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October 1, 2020 9:30 AM, EDT

Tech Investments Prove Vital During Pandemic, McLeod Says

Tom McLeodTom McLeod, founder and CEO of McLeod Software, speaks during the company’s online-only 2020 user conference. (Seth Clevenger/Transport Topics)

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Trucking and logistics companies that have been investing in technology to improve their operations also have been well-positioned to handle the disruption caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, McLeod Software’s CEO said.

In many cases, these companies aren’t merely surviving, but thriving during these challenging times, Tom McLeod said Sept. 29 at McLeod’s 2020 User Conference, held virtually this year due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“The companies that from a technology standpoint were prepared — the companies that have the processes and the automation in place — have really done well during this period,” McLeod said.

Disruptive events such as this pandemic aren’t only problems to overcome. They are also opportunities for motor carriers and freight brokers to demonstrate their expertise and strengthen their partnerships with their shipper customers, he said.

“We’re glad to see so many of our customers have done remarkably well,” McLeod said. “We have some companies that have told us they’re having a record year.”

He also outlined McLeod’s continued investments in its core LoadMaster and PowerBroker transportation management software products. Much of the product development work has focused on business-process automation, data science and enabling digital freight matching.

During the online conference, several transportation executives discussed how their IT systems helped their businesses respond to the disruption created by COVID-19.

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“When we learned about the pandemic situation, we really had to lean on some of the infrastructure and technology investments that we’ve made over the years,” said Chris Hummer, president of Don Hummer Trucking.

The company’s crucial technology components included its servers and remote access configuration, the laptops it had deployed to workers, as well as software products including McLeod’s enterprise systems, mobile communications through Omnitracs, Microsoft Office 365 and a video conferencing system the fleet had installed about a year and a half prior to the pandemic.

“All those pieces layered up,” Hummer said, enabling the fleet to shift back-office employees to remote work while continuing to support its drivers and customers.

The Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based carrier also had to contend with the destructive derecho that struck the area in August.

“It turns out that the same things that help you during a pandemic help you during an inland hurricane,” Hummer said.

McLeod said the move to remote work during COVID-19 has highlighted the value of business-process automation, such as the automated workflow features the company has introduced through its Logix Solutions and FlowLogix products.

“This is really gaining traction,” he said. “So many of our customers are taking advantage of this, and it’s really proven its worth during this time of the pandemic when you’ve got so many employees that are working remotely and really need to be working in a paperless environment.”

Meanwhile, McLeod continues to expand its business intelligence and data science initiatives.

The company previewed a new rate-visibility product called Impact that will be built within its existing Market Insight platform. Market Insight shows companies their rates on a lane-by-lane basis, how they compare with market rates, and which way those market rates are trending.

“With our Impact product, we’re taking the presentation of that information to the next level to make it even easier to use and to help you in negotiating with your customers and help you in positioning your rates in the marketplace,” McLeod said.

McLeod plans to roll out Impact by the end of the year to all customers running Market Insight.

“Market Insight and Impact are just the beginning of the ways we think we can contribute to your business through data science and business intelligence,” McLeod said.

The software company also is focused on enabling ways for companies to more efficiently match shipments and truck capacity.

In April, McLeod introduced a digital freight matching API, or application programming interface, for its PowerBroker software.

“We are positioning our product and the platform you run on for even better connectivity and information exchange,” McLeod said.

The company also has added new features to streamline implementation of electronic data interchange, or EDI.

“EDI adoption continues to increase,” McLeod said. “It’s never let up since it started way back in the ’80s.”

Even amid the financial hardship caused by the pandemic, demand for enterprise software in the trucking industry has remained strong.

“We’re seeing a steady stream of new companies coming our way,” McLeod said. “Our new business is actually ahead of last year.”

The company, founded 35 years ago, has grown its workforce to more than 500 employees and is providing software and support to over 1,000 active trucking and transportation companies, he said.

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