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October 5, 2016 3:30 PM, EDT

Want to Be Profitable, Efficient? Embrace Technology, Data, Execs Urge

Jones by Joseph Terry/Transport Topics
LAS VEGAS — More trucking companies will become efficient and profitable if they embrace new technology and big data analysis of industry trends, two technology startup executives told an audience at ATA's Management Conference & Exhibition here on Oct. 4.

Timothy Leonard, chief technology officer at TMW Systems, said that data across the industry is inconsistent, which hinders the ability to analyze trends and offer insight to trucking companies. Russell Jones, CEO of Cargo Chief, added that many small- and medium-size motor carriers use plain text or Excel spreadsheets to manage their fleets, resulting in unused truck capacity not being disclosed publicly to match with available loads.

While both pushed their products to a group of trucking executives, they agreed that data sharing would be better for the industry overall, but that formatting needs to be uniform.

Leonard by Joseph Terry/Transport Topics

For example, Leonard said that carriers and third-party logistics firms entered Freightliner Trucks and its address differently into transportation management systems. Some wrote “Freightliner,” while others wrote “Freightliner Trucks” or abbreviated Freightliner into various formats. In total, TMW found more than 170 different versions of the truck manufacturer.

For addresses of company headquarters, maintenance shops or distribution centers, some wrote “road” or “lane,” while others abbreviated them. The cities and ZIP codes were also inconsistent.

TMW Systems, a subsidiary of Trimble Inc., hopes to bridge the gap with a unified system of a single name and address to cleanse client records into a standard format. Leonard said the goal would be to answer questions that were impossible before.

“The engines of X make and model perform like Y in what situation? Tractors manufactured between years 1 and 3 at plant Z tended to do what?” he said. Leonard added that such answers would help improve asset availability for trucking companies.

Jones told the trucking executives about how smaller carriers often don’t advertise or market their capacity, whereas the large carriers easily work with the freight brokers to book available loads. Many small carriers use dry-erase boards and about 90% don’t use transportation management systems, he added. They also face stiff competition on popular load boards.

Trucking is a highly fragmented industry, with the top 25 truckload carriers operating fewer than 9% of tractors, according to American Trucking Associations.

“So how do we capture this capacity to the industry that’s been locked for decades? How we do it is with a cloud-based TMS [Cargo Chief] that enables the capacity of these small carriers to finally be seen,” Jones said. He believes the product also would help large and small freight brokers better match loads for clients.

Jones touted Cargo Chief as simple to use without upfront costs or high monthly fees. In order to be successful, he added that carriers would have to see a return on their investments within only a few months.

During a question-and-answer session, larger carriers wondered whether Cargo Chief was a competitive advantage or disadvantage for them.

“As long as the large carriers are open to new technologies and have a culture in the corporation to experiment with new things, not just doing the same thing over and over, they will continue to enjoy an overall lead. Those that say they’re not going to change are going to have some issues,” he responded.