Truckload, LTL behind in shipment visibility race

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Screenshot 2024 06 11 At 12 29 24 PmDescartes Systems GroupReal-time transportation visibility continues to be the top IT investment in the supply chain, a position it's held for the last seven years, according to Descartes Systems Group's Eighth Annual Global Transportation Management Benchmark Survey

The study shows that 40% of shippers and logistics service providers surveyed are planning to invest in transportation technology to prepare for industry and regulatory changes. For top financially performing companies where senior leadership view transportation as a competitive weapon, this number rose to 44% compared to 32% for poorer financial performers, according to the query of more than 630 companies.

Visibility was cited as the priority technology investment by 36% of respondents and was closely followed by order management at 35%. Jumping into the top three was fleet routing (29%), up from the No. 8 spot last year.

Real-time GPS/ELD data (52%) and carrier/broker shipment statuses (51%) were the top insights into shipment visibility by a large gap, although spreadsheets and emails are still used by more than one-third of respondents. The bad news for trucking is that truckload (47%) and less than truckload (40%) were cited as the modes perceived to have the worst performance overall in real-time visibility and have been the poorest perceived performer for the last six years. 

"As consumers and professionals got used to the Amazon effect on tracking in small parcel, that expectation has carried over to TL and LTL where there are exponentially more carriers, brokers, 3PLs — all with different systems, processes and preferred communication methods," said Descartes Director of Product Marketing, Transportation Management Mike Hane. "There are also many carrier partners being added and removed within a network – typically more in TL – so onboarding efforts don't really end."

Real-time visibility is seen as a commodity by many in the industry but, in fact, there can be significant differences between the number of loads/shipments tracked and the accuracy of the tracking information across all the different providers, Hane said.

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"An ongoing effort needs to be undertaken to achieve quality visibility, which may require your carriers to make adjustments as well," he said. "Getting good real-time visibility is a journey and takes a continuous improvement process to monitor where issues are occurring and get to the root cause to address them."

The negative perception of trucking's visibility, Hane said, may also relate to how visibility data is being incorporated into a fleet's TMS and other systems. Having great visibility data siloed in a Control Tower on the web, he said, is not the same as having a visibility platform with automated updates into your TMS/WMS with proactive alerts sent to interested parties.

"Added to this, since the pandemic, the value of good freight visibility is being ever more recognized as a requirement for operating an efficient supply chain and as a requirement for good customer service," he said. "We see a larger gap, therefore, between the expectation for, and the value of, visibility data in TL and LTL, than compared to what most companies achieve in their visibility initiatives."

Descartes June 11 2024Descartes Systems Group