Managing Editor, Features
McLeod Says Now Is a Good Time to ‘Tune Up’ Operations
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PHOENIX — While persevering through a down freight cycle, transportation companies have a prime opportunity to fine-tune their operations now so they are better prepared to capitalize when the market turns, the CEO of McLeod Software said.
Tom McLeod cited an emerging consensus among economists and analysts that an economic recession is not on the immediate horizon, although growth is projected to be slow in the coming year. Those forecasts indicate a time of relative stability for trucking businesses.
“With this kind of stability, we say it’s time for a tuneup,” said McLeod, who suggested that trucking companies should treat their business operations much the same as an engine that requires regular maintenance to ensure it runs smoothly.
Rather than hunkering down and waiting for business conditions to improve, he encouraged fleets and logistics providers to get ready for the next up cycle by addressing inefficiencies in their businesses today and laying the foundation for future expansion.
“We know that the future favors the prepared,” McLeod said here Sept. 18 at the transportation software company’s 2023 user conference.
Attendees at McLeod Software’s 2023 user conference check out exhibits from an array of trucking technology vendors. (Seth Clevenger/Transport Topics)
Even at a time when freight demand is slower, companies can drive better operating ratios through more back-office automation, pricing discipline, improved driver management and better visibility into their operations, he said.
To that end, McLeod introduced a range of new product features designed to help customers improve load assignment decisions, predict future freight rates and streamline communications with drivers.
LoadMatch, a new feature included in McLeod’s flagship LoadMaster product, is designed to help planners find the best load for each driver based on factors such as the driver’s current position, available hours of service and preferences.
On the data science front, McLeod is adding new functions within its MPact Pro rate analysis product, including its new Predictor tool that enables customers to forecast freight rates up to two weeks in advance.
“If you’re not charging enough, you’re leaving money on the table,” McLeod said.
.@McLeodSoftware introduces its next-generation driver app, Driver Sidekick, with an updated user interface. #McLeodUC2023 pic.twitter.com/9Q1gNxDtQX — Seth Clevenger (@SethClevenger) September 18, 2023
The company also introduced Driver Sidekick, its next-generation mobile app for drivers. The updated app is designed to make it easier for drivers to check the details of their current assignment and quickly access features such as document scanning and messaging. Driver Sidekick is available now for Android devices with an Apple iOS release planned for the near future.
McLeod has extended its business process automation capabilities to include cargo insurance purchasing. McLeod’s Logix Solution for Cargo Insurance enables customers to buy supplemental cargo insurance and compare quotes without exiting the McLeod system.
“This is a great time saver and improvement in efficiency,” McLeod said.
The company currently offers the new functionality through integrations with three cargo insurance providers: Loadsure, McGriff and Redkik.
McLeod also highlighted a new web-based user interface for its PowerBroker product. The company said it plans to extend that web user interface across its entire product line in future releases.
Apart from the new product announcements, McLeod also shared several recommendations for how transportation companies can make the most of the current business environment.
He advised motor carriers and logistics providers to learn more about new commercial vehicle technologies, take the time to connect with customers and more fully utilize their existing software investments to help streamline operations.
On the topic of emerging truck technologies, McLeod recommended that companies closely follow the development of battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell trucks and autonomous vehicles.
Zero-emission trucks still need to overcome significant hurdles, such as the slow build out of charging infrastructure and the need to ramp up hydrogen production, but these vehicles are poised to capture a growing portion of the commercial vehicle market in the years ahead.
“You’re going to be affected,” McLeod said. “If you’re not doing it, it’s likely your competition will.”
While trucking companies are not likely to replace their entire fleets of diesel trucks with electric vehicles any time soon, they can look for an appropriate application — such as a local pickup and delivery operation — where it might make sense to introduce some EVs in the coming years, he said.
Similarly, the rollout of autonomous trucks has proceeded at a slower pace than predicted a few years ago, he said, but this emerging field could create new business opportunities on certain routes for certain freight categories.
“Right now we have live autonomous runs hauling freight between major metropolitan areas — with safety drivers in place — but this is something that’s already happening, and you can participate,” McLeod said.
Now is also an ideal time for transportation companies to meet with their customers, which can be more difficult to do during periods of elevated freight demand, McLeod added.
“I’m suggesting that this is a great time to go see your customers,” he said. “They have time to see you.”
Those communications can enable companies to earn more freight or address pain points such as driver detention time at shippers’ and consignees’ facilities.
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