The days of validating late deliveries by offering seemingly reasonable excuses, such as road conditions, weather, construction, mechanical breakdowns, etc., are over. The transportation industry is demanding a real-time, on demand flow of data regarding the status of their shipments.
What is Visibility?
Visibility is primarily the real-time GPS location of a truck and trailer; however, data can also include route selection, speed, and even temperature tracking. Many companies are farming out the management of their tracking data to third party providers that can centralize the freight and tracking data onto one platform, even when various different carriers are involved. Customers want to know where their freight is in the current moment – at any moment.
Visibility and the Carrier/Customer Relationship
Successful relationships between carriers and their clients are becoming more technology-driven. With the “old-school” methods of faxing or emailing tenders, rates, and/or load confirmations evolving to EDI and web portals, the evolution of vehicle tracking technology is taking that relationship a step further.
In the past, shippers had to call their carriers for load status updates; however, the introduction of transparent data feeds and single-platform supply-chain visibility networks means the pressure is on to populate those services with tracking data. Customers are becoming less patient with reported excuses for delays because they should be able to SEE proof of these delays in the data. If one carrier cannot provide them with that level of transparency – they will find a carrier that will. The relationship remains a two-way street, thus investments into technology driven visibility tools by carriers require true commitments by the shippers so there is a clear ROI in play for both sides.
Why is Visibility so Important?
The increasing costs to store inventory have pushed companies to employ just-in-time manufacturing, made-to-order, and stock-to-order processes, which amplify the importance of on time delivery (OTD). Adding impact to OTD requirements is something known as the “Amazon Effect” whereby customers expect their products to be delivered next day with end-to-end traceability. (See our late November blog to learn more about how the Amazon Effect has impacted the supply chain).
With pressure for OTD mounting from their customers, shippers are no longer satisfied with delivery ETA’s – they want to know WHERE the truck is at that precise moment. Late deliveries can mean shutting down production lines or disappointing the end consumer – both of which negatively affect the bottom line.
How do Carriers Meet Visibility Demands?
3PL’s like TRAFFIX meet tracking demands by partnering with visibility platforms such as Trucker Tools and Project 44. By integrating such technologies into their TMS, transportation companies can feed live tracking data directly to web portals and/or supply chain visibility networks. The challenge dominating visibility today is driver compliance. Without a driver accepting the tracking request from applications such as Trucker Tools or providing correct truck ELD numbers for systems such as Project 44, the efforts of the 3PL are irrelevant. With the help of partner visibility companies, 3PL’s are developing strategies to incentivize driver compliance to meet both tracking and consistency demands. TRAFFIX will be rolling out a program to our 14 branches in the USA, Canada and Mexico in November, which will instill a corporate “tracking culture”. The TRAFFIX tracking culture will emphasize the mandate that all loads must be tracked and will provide training to our experienced team about how to sell tracking compliance to drivers. (See our upcoming blog about visibility and driver compliance).
At the end of the day, the requirement for visibility is not going away. In fact, as technology improves and transportation costs continue to rise, the demand for superior service will also increase. Now is the time for 3PL’s to get on board with tracking culture and be proactive.
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