The Next Level of 3PL & Broker Innovation: Turning Data Into Intelligence

3PL Perspectives
the next level of 3pl and broker innovation

THE TRUCKING AND logistics industry has seen dramatic change over the past several years. Leading the charge has been a truckload of technology providers, some new to the game, others well established. It’s a continuing demand which has ratcheted up the pressure on 3PLs and brokers to quickly adapt and employ new technologies as shippers demand even faster responses and more accurate information.

Demands for real-time information and constant visibility are more frequent and complex than ever before. Emerging to address those issues have been a variety of digital brokerage platforms with tools such as automated visibility, predictive freight matching, automated booking, near real-time visibility tracking of loads within feet, and advanced integrations that enable a broker to connect to many platforms and enrich the trove of data they use to manage the customer’s business.

Carriers, particularly in the for-hire truckload market, are embracing these tools, which generally reside on their mobile phone or tablet. The benefit for the trucker is the ability to find the right load quicker, book it faster, and provide hands-off visibility of enroute location and ETAs automatically. That’s saving time, money and frustration for drivers. And on the broker side, these tools are providing productivity benefits that enable the broker team to shed work that was previously done manually, such as check calls to drivers, and refocus that freed-up time on solving problems or providing more value added services.

The industry still needs to innovate and that will require brokers to step up their game once again. Where will that innovation occur? It’s all about data—and developing intelligent tools to take that data to the next level.

Brokers today get a raft of information around loads, available trucks, in-transit status and arrival. They also often get informed insights—exceptions—when something doesn’t go according to plan: a truck stuck in traffic, a driver delayed or out of hours, a load late or delayed for delivery. That’s all useful.

But the next step on the innovation curve is making that data intelligent. Such next-level software tools, utilizing machine learning and artificial intelligence, will take those data sets, apply learned intelligence to them, and inform the user not only “here is an exception” but “here is an exception, and now here is the next step to resolve it.”

Case in point is booking a truck for a load. Your system tells you the truck will be at the load point at 2 pm. But the driver calls in and cancels the load. That means the broker now needs to go back to the freight-matching tool and find another truck.

Next-generation intelligent platforms will flag that missed pickup, automatically review its data on available trucks, and provide a “here is a truck available that can make the pickup” recommendation to the broker.

Driving more intelligence out of the data we get today is the next level of innovation. Once again, intelligent systems help make the broker smarter and more efficient. It works the same way for a trucker. Say a trucker has a load pulled and is now free for another assignment. Data-driven insights from intelligent platforms will mine their data, and automatically offer up a load to that driver. Again, saving time for the driver, providing a quality load that fits that driver’s parameters, and reducing downtime to keep that driver rolling and generating revenue.

An important side benefit is how this collaborative technology, now not just reporting exceptions but providing solutions to them, further strengthens that important relationship between individual truckers and small-fleet carriers, and the broker.

Trucking is a business where fleets and even individual truck owners operate on the thinnest of margins. Those making 10 cents on the dollar are consider successful. Protecting those margins and maintaining a profitable, thriving business means being able to not just plan for events and exceptions, but act on them quickly and accurately. It’s an investment in systems, as well as people embracing these new tools to the fullest, which can lead to big dividends.

Such advanced intelligence systems also are becoming the glue that, for freight brokers, helps hold their networks together and enables them to match the right load with the right carrier at the right time to meet shipper needs. The innovation of today’s and tomorrow’s digital technology solutions, and the more efficient and effective use of their data, builds meaningfully better carrier engagement, squeezes more productivity and efficiency out of finite resources, and help carriers earn margins that will keep them in business—and our supply chains flowing.

Insights. Intelligence. Control. Those are the principal benefits that will come out of these data-rich, proactive platforms that can isolate and resolve exceptions quickly with little intervention. With more accurate and timely decision support, brokers can up the level of service provided to shippers and enrich the data they use to run their supply chains. That will bring more precision execution to supply chains, which in today’s fast-paced market, will be crucial to success.

the next level of 3pl and broker innovation

Prasad Gollapalli is Founder and CEO of Trucker Tool, providing load visibility, predictive freight matching, and trip planning solutions for the transportation industry.