Freight tech continues to make industry inroads

freight robots

By Cate Hull
Five years ago, when Martyn Hann and I founded FreightExchange, we knew the industry was on the cusp of major sea changes.

Our FreightDesk application gives shippers a comprehensive tool that allows for tracking, planning, and executing an international shipping operation from a single platform.

Five years later, we continue to see the industry advance at an accelerated pace.
David Rowan, founding editor of Wired UK, recently said technology is reshaping the transportation world, bringing innovation, opportunities, and threats to existing ways of doing business.

Rowan, speaking at Transparency19 in Atlanta, predicted artificial intelligence and automation will continue to evolve the logistics world. He also thinks blockchain technology will significantly emerge in the next three to five years.

In a recent FreightWaves webinar, Trucker Tools Founder and CEO Prasad Gollapalli said the four common forces affecting third-party logistics companies (3PLs) across the industry are available truck capacity, freight volume, inefficiencies in processes and the technology-based brokers putting additional pressure on other players.

He believes implementing the right technology can help brokers wrangle those forces and become more efficient. For example, if brokers want to be competitive in today’s market, they must provide visibility to their customers, he told FreightWaves.

“Visibility has become a standard. Pretty much every shipper today requires visibility, so all the freight is being tracked,” Gollapalli said. “When we polled our customers, the same group of small carriers and owner-operators that make up most of the industry expressed how easy it is for them to adopt digital platforms, such as mobile apps, to book freight. This is the same group that, most of the time, has been behind in technology adoption,” he added.

The results of Trucker Tools’ poll points to the overall trend of improved technology adoption throughout the industry. Companies, big and small, are more willing than ever to invest heavily in new technology to improve their operations.

Leonard’s Express Chief Marketing Officer Mike Riccio participated in the same webinar and said the increasing focus on digital freight matching and automation technologies has made it more difficult to maintain working relationships between brokers and carriers.

“The relationship is more highly influenced by technology rather than just a pure relationship on a phone call, and it can be hard to adapt to that challenge,” Riccio said. “It is a double-edged sword. If you’re a smaller carrier, you can now use technology like the big carriers and survive, but one of the challenges is that it becomes very hard to build relationships.”

While technology can make the brokerage landscape feel more competitive, Riccio said he views technology as an opportunity to become more productive, and therefore more profitable. He said the key to utilizing technology instead of being bogged down by it is to find the technology products that complement your company’s existing culture and network instead of trying to force the company into a mismatched mold.

Cate Hull is the CEO of FreightExchange, a freight and logistics company based in Sydney.