Thursday, June 7, 2018

Traffic Management Systems on the Rise as US Trucking and Logistics Firms Adopt New Technology

With Digitally Recorded Hours of Service Now Mandatory US Firms Enter the 21st Century
Shipping News Feature
US – The imposition on truckers to install electronic logging devices, or tachographs as they are generally known elsewhere, from this April (the ELD mandate) has produced a sea change for in cab technology, with tens of thousands of truckers fitting the devices. The resistance to the 'Spy in the Cab' resembles emotions in Europe when the same laws were introduced across the continent decades ago. That transition rapidly led to a change of opinion when drivers realised they could no longer be forced to work excessive hours by unscrupulous bosses.

This attitude however has not necessarily applied to owner drivers across North America, some of whom it appears have given up the business rather than drive within the legal constraints which, quite sensibly, require drivers of rigs to be limited to a 14-hour work day, of which only 11 hours can be used for driving, with strict penalties for transgressors. Whereas a written log can be easily ‘adjusted’ the tachograph resists tampering and provides an accurate picture of actual Hours of Service.

The upgrade of this technology has however proved a boon for those manufacturing and marketing these and other transportation management systems (TMS). One such, Kuebix, located in Maynard, Massachusetts, tells us that the new regulations, coupled with rising diesel prices, the capacity crunch, increased customer expectations, tariffs etc. has seen demand for its products rise, with over 11,000 companies adopting its technology. Dan Clark, Kuebix Founder and President, commented:

“So far, the transportation industry has weathered the challenges of 2018 well, but shippers who don’t begin embracing technology will continue to face increasing pressure in the coming months because of the changing supply chain environment. New regulations, a lack of drivers and the needs of digital-age consumers will cut into shippers bottom lines if not addressed. In order to combat these challenges, shippers must leverage technology to streamline their logistics operations.

“Next-generation technologies like Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are growing in popularity within the industry by integrating with predictive analytics to fuel better decision making. Supply chains will only become smarter and more valuable as these technologies are integrated into applications. By adopting new technologies early, shippers can position themselves to compete in our increasingly digital industry.”

Dan points out that TMS can reduce the number of trucks on the road and improve unloading and loading times by consolidating and optimising loads. With the help of dock scheduling and yard management software, driver throughput can also be sped up, reducing delays and helping to keep drivers within their hours of service. Top quality data is necessary to stay ahead of the game with logistics operations able to monitor every aspect of their operations situated in a much better place than those ignoring the ability to control costs through more efficient management of staff, machines and space available.

Proper use of the right technology can give aid all along the supply chain, not just to haulage operators, offering an advantage in a world where transport demands are constantly fluctuating. Transport management technology can be effective in helping with some of the current specific problems:

  • Tariffs - The 25% tariff imposed on imported steel from the EU, Mexico and Canada, and the 10% tariff on aluminium continue to be a trend of President Trump’s protectionist stance. Many are predicting that the import duties will drive product prices up for the consumer. The day before the tariffs kicked-in, the stock market fell 250 points as people questioned the stability of the economy, foreseeing retaliation from countries affected by the tariffs which in turn impact exports. The result is fluctuating levels require fast adjustments to ensure capacity matches demand in all modes of transport.
  • Diesel prices - Diesel prices have already jumped 7 cents in the most recent weeks. To keep costs contained, businesses need to reduce mileage to help lower fuel usage, one way is through proper monitoring.
  • Higher rates - Shippers are concerned with increasing transport rates from carriers. One method to keep rates level is to help make carriers more efficient with technology for shipment consolidation and yard management that maximises carrier capacity and minimises time wasted in the yards.
  • Capacity Crunch - The continuing capacity crunch is getting worse, with some carriers saying they have an astonishing 20+ loads to move per truck. By using a collaborative network of carriers, suppliers and fleet owners, shippers can identify the best truck to move their product from origin to destination.
  • Customer Experience – E commerce now makes up a total of 17% of all retail sales in the US and that figure is rising fast. Those consumers are demanding customer experiences to rival that of brick-and-mortar stores. To keep customers from purchasing from the competition, shippers must provide tracking statuses, shipping flexibility and improved delivery speed. Emphasis on the final mile is increasingly important for customer retention.