Staying the Course on Digital Transformation

Prasad Gollapalli | Trucker Tools

FREIGHT BROKERS FOR years have traded on—and provided enduring value from—several core strengths: tribal knowledge, market expertise, flexibility and the personal trust built during years of relationship development with the carrier community. Those strengths still ring true, but in today’s market where new entrants and disruptive technology are around every corner, that’s not enough.

Among the toughest challenges today for brokers is identifying—and then executing—an effective and sustainable technology strategy. It has to address how to accelerate and streamline business processes, reduce wasteful manual work and their associated costs, enable brokers to do more with every hour of their day, and make interactions with carrier-partners as frictionless, efficient and engaging as possible.

Moreover, it cannot be overstated that as brokers embark on this journey, they must actively bring along their teams, through training and education, and their carriers, who increasingly rely on purpose-designed, mobile-based technology to run their business. Phone calls, emails, and texts are the tools of last resort in today’s market.

The brokerage industry was already going through technology-driven disruption before the pandemic hit. The health and economic crisis which ensued has only sharpened the focus—and the imperative—on digitizing many of the traditional processes, and updating the technology tools brokers use to set rates, find and secure available trucks, book freight, track loads and pay carriers.

Many brokers have begun and are actively engaged in this digital journey, while others are taking a “wait and see” approach. Still more are reacting to the pandemic and have either slowed or suspended their digital transformation initiatives.

Those who are waiting to act, or delaying initiatives already underway, will find themselves even further behind the curve, and at higher risk of being disintermediated and unable to compete. Particularly as the economy recovers, freight volumes continue their surge, and shippers demand ever faster, more flexible, and responsive service—and better real-time data—from their brokers.

Brokerages must stay the course on digitizing their processes. It’s a mission imperative. Pressing pause on technology initiatives not only inhibits your competitiveness, but also delays opportunities to reduce costs, improve productivity and margins, and build carrier loyalty.

As capacity continues to tighten, carriers will gravitate to brokers who simplify the engagement experience with easy-to-use enabling apps and consistently offer the best loads with higher revenue and profit per truck, per week. There is no more important an imperative than keeping our carriers rolling and in the game, because without profitable, successful carriers, capacity withers, freight sits on the dock, and essential goods don’t get delivered.

Those who are waiting to act, or delaying initiatives already underway, will find themselves even further behind the curve, and at higher risk of being disintermediated and unable to compete.

At this critical time, as brokers consider their go-forward strategies and pursue a digital remake of their business, they should be asking themselves the following key questions:

•   Where do I start on my technology transformation journey? What processes can be automated quickly and easily? How do I quickly reduce the variable costs of covering a load, and getting reliable tracking data, faster and with more accuracy?
•   How do I rank priorities? What’s a step-by-step plan for developing and executing an effective technology improvement strategy?
•   How do I bring my carriers along on the journey? What are the keys to increasing carrier compliance and buy-in, and creating a sustainable, reliable carrier network?

A proactive, strategic, and well-thought-out plan for technology improvement and an aggressive approach to implementation and deployment achieves several objectives.

First, in a tight capacity market, improving carrier relationship management and being as frictionless as possible in transacting with carriers is central to securing timely, reliable capacity. Carriers want to work with brokers who are easy to do business with and make engaging with them as efficient as possible.

Second, shippers abhor uncertainty and delay, particularly with respect to data and information about how their loads are being booked and managed. The right technology can inform more precise decision making and bring greater transparency, speed and accuracy to critical data and intelligence about each load, its costs, and its status toward delivery.

Third, shippers are demanding more and more data and metrics about their transportation activities—and they want it in easily digestible formats they can quickly access, consume, and share with other constituents across the company. Freight performance influences numerous other aspects of the supply chain. Inaccurate, obsolete, or incomplete data and analytics on actual freight performance has a ripple effect that can skew decisions in other supply chain operations—such as managing inventory levels and carrying costs, order fulfillment velocity and warehouse staffing decisions. Accurate, transparent, real-time data on freight movement underpins the success of the entire supply chain.

At the end of the day, today’s decisions on digital technology platforms and partners will decide not only the ability of brokers to compete, but their very survivability in the future. So, the takeaway is this: brokers must stay the course on their transformation journey, embracing collaborative digital platforms today to reduce costs, elevate service, strengthen the carrier experience, and improve shipment transparency for all constituents.        

The author, Prasad Gollapalli, is the founder and chief executive officer of Trucker Tools. Based in Reston, Virginia, Trucker Tools, is a leading provider of trip planning, shipment visibility, predictive freight matching and automated booking solutions for the transportation industry. To learn more about Prasad or Trucker Tools, please visit