For years, fleet and transportation management systems (TMS) have been enhancing capabilities by adding Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and monitoring systems around trucks and the machinery involved. One company believes there are advantages in developing expertise the other way around—and that it can now add some clever innovations where other fleet management products fail to connect the dots.
I.D. Systems closed its acquisition of CarrierWeb on Wednesday. Chris Wolfe, I.D. Systems' CEO, is familiar not only with fleet management systems but this type of product evolution. He formerly worked at Qualcomm and oversaw the business division that eventually was spun off as Omnitracs.
CarrierWeb's U.S.-based assets will be integrated into I.D. Systems' PowerFleet for Logistics division, which the company calls its "logistics visibility solutions group." That combined division will be led by Norm Thomas, who joined I.D. Systems last year from PeopleNet. Thomas also spent more than a decade at U.S. Xpress in roles including chief technology officer.
So some fleet management and motor carrier underpinnings are there, and Wolfe said that's what I.D. Systems found was missing in what it was offering its customers. "What we were missing as part of our whole solution was being an in-cab [fleet management services] provider, having an ELD solution, having a refrigerated solution," Wolfe told Fleet Owner. That's exactly CarrierWeb's portfolio.
I.D. Systems' specialty and focus has been the cargo end of things, and the company released its FleetView interface for its asset-management systems just months after Wolfe came on in 2016. Last fall came I.D. Systems' new LV-Series cargo-tracking systems and "deep-learning decision-support system," Wolfe noted, with that latter including "Lucy," a voice-responsive digital assistant like Apple's Siri.
"It's kind of the 'front end' that makes data actionable and livable and alive," he explained. Another key element I.D. Systems sees for potential hardware/ software integration is a more complete view of cargo, including live visuals when needed. The company also has a mobile app called YardView that will be integrated with Lucy, and here is where some new possibilities emerge from the CarrierWeb combo.
"You can actually ask Lucy, 'Can you take me to this trailer, let me know the status, and let me look inside?'" Wolfe said. "Well, why can't that app be on the CarrierWeb CarrierMate [in-cab] platform? Then the driver himself could say, 'Take me to this trailer and let me look inside of it before I hook up.'"
"There are a lot of misconnects that happen," he continued. "If I hook up and I think the trailer's empty but it isn't or it's been loaded wrong, obviously, that's a problem you can avoid down the road. Or if I hook up and I don't know that there's a trailer light out, if I don't know there's a problem with the trailer's ABS, I'm going to be having problems down the road."
Aside from avoiding those kinds of loading or maintenance problems, I.D. Systems sees possibilities with a tight integration of its IoT cargo/asset systems and the CarrierWeb in-cab and trailer products in a "do-all, turnkey" platform.
"We can offer better trailer visibility," Wolfe said. "Can you look inside a trailer from your in-cab [terminal] without getting out of the cab? Actually, law enforcement can do that with the right authority; border crossing can do it with the right authority."
Perhaps the expanded I.D. Systems fleet management system and in-cab platform could provide that view at the side of the road, boosting safety and efficiency for both the fleet and law enforcement in such cases. That could also mean big time savings for drivers vs. inspectors having to physically get into a trailer.
"Once you break the seal on a truck, you're talking delays," Wolfe noted. "Once you get pulled over for a bad tail light, two-hour delay. What we're trying to do is get ahead of all these problems."
While Wolfe said I.D. Systems' asset-management platform of course will integrate with other fleet management systems, having the CarrierWeb in-cab and reefer/ dry van trailer systems and products in-house will allow for a more streamlined, simplified overall platform. "Communication is going to be a lot better [in our unified system we will offer] than disparate systems—it always will be," he contended.
The underlying value proposition of the combined platform, Wolfe added, is fewer headaches and smoother business for fleets as well as driver quality of life and retention. "Some of the biggest complaints you hear [from drivers] are waiting at facilities, hunting for equipment, misloads, load-shifts, getting pulled over at the side of the road for a tail light out," he said.
"Our goal is to say, 'That really should never happen.' You should never have to leave a gate without knowing that what you picked up is what you thought it was, it's loaded correctly, and the equipment you hooked up to is fine."
CarrierWeb's client base is about 70% over-the-road trucking companies and 30% private fleets, Wolfe noted, with more vehicles overall in the latter segment since the private fleets average more vehicles each. With the acquisition, I.D. Systems said it will add 9,000 net new subscribers to its platform and more than 70 customers, including the Customized Distribution Division of food service provider Performance Food Group.
But rather than a migration of those clients to I.D. Systems' asset-management products, per se, Wolfe said he believes the other direction is more likely—that I.D. Systems' clients will gravitate toward the CarrierWeb fleet management platform.
I.D. Systems also believes the timing is right for the acquisition and "end-to-end, turnkey" combined fleet management product that will result from it, with fleets likely to continue transitioning out of and replacing equipment as they did last year. Many may also be looking at their present in-cab TMS provider(s) and services and considering the options, particularly if they have mixed fleets and duty cycles.
"Maybe they have a refrigerated fleet and they have a dry van fleet; they have some tractors and other trucks and want an in-cab solution," Wolfe said. "We can offer it all, and tightly integrated."
"And we can be a dominant player in this space," he continued. "There's a great opportunity right now. We believe, and we've seen it in the marketplace, that customers are asking us to provide more."