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Insights on technology from our Shipper-Carrier Rountable

Technology can play a role in making for more efficient freight moves from both the shipper and carrier perspective...

Technology can play a role in making for more efficient freight moves from both the shipper and carrier perspective. Are shippers and carriers making the most effective use of technology? <br>
The use and impact of technology to improve efficiency was was one of the many issues tackled by the shipper and motor carrier executives participating in our first annual Issues Roundtable, sponsored by Shaw Tracking. Over the next few weeks we will be sharing their views on this and other issues.<br>
Participating in the Issues Roundtable were Serge Gagnon; President, XTL Group of Companies; Rob Penner, Vice President, Operations, Bison Transport; Dan Einwechter, President, Challenger Motor Freight; Julie Tanguay; President, L.E. Walker Transport; Neil McKenna Director, Transportation Operations, Canadian Tire Retail; and Bob Ballantyne, President, Canadian Industrial Transportation Association. Lou Smyrlis, Editorial Director of BIG Transportation Media, moderated the roundtable.<br>
Following are our panelists comments on technology implementation and the results. <br>

Smyrlis: Recent research from Aberdeen Group shows that having access to real-time information really does make a difference. For example, companies that track more than 80% of their domestic shipments are twice as likely as their peers to have an on-time delivery rate of 95% or better. Yet at the same time a study released by Industry Canada comparing logistics-related Key Performance Indicators for Canadian and US firms shows that more than half of Canadian firms still have no supply chain management solutions in place and do not plan to implement a solution shortly. Are we missing the boat when it comes to leveraging technology investments or is technologys positive impact over-hyped?

McKenna: I do believe the industry is missing the boat to a certain degree, especially shippers that are sourcing globally. Everybody has technology that supports their operations and it works fairly well. But take a look at a global shipper that has to go across the sea to source their products and does so with multiple suppliers. Generally you could have as many as 10-12 different points in your supply chain and they are all operated by independent service providers with technology that helps them do what they need to do but the systems dont talk to each other.

Smyrlis: I know you believe in the value of technology but what we are talking about here is evolving beyond technology thats good within a company to technology that can be integrated to provide visibility across the entire supply chain. Thats quite the challenge.

Gagnon: The trucking industry has spent a lot of money implementing technology; its hard to believe how much weve spent. The cost and all the work however is dumped on the carrier. Shippers expect it all at the lowest rate possible. We implement customized reports, EDI, tracking, etc. which costs the carrier a lot of time and money. Technology has grown and will continue to grow, but shippers need to realize they should pay part of the cost.

Einwechter: We have become quite technologically advanced but it just drives me nuts every time you bid on freight and the client says we want to have this, this and this and then when you start to give it to them they dont have the systems to read it and ask you to populate the reports manually because they dont have the people to do it. Weve spent a lot of money training people on ACE yet there are many shippers that dont understand the program, expect us to fulfill the ACE program requirements for them, but dont want to pay the fee for the service. There is a major disconnect here. Information is power and power equals money. There is a chance to use technology, to integrate, to become better. They have the chance to use this information and the power that it brings to make money and a lot of shippers just dont.

Ballantyne: There are information silos but I wonder if the security systems the various government agencies are putting in place will force all the players in the supply chain to get out of their silos. Obviously carriers are having trouble with some shippers but maybe all this legislation will force carriers and shippers to come together on these issues.

Smyrlis: Perhaps there is a positive in all the security programs in that it helps to remove us from all the silos that we operate in and move us toward a common standard. Does that seem feasible?

Penner: I think there is a chance that will happen, if they dont change the rules five more times. Our problem is timing more than anything. Theres no chance of any of these things working if the rules arent the same for the importers and the exporters as they are for the carriers and at the same time. We have invested millions in these changes and policies and theres no hope of recouping the investment if no one else has made the same investment and so feels they have the same stake. Governments assume its our mandate because we are the ones who show up at the border and we have to pay the bill. Government has the best form of control there is: the taxman. Nothing crosses the border without a tax receipt somewhere. For them to say they cant go back to the importer or exporter to ensure their systems know whats in the box doesnt make sense. Our systems can tell you we have 500 boxes in the trailer but whats in those boxes? How secure is this system? Who put the seal on it? How did you make sure it hasnt been tampered with? These questions should be a big concern because tampering is not likely going to happen when the box is on the truck; its going to happen somewhere else.

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