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Choptank And Syfan: Trucker Tools Improved Visibility At An Affordable Cost

FreightWaves

Two large freight brokerages reported that the implementation of Trucker Tools across their carrier networks improved visibility accuracy and reduced the number of check calls made by brokers at a reasonable price. 

Choptank Transport and Syfan Logistics said they achieved high levels of carrier visibility compliance and were able to acquire accurate location data by using Trucker Tools, a smartphone app that tracks drivers' locations for freight brokerages.

Previous generations of "app-less" visibility technology used data from phone carriers that generated rough triangulations of a telephone's location based on cell tower pings. Phone carriers have essentially stopped selling that kind of location data, so now smartphone-based visibility solutions use the device's native GPS capabilities to source location data.

Other visibility solutions are built around electronic logging devices (ELDs), but hardware ELDs are mostly used by large fleets, not the kind of carriers typically called upon by freight brokers. 

The success of smartphone app-based visibility solutions are dependent on drivers' propensity to download the app and keep it on their phones. For that reason, single-function apps are less popular with drivers, and apps that offer more features are more popular. In addition to tracking drivers' locations, Trucker Tools offers truck drivers information about fuel prices, weigh scales, rest areas, optimal routes, weather and traffic conditions. 

"When you look at visibility, it's table stakes for all the brokers," said Prasad Gollapalli, founder and chief executive officer at Trucker Tools. "Two or three years back, shippers were happy if they got visibility from the brokers – that used to be the differentiator. Today, the majority of the big shippers require visibility, and that's why it's become such an important thing."

Diana Bullington, information technology director at Syfan Logistics, said that customers' visibility requirements created a lot of work for freight brokers. In the past, brokerages like Syfan made customer service and visibility commitments, and then worked to fulfill them with a combination of technology, telephone calls and emails. Switching to Trucker Tools, she said, improved the accuracy of the location data, reduced Syfan's cost, and eliminated 30% of the check calls Syfan's brokers made to carriers.

Bullington said that Syfan now requires all of its carriers to use some kind of tracking technology, and charges them a communication fee if they do not comply. Still, carriers seem to prefer Trucker Tools to other visibility solutions because the mobile app offers more features and adds value to the driver experience.

Syfan uses Trucker Tools not only for visibility, but also to manage the flow of documentation like proof of delivery and bills of lading, which drivers can photograph with their phones and upload to the broker with the Trucker Tools app.

Trucker Tools' customer support was also well above the level Syfan was accustomed to, Bullington said. If a driver has an issue with the app, Trucker Tools calls them directly to get the problem sorted out. 

When Trucker Tools was making its initial pitch to Syfan, Bullington said, it came in at a lower price point than Syfan's existing visibility provider and had more accurate location data. 

The way that Trucker Tools presented its Smart Capacity feature, which assists brokerages in load-matching by showing them available carriers and enabling direct offers, was another important selling point.

 Bullington said that Syfan was concerned about sharing too much with carriers – brokers worry about being disintermediated by a crafty carrier that might contact the shipper directly and offer to undercut what the brokerage is charging. Trucker Tools was able to build a solution for Syfan that hid certain attributes of a load to protect Syfan's customer relationships, Bullington said. Once those hurdles were overcome, Smart Capacity became an important tool for Syfan's brokers, allowing them to source capacity more efficiently.

"We cover more freight because we can see the capacity in Smart Capacity," Bullington said.

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