MT:As buyers of transportation services, are there specific technologies you would like to see your carrier partners invest in so that they become more efficient?
Krizman: Tracking of shipments is important. On-time delivery information is key to me and is what I look for carriers to have. If they don’t have GPS capabilities I still want on-time reporting. I need to know when things are not going to go right and I need to know as soon as possible. In today’s world it’s not acceptable to not tell your shipper if you are going to be late.
Raynor: We are starting to see a lot of EDI and satellite technology being put into the industry by the larger carriers. But a lot of the smaller operators under 20 trucks are not going to invest in that kind of technology. That’s something that allows a larger 3PL to go to those carriers and offer them that kind of technology to communicate with their larger customers. We can look at things such as route optimization. We can run those routes to, for example, get them better fuel prices by showing them a different route that allows them to fill up at different stations.
Krizman: The shipper has to worry about the customer and the carrier can impact the customer. The nature of the business today makes the customer so key. If you come in with a late delivery, it means the world today so much more than it ever did before. I know carriers two years ago that just had a status quo mentality on customer service. In today’s world everybody has to step it up.
Sneyd: When the economy is the way it is and every load is so important to you, to lose it on service is unacceptable. We have the same focus. Customer service should mean a heck of a lot more now than before because we just can’t afford to put any customer at risk. There is no question it’s a huge focus.
Warren: I’ve seen a complete shift over the past three years in technology demands from customers. Our EDI programming bills are way higher than they were. It also used to be that when online tracking first came out people wanted to see where the shipment was instead of calling you. Then people started managing their loads online daily. Now they want to know every little thing about the shipment and they want your system to push them an e-mail about when the shipment was picked up, when it arrived, when it was cleared and delivered. We also see requests for all the exceptions. Definitely the information we are pushing to customers is huge. We are giving them so much more information than before about their shipments.
Seymour: I agree that we are gathering more information and that we are investing in the technology to do so but it shocks me how little of that information our customers want. To throw something cynical at that, so many of them are getting the information faster but recently are taking longer to pay for our services. Where is the translation to us for that investment if in fact shippers are just going to slow down the process to pay? It’s very short-term thinking. In our industry our two biggest costs are wages and fuel which represent 60-70% of our operating costs and both have to be paid every week. To take 60 to 90 days to get paid is a dysfunctional relationship. From my standpoint, we gather information, we have invested in the ability to provide it but very few people want it. They just want to know why you are late, which is important. But other information that should be important such as delay at shipper, delay at consignee, delay at the border and what you can do to help us minimize these delays and maximize efficiencies is where we need to do a better job at providing it to get rid of waste and cost. We are killing ourselves with waste and costs that are out of our control and reside with our customers. It’s the information that we gather that will substantiate that.
MT:That is an interesting point. Michelle, when you look at the data that you are pushing out to your customers, do you feel there needs to be better use made of that data to make both your company and your customers more efficient?
Arseneau: Absolutely. The data we are pushing out to our customers – and we have some programs in place that reconcile the data going out that day and push it out to the customer live – is very sophisticated with some of the contracts we have going. One of the few things that’s exciting going forward right now is the technology and what is available in the mobile communications area and being able to link that to a complete end-to-end operating system. Being able to cost freight properly and move it at a profit is what we all want to do but there are a lot of companies that don’t have the technology to do that and they are the ones out there that are really hurting the market. Going forward, if you don’t have the technology in place to accurately cost your loads and shipments, the minute they are moving you are going to lose money. It’s really up to the shipper to make the call at the end of the day. Are they going to go with the carrier that has the technology in place or are they going to go with the lowest rate available?
Warren: There are a substantial number of carriers with 20 or fewer trucks. It’s a massive amount of number of people who, as you say, are guessing.
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