Ward Trucking, Corp. Altoona, PA
Regional LTL and linehaul carrier Gregory S. Confer, director of process analysis and improvement
Ward Trucking serves the entire Mid-Atlantic, including Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, Virginia and its home state of Pennsylvania, with a fleet of about 800 International tractors operated out of 20 service centers. In the past, the company's 22 dispatchers called the P&D drivers directly to give them information about loads and routes, using Nextel's two-way direct connect radios, according to Gregory S. Confer, director of process analysis and improvement.
“We had three key goals when we began shopping for an automated, real-time dispatch and logistics system for our P&D operation,” Confer says. “We wanted real-time access to information about pickup and delivery of freight for our customers. We also wanted to improve routing of drivers to save time and cost, and we wanted to gather good P&D data for use downstream to help us automate and manage applications like cross-docking.”
The company “shopped and shopped” Confer says, checking out 15 to 20 vendors before deciding to go with Cheetah Freight (www. cheetah.com). “We have a wide range of abilities when it comes to using technology, so we wanted a system that was easy to use. Affordability was also important.
“In May, we made our decision to implement Cheetah Freight's ASP system for real-time logistics optimization and dispatch in conjunction with Nextel's cellular voice and text messaging. They were at the low end cost-wise, but offered us all the same basic functionality as solutions that would have cost us a lot more,” Confer notes. “In June, we started fine-tuning our requirements and we went live at the first location in July.
“Cheetah worked with us on training in the beginning,” he says. “[Now] a team of 10 Ward employees [is] handling training. Most drivers are up and running with the system on the very first day.
“Dispatchers can be skeptical of new systems,” he continues, “but it didn't take long for them to become converts, too. The Cheetah system lets them actually see a stop and where the closest drivers are. They don't have to be an expert on an area to do a good job. Now, if a dispatcher is out sick or on vacation, a supervisor or someone else in the dispatch group can take over.”
“We're already seeing a reduction in clerical time at night because drivers are entering much of their data during the day,” Confer notes. “We're also seeing improvements in routes. With the Cheetah system, we can actually show a driver a visual representation of their current route and the new route we'd like them to try. We can also go to some of our customers and show them how to track their own shipments online.”
Confer says Ward expects to realize a payback on its investment within six months, including everything from training to hardware. “I think we're on target to do that,” he predicts. “This really has been plug and play.”