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April 17, 2014 2:00 PM, EDT
Freight Transportation Seen Lagging in Tech Applications

This story appears in the April /May 2014 issue of iTECH, published in the April 14 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

By Bruce Lilly, Contributing Writer

The freight transportation industry is still catching up with technology,” said Matt Ziegler, president of ZMac Transportation Solutions. “Even though we’ve made huge strides in the past 10 years, we’re still way behind the rest of the business world.”

This story is a sidebar to the iTECH story, ‘To Share or Not To Share: Should Carriers Share Their Tech Experience?’

Ziegler is doing his part to change that. Through participation at industry conferences and by serving on an advisory board for a technology company, he has listened to many of his peers share technology information. Hearing people talk about what they need technology to do is part of what has led him to develop software applications for use in the industry.

ZMac, based in Racine, Wis., specializes in overdimensional flatbed freight. Ziegler saw the need for a better pricing mechanism for this niche segment, so ZRate was created. “Pricing is a really tough part of handling overdimensional freight,” he said. “ZRate allows carriers to get an instant rate up to 14 feet wide and 14 feet high, including permits and escorts to and from anywhere in the U.S.”

Another need Ziegler identified is a software program for calculating commission compensation. His answer was Crescendo, which provides an online dashboard that lets each sales representative or broker know where their commission stands at any given moment.

“You can react more quickly when you’ve got those real-time results,” Ziegler said. “The method of calculating commission can vary widely from company to company, so it’s not easy to create a tool that handles all of the variables. For example, on the asset side, you might need to include deadhead in the calculation.

“What we’ve done is create a software program that will not only calculate commission but will also track where each individual stands with respect to reaching a goal. The idea is to drive action by letting people see where they stand at any given moment. Managers will have visibility into the performance of everyone on their staff.”

Crescendo is in beta testing. It is expected to be available soon commercially.

A similar story of software creation comes from Load Delivered Logistics in Chicago, and this one also centers on the challenge of rating loads. “We thought the industry needed a more robust pricing tool,” said Danny Simon, Load Delivered vice president of operations. The solution was to create a separate company, Logistical Labs, which developed an application called LoadDex.

Chris Ricciardi, chief product officer for Logistical Labs, said that in addition to accuracy, speed was a goal for the application.

“Most brokerages have a challenge with pricing,” he said. “There’s a lot of guessing. LoadDex reduces guesswork by leveraging historical data along with external data and bringing it all into one place. You can determine an accurate rate more quickly, and this makes you the fastest broker out there.

“In my opinion, there are two ways to win a load. You’re either the fastest or the cheapest. So, instead of reducing your profit margin, you might as well use speed to your advantage to service your customer.”

LoadDex also functions as a mobile app, which makes it possible to offer rates no matter where you are, which also can increase speed. The product is another example of what can result when information is shared within the industry.

“We had a need for a product like this,” Simon said, “and we recognized that we weren’t the only ones who needed it.”