Trucking's VIP

On the surface, arranging for a load to be picked up by a tractor-trailer that isn't there would seem impossible. Yet fleets are finding that the right technology package can eliminate a lot of the guessing and manual labor required to construct intricate load plans, saving them time and money while redirecting limited resources to other projects. Chris Clay, director of customer service for Celadon

On the surface, arranging for a load to be picked up by a tractor-trailer that isn't there would seem impossible. Yet fleets are finding that the right technology package can eliminate a lot of the guessing and manual labor required to construct intricate load plans, saving them time and money while redirecting limited resources to other projects.

Chris Clay, director of customer service for Celadon Group, told Fleet Owner at Manhattan Associates' Momentum 2010 User Group meeting in Fort Lauderdale, FL, that virtual integrated planning — ironically referred to as “VIP” for short — is helping the Indianapolis-based TL carrier increase the load ratio for its fleet of 2,500 trucks and 9,200 dry van trailers while reducing the workload on its staff.

“We implemented this system in January this year and have already seen a half-percent increase in our load ratio,” Clay said. “Right now, 58% of the time we're using the [VIP] system as the primary source for driver and load selection. I'd like to see that get up over 60% but that won't be easy.”

It won't be easy, he explained, because load planners just aren't used to thinking in the terms offered by systems that can project truck capacity farther into the future. For example, Clay said a load scheduled to be picked up in 12 hours might be served by a truck, at that moment, literally two states away.

“That's tough to get your mind around,” he said. “We're not used to thinking three or four dispatches out in the future. But this is the kind of capability technology can give you.”

Clay cautioned, however, that such capability is only possible based on the quality of the information loaded into it. “As your business changes, you need to make sure everything you are loading into the system is loaded to correctly match those changes,” he stressed.

But if done right, such “virtual” load planning can save a lot of time and heartburn. “For example, one problem we always had to deal with was ‘emergency’ manual changes to the load plan,” Clay said. “We'd make a change and that would have an unexpected ripple effect on the freight coming into our system. With it all visible within the system, there's less of a chance of such effects occurring.”

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