During the last year or two, a number of companies have developed online platforms that connect all parties involved in freight transactions.
Most of these include a mobile app that drivers use to streamline communications with motor carriers, brokers, 3pls and shippers.
Drivers with capacity, be they independent operators or small fleet owners, are using these apps to automatically give their location to brokers and shippers to find loads and provide tracking updates.
These apps function similarly to Uber, which thousands of drivers in a different profession use to locate and transport passengers – and even small packages – across town.
Research shows that more than half of carriers are now using electronic logs, and the number will increase rapidly before the Dec., 2017, enforcement deadline for the ELD rule mandate. As more capacity owners use ELDs, brokers and 3pls see an opportunity to use hours-of-service data to reconfigure the freight matching process.
Brokers that use these online freight matching platforms could use the information to prevent service failures and risks associated with coercing drivers to violate HOS rules to get their loads delivered on time.
One online platform moving in this direction is Overdrive’s Trucker Tools.
Over 375,000 truckers have downloaded the free app to locate truck stops, monitor fuel prices, and for turn-by-turn GPS navigation among other trip-planning tools.
Included in the app is a Load Track feature that drivers use to give carriers, brokers and shippers visibility to shipment status.
Companies that use Load Track are primarily freight brokers, says Prasad Gollapalli, chief executive and founder of Salebug.com, the developer of Trucker Tools in partnership with Randall Reilly, the parent company of CCJ.
Later this year, Gollapalli says Trucker Tools will be adding a new freight matching feature called Smart Capacity that will give brokers visibility to the location of trucks with available hours-of-service data to match to their loads.
“We will stay agnostic and connect with ELD hardware providers and use real-time data to know where the truck is going to be in the future,” he says. “This will help us proactively match available trucks with available loads even before trucks become available.”
Barton Logistics, a non-asset transportation company based in Medina, Texas, is looking forward to this development. The company contracts with owner operators and carriers to offer shipper customers a virtual fleet of 100 trucks and trailers. It uses Load Track through an integration with its management system from McLeod Software.
Criss Wilson, vice president of operations, believes the new feature will give brokers — who he refers to as “market makers” — better access to driver availability.
“The genius in the Trucker Tools concept is that once they know what hours a driver has available to run legally, they will be able to present to market makers and 3pls only the power units that are legal to run the load we’re posting,” Wilson says. “This in turn negates the risk of driver coercion for the market makers’ load planner. The opportunity for driver coercion occurs when a delivery appointment is not met by a driver who originally committed to it; or, at times when the delivery appointment was poorly communicated by the load planner to the driver.”
Brokers that use the Load Track feature in Trucker Tools can initiate the process automatically by assigning a driver to a load in their transportation management software (TMS). Companies that use PowerBroker version 15.2 or higher from McLeod Software, for instance, can use Load Track without any activation or set up fees, he says.
To track loads, the broker pays a flat fee depending on the volume and third party integration. A broker with high load volumes would pay $1.05 per load, for example, with no limit on the number of days or stops it takes to complete the load.
When the load assignment is made, the driver receives a text message with a link to start the tracking. If the driver does not already have Trucker Tools on his phone, clicking the link opens a window to download the app.
By default, the tracking starts 24 hours prior to the pickup appointment. This gives brokers information from ETA alerts to see that the driver is committed to the load and is on schedule, Gollapalli says.
The app updates the shipment location every five minutes when installed on Android devices and up to 15 minutes on Apple devices.
All locations for the load — pickup, stops and delivery — are geofenced to automatically record and alert brokers of arrival and departure events. Load Track can send automated tracking messages in EDI format (called a 214) to shippers, on behalf of its clients, he says, but many brokers send EDI using their TMS systems.
“Load Track is an indispensable tool for our brokerage operation. Now we have greater visibility for all our loads so we can keep our customers better informed and address service issues proactively,” says John Warrington, director of information solutions for Diel-Jerue Logistics, a Fla.-based company company with company-owned assets and brokerage capacity.
Custom electronic forms can be added to the app to prompt drivers to enter information at arrival and departure events. A broker could use this option to have drivers enter reefer temperatures, weights, pallet counts, seal numbers and lumper receipts.
If a driver turns off load tracking or GPS at any time the broker will receive an instant alert. The broker has the option to resume tracking at any time. Drivers can pause the tracking for up to 8 hours, in which event they could notify the broker they are off duty to avoid being disrupted, he says.
Drivers can use Trucker Tools to capture and send images of delivery documents for no additional cost. And once a delivery is made, Load Track continues the tracking for 24 hours, by default, to help brokers identify possible issues such as a driver being detained at a consignee after running out of hours.
Load Track uses minimal power and data. The total data usage of tracking five loads over a five-day period is the equivalent of opening a Facebook app once, Gollapalli says.