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Fleets Online: Merging pricing and performance

July 6, 2017
How do you package a variety of metrics into one software system, let alone deploy it throughout a fleet of leased owner-operators and its cargo vans?

Company: Little Truck Solutions, Concord, NC

Operation: A privately owned and operated fleet of 55 cargo vans that serves the expedited and time-critical LTL/small shipment market

PROBLEM:

Created in 2002, Little Truck Solutions (LTS) focuses on an interesting niche in the freight business: LTL or smaller shipments, such as a 5-lb. box up to three pallets, where “agility” and “flexibility” in terms of delivery schedules are the critical factors.

About 90% of the time, LTS picks up same-day freight, either from a customer site or a freight terminal, and must deliver it within hours to destinations ranging from 50 to several hundred miles away. That’s not easy when your service territory is across the 48 contiguous states, mostly east of the Mississippi.

It got harder in 2015 and 2016, when price competition and undercutting became rampant issues in the freight industry—with the age-old focus on customer service turning into little more than an afterthought. So David Harrison, LTS president,  decided he needed to turn this dynamic around, yet also ensure his fleet could still generate a profit in its niche sector of the freight market.

Beyond a competitive price, he believed key freight service characteristics needed to include include 24/7 dispatch, shipment visibility, professional and courteous drivers, a well-maintained fleet, timely and accurate shipment tracking, plus delivering damage-free shipments on-time.  

But how do you package all of those metrics into one software system, let alone deploy it throughout a fleet of leased owner-operators and its cargo vans?

Solution:

LTS ultimately settled on CX North America’s mobile application and work platform, with Harrison opting for what he called a “premium subscription” level.

“We needed a technology provider that could integrate with all our customers,” he explained. “We didn’t want to do manual updates on our side. Information needed to flow seamlessly in real time.”

Harrison also found that with the CX North America platform, there is no software to download. The Software-as-a-Service solution comes already integrated with telematics providers, transportation management systems, and other key programs. Thus, LTS could easily incorporate both customers and newly leased-on owner-operators into the program. That allows LTS to identify work and assign jobs directly to drivers, matching real-time vehicle location, load capacity, and availability with customer needs.

“The mobile app is available free of charge to CX North America subscribers and firms doing business with subscribers, including my leased owner-operators,” Harrison pointed out.
Drivers can send alerts showing load status and future availability as well as automated ‘Smart Alerts’ to keep customers updated on current location.

Visibility is a key business requirement in the expedited and time-critical freight marketplace.  Such visibility is also a key component of real-time tracking as well, though the current location of a shipment—and the frequency with which that information could be communicated—isn’t critical in the same way with every customer, Harrison pointed out.

“Some customers aren’t that interested and just want to know when it’s picked up and when it’s delivered,” he explained. “Others, however, want updates every two hours. Still others want updates as frequently as every 15 minutes. Without a technology partner that can provide those updates automatically, a person must sit there and track the status every 15 minutes and email the customer. That’s a huge amount of time to be spent on one shipment.”

And it’s why automation proved critical as well. “We need the least amount of human intervention possible to reduce errors, labor costs and the amount of time it takes to track,” Harrison added. “Safety also plays a big role in that. Five years ago, we had to call drivers a lot to assess shipment status and location and get tracking updates. We want to minimize as many of those phone calls as possible and the distraction they create.”

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