May 24, 2016 3:00 PM, EDT

Technology Can Help Fleets Serve E-Commerce Demand, Estes Exec Says

Hupp by Seth Clevenger/Transport Topics
PHILADELPHIA — As the growth of e-commerce continues to reshape the supply chain, fleets can use technology to help meet the growing demand for final-mile delivery services, an executive at Estes Express Lines said.

“We think e-commerce is going to drive the business that way and we want to be a part of that world,” William Hupp, the less-than-truckload carrier’s chief operating officer and executive vice president, said here May 24 during a keynote speech at the 2016 ALK Technology Summit.

To serve that portion of the freight market, Estes plans to launch a technology-based final-mile service offering by the end of this year, he said.

Rather than using the same system that manages the company’s LTL freight, the planned final-mile service will use a separate platform tailored to deliveries to residential addresses, Hupp said.

Estes also has established an in-house “incubator team” to conduct research and development and imagine how advances in technology could change the company’s operations in the years ahead.

“One of the things they’re really focused on is the e-commerce revolution,” he said.

Hupp later added that 3D printing could affect the supply chain. When manufacturers can create their own parts at a plant, demand for transportation services could decrease, he said.

He also predicted that the industry will continue to move toward “smart freight” that captures and transmits data.

More broadly, Hupp cited “a never-ending need for technology that will ‘move the needle.’ ”

However, as fleets look for better ways of doing things, they often remain tied to cumbersome legacy systems, and the reality of their businesses can make it impossible to simply stop, rebuild and restart their core technology, he said.

In addition, Hupp also said the ever-changing characteristics of LTL freight and differences in packaging are making freight pricing more challenging.

To help address this issue, Estes has installed 72 freight dimensioners to improve accuracy of freight costing. The dimensioners can determine the cube and density of the shipment within several seconds, Hupp said.

Estes, based in Richmond, Virginia, ranks No. 15 on Transport Topics’ Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in the United States and Canada.