April 9, 2018 2:15 PM, EDT

Opinion: Four Reasons Why Freight Visibility Should Be a Top Focus

Despite the immediate benefits to the supply chain, there is still a lack of knowledge about the competitive advantages of real-time freight visibility. As the supply chain becomes exponentially more complicated, the importance of freight visibility increases due to its ability to provide real-time insight into the location and status of freight.

Dan Cicerchi


A recent benchmark study by “American Shipper” called “A Clear View of Supply Chain” asked supply chain decision-makers which transportation and logistics challenges are most critical to their enterprises. Underscoring the rising importance of freight visibility, nearly three-fourths of respondents cited visibility, coming in second only to cost reduction.

In 2018 and beyond, those that prioritize freight visibility will have a competitive advantage over those that do not.

Here are four reasons why freight visibility should be a top priority for trucking:

1) Late shipment consequences are becoming more severe.

The study found that 54% of 3PLs said they either lost business or did not know if they had due to their visibility capabilities. A late shipment or unreported delay can have a ripple effect on the productivity of a supply chain. For example, a factory might need to either idle or ramp up a production line to compensate; a retailer may have to work around an inventory shortage on store shelves; or a distribution operation may need to adjust staffing on its loading docks to account for both unproductive time and for personnel adjustments when a shipment does finally arrive. In all of these cases, what you don’t know can hurt you (and others in your supply chain).

To avoid wasting valuable time and money on costly disruptions, brokers and carriers should constantly monitor on-time delivery of goods. If they don’t, the process slows down significantly and can result in expensive consequences. Freight tracking technology provides real-time visibility and delivers updates on the constant movement of freight, minimizing surprises in the supply chain that can cause serious headaches for all involved.

2) Freight visibility isn’t just a nice-to-have. It’s a business requirement.

The way the market views freight visibility has evolved significantly over the past few years. Previously, simple track-and-trace methods were seen as an adequate method of gaining supply chain insight. This is no longer the case. As a way to calm the chaos, manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and other shippers now require 100% visibility into freight status and location. Brokers and 3PLs have embraced freight visibility in a big way; according to the study, 90% believe visibility is a core service offering and that shippers are using visibility capabilities as a metric when choosing service providers.

As the demand for increased shipment visibility grows, it also is driving requirements for access to information about current shipment status. These status checks include arrivals and departures at pick-up and destination locations, and in-transit updates backed by concrete GPS-based positioning. Systems need to provide more frequent and detailed updates automatically on shipment status through a single point of integration to address visibility effectively.

3) Companies require greater insight into disruptive and costly late and off-schedule shipments.

Today, shippers actually want more than 100% visibility — they want specific visibility on off-schedule and late shipments. Using predictive analytics and managing shipments by exception helps to drive proactive management practices that then lead to more informed decisions to help boost productivity and efficiency across the supply chain. Predictive analytics can help shippers manage issues by exception — not the entirety of their shipments — saving highly valuable management time.

4) Greater visibility helps uncover hidden and/or new freight hauling opportunities.

In North America, more than 70% of cargo — more than 10.5 billion tons of freight annually — is hauled by trucks. The ability to meet freight visibility requirements from a growing number of companies can mean the difference between securing their business or missing out on freight hauling opportunities. Businesses care about the advancements of visibility, and how they can put them to practice and make their supply chain more efficient.

The supply chain is an extensive and complex network, and growing more so every year. Today, 71% of shippers use carriers’ tools or rely on outside software providers for visibility information, but only 6% of shippers have real-time visibility due to EDI latency and the inability of those systems to provide up-to-the-minute information.

Now is the time to put true freight visibility into practice. It’s a critical way to reap the benefits of real-time insight, which can increase productivity and save costs across the supply chain for all.

Dan Cicerchi and his leadership team are responsible for the growth of the Descartes MacroPoint platform globally. Descartes Systems Group, which unites logistics-intensive businesses in commerce, acquired MacroPoint LLC, an electronic transportation network providing location-based truck tracking and predictive freight capacity data content, in 2017. MacroPoint connects to trucks through integrations to on-board electronic logging devices and transportation management systems, among others.