Diving into data can lead to valuable business insights

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Updated Nov 21, 2019

A fleet’s data is a valuable asset but its value is not measured in terms of volume. The value comes from turning data into actionable insights and monetizable strategies.

“Most of the marketing data we have is something our customers want to keep private,” John Reed, CIO of Aim Integrated, said at CCJ Solutions Summit in Scottsdale, Ariz., Wednesday.

From backend data generated by logistics and customer service platforms to data spit out by the engine byway of diagnostics, filtering through that information can lead to several potential business-improving insights.

Jason Meares, Senior Manager of Logistics Systems for Crestwood, said weakened demand and downward price pressure from declining crude oil prices as global supply exceeded demand created economic challenges for Crestwood in late 2014. He said the company started combing through data it already generated as part of a “transportation transformation” effort.

In October 2016 Crestwood implemented an automated fuel interface, which enabled the daily import of all fuel card transactions into the TMS from its fuel card provider. Earlier this year, Crestwood leveraged its Microsoft Power BI platform on top of its TMS to analyze more than two years of accumulated fuel spend data to identify opportunities to reduce diesel costs.

Crestwood’s fuel spend is down more than $450,000 through the first six months of the year, Meares said, a result of being able to analyze fuel and operational data and identify and execute on opportunities found within that data to reduce fuel costs.

“Opportunities included missed fuel discounts, drivers fueling out of network, opportunities to renegotiate existing discounts, opportunities to negotiate new discounts, as well as opportunities to renegotiate agreements with the fuel card provider,” he said. “The rich operational and fuel data helped to jumpstart the company’s diesel hedging program which has impacted fuel surcharges and lane margins.”

In 2015 Crestwood implemented a dispatch system to manage its oilfield operations but operating the fleet from two different dispatch systems created challenges that required drivers and office staff to use multiple systems and devices, created reporting limitations and cost the company more than $60,000 annually to operate.

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Last year, Crestwood rolled out a new telematics platform capable of managing its oilfield and non-oilfield operations through a single workflow application that is fully integrated into its TMS, allowing Crestwood to auto-dispatch its trucks using a workflow process and enabling the company to operate from a single dispatch system across its entire fleet.

Meares said the move lowered telematics costs and the elimination of legacy dispatch system is on track to save the company $60,000 annually in software and cellular costs.

“Driver satisfaction has improved by enabling them to manage Hours of Service and dispatches from a single system and device,” he added.

A new document scanning app integrated with Crestwood’s imaging system provides clear, legible, digital copies of paperwork upon delivery of each load, enabling quicker invoice processing times, improved DSO, and increased customer satisfaction.

When evaluating customer data, Reed suggested diving deep into the details versus using averages, especially when it comes to calculating profitability.

“You really can’t apply an average when it’s a [large] account,” Reed said, adding that averages may suggest fleets are making a slim margin that can be made up on volume while in reality, a carrier is losing money on every load. “With those customers, they are generally pretty needy.”

Reed notes high maintenance customers tend to come with baked-in costs – after hours calls, dinners and other perks for high-volume customers – that aren’t revealed by averages.

In diving deep in any data, Meares said it’s important to involve affected department heads versus considering any data project a function of the IT department.

“IT people tend to provide IT solutions that nobody else can use,” Reed said.


Jason Cannon has written about trucking and transportation for more than a decade and serves as Chief Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. A Class A CDL holder, Jason is a graduate of the Porsche Sport Driving School, an honorary Duckmaster at The Peabody in Memphis, Tennessee, and a purple belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu. Reach him at [email protected]