a single application.

A fleet senior executive panel featured representatives: Derek Leathers and John Steele – CFO of Werner Enterprises, John White – president of U.S. Xpress, and Terry Gilbert – CEO of New Century Transportation. Panelists shared strategies to manage traffic congestion, toll roads, drivers and other challenges. “Technology is the one thing that can address each of these obstacles and mitigate the cost of how many new trucks you need to buy,” said panelist Derek Leathers.

The ALK Summit featured four roundtable discussions. Participants in the shipper, private fleet and 3pl roundtable discussed ways to improve the bidding process for carriers, increase shipment visibility, and the impracticality of multi-shipper collaboration. Other roundtables addressed challenges in truckload, less-than-truckload and Global Fleet Telematics.

Michael Kornhauser, senior vice president of ALK’s Enterprise Solutions Group, provided an update of ALK’s products. PC Miler 26, scheduled for release in June, has an optional new feature, RouteSync, that directly links PC Miler in the back office to CoPilot Truck in-cab navigation. PC Miler 26 also has a new “Fastest routing” option that optimizes the velocity of routes based on real-time and historical traffic information.

John White, president of U.S. Xpress, Inc. provided an update on the company’s extensive information management strategy. The company is using business intelligence to create singular applications for managers, drivers and customers to more easily consume data. A smartphone app created for drivers, for instance, lets them receive and respond to dispatches from their personal smartphones and tablets. “We need to be viewed as the employer of choice for drivers,” he said.

Randy Boyles, vice president of tailored solutions for PeopleNet, said the buzz about new consumer devices is more about software apps than hardware. Fleets are still interested in using ruggedized displays and interfaces that can be customized to lead drivers through their daily workflow without causing distraction.

Homaira Akbari, president of SkyBitz, said technology for trailer and container visibility has become imperative to compete in the global supply chain because of the shift towards intermodal transportation.

Greg Whisenant, corporate transportation safety manager of Shaw Industries, said one of many benefits of a driver management system from EBE Technologies is a CSA dashboard. Drivers access the dashboard through the company’s intranet portal to compare their performance to peers.

Numerous other thought leaders contributed presentations and dialog to the event, including representatives from EBE Technologies, Sylectus, Motorola, AT&T Mobility, ZoomSafer, and J.J. Keller and Associates.

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