Old Dominion Freight Line (ODFL)
LTL regional carrier serves 38 states; international division serves Canada, Mexico, and Puerto Rico; ODFL also has air cargo div. Fleet has 2,604 tractors and 10,600 trailers.
Old Dominion Freight Line wanted to increase the speed and efficiency of its operations in order to compete more effectively with the ground services offered by FedEx, UPS, and other overnight package delivery companies.
In order to accomplish that goal, however, the carrier was faced with a paradox of sorts. It had to find a way to reduce the amount of time drivers spent communicating with dispatchers, while increasing the amount of information exchanged in terms of when pickups and deliveries were made.
“Our drivers collected all of their shipment data on paper and then submitted it at the end of their shift,” explains Barry Craver, a senior application development manager for Old Dominion Freight Line.
Old Dominion also wanted to find a way to reduce the amount of time dispatchers and drivers spent on the phone every day.
Dispatchers, each of whom manages about 20 drivers, had to talk to drivers by phone after each stop in order to update route and load planning. That became a time consuming task for dispatchers and drivers, forcing Old Dominion to look for more efficient ways to gather and transmit information.
Old Dominion Freight Line turned to handheld computers manufactured by Symbol Technologies to solve its efficiency paradox. To date, about 1,700 of the carrier's drivers use PDT 7500 handheld computers, which collect shipment information via a PDF417 barcode scanner and transmit the data back to the dispatcher over a wireless wide area network (WAN) communication system.
“Now, shipment data is collected in real-time and sent back immediately to the dispatcher as the driver covers his route. Drivers don't have to wait to talk to the dispatcher,” Craver explains.
“Having that information in real-time also allows us to be more efficient in planning our outbound routes, as well as in positioning trailers when they return to our service centers.”
Craver adds that reducing communication time between dispatchers and drivers has also enabled the fleet to increase the number of stops each truck can make in an hour. The reduction in communication and wait time has been turned into an opportunity to make more pickups and deliveries.
A secondary benefit to transmitting the data in real-time via computer has been an improvement in customer service. “More shippers and consignees want to know where their shipments are every step of the way,” Craver points out. “Having shipment data available in real-time helps us meet this need.”
Old Dominion Freight Line is proud of the fact that it was able to provide this service before customers asked for it. “We didn't want them to have to ask for it,” Craver says. “We want to be ahead of the eight-ball to meet customer needs before they realize it's a need.”