A couple weeks ago, we wrapped up the second installment of our LTL best practices webinars, which delved into FourKites’ new LTL capabilities. In total, we welcomed over 500 guests to talk about how FourKites is reshaping the world of LTL freight in ways no one ever thought possible. In the first few weeks, we’ve already seen customers achieve incredible results, including a 67% reduction in customer service calls and a 147% improvement in customer satisfaction.

The problems solved by our new Dynamic ETA for LTL are incredibly complicated. So complicated, in fact, that for as long as anyone in the LTL space can remember, it was widely assumed that there would never be a solution. Now that FourKites has begun to make serious headway in solving those issues, everyone is wanting to know how it works and what comes next for the LTL space.

Our moderators fielded quite a few questions from the audience about what this means for the future of the LTL shipping industry. Due to time constraints, we weren’t able to answer all of those questions on the webinar, so we’re including a selection of them here.

How would this new technology respond to groupage shipments? In Europe, our volume is approximately 80% groupage; that is, it has to be re-loaded two to three times by subcontractors before the order is delivered to the customer.

The great thing about Dynamic ETA for LTL is that it’s able to adapt to a wide variety of situations and shipment models. Our predictions are based on historic trends and patterns. In the case of groupage, much like other structures of LTL, or even full truckload shipments, once we are able to get enough data to understand the patterns in your groupage shipments, our model will be able to accurately predict the behavior of future shipments.

Given that FourKites’ Dynamic ETA calculations improve over time, is it possible for a new customer to leverage the data FourKites has from other shippers on similar lanes and carrier combinations to improve their ETAs until their own volume increases?

Yes, we can use the information already in the FourKites platform to supplement the data for a new customer until that customer’s volumes increase.

Does the quality of the tracking differ significantly per LTL provider?

Because we are integrated with 96% of active LTL loads, we are able to work with all carriers to make sure the relevant updates for a load are captured and presented. If a carrier is not represented within our network, we will work to achieve high-quality tracking by partnering with these carriers.

What time frame are you basing the ETA stats on?

The model spans the history of the Fourkites platform. ETA stats are based on the beta over the last two months.

The status updates from our LTL providers are often unreliable. Does FourKites control for this in any way?

We work with carriers to make sure we consume all real-time status updates for a shipment. We ingest data using a variety of sources, since the capability of each carrier differs in how they can make the data available, e.g., API, EDI, ELD.

Do you have to load customer receiving times for FourKites tracking to understand ETAs and when the carrier can deliver?

We only need the pickup time to predict the ETA. The customer receiving time is helpful, but not essential.

Do you capture exception statuses? If so, do you provide alerts?

Yes. We capture all exception statuses from the carrier, as well as late reason codes, and we feed these back into the FourKites platform. These can then be used for alerting your employees or other interested parties that a load is at risk of arriving late.

Are documents always captured? If not, can the customer upload them to FourKites directly?

We generally pull documentation for each load directly from the carrier and make them available within the FourKites user interface. If, for some reason, the carrier does not make documentation available, we also provide our customers with the ability to upload documents themselves.

Can other documents be uploaded to the portal, such as dangerous goods documentation?

FourKites can support any type of document upload. We work with carriers to populate the BOL and POD for every load, and some carriers also supply us with invoice and weight inspection certificates. But all other types of documentation can be uploaded to the load.

How can FourKites determine the ETA if the carrier doesn’t supply location updates or shipment history?

Currently, FourKites determines an initial ETA when a load is first created on our platform – before the load is scheduled to be picked up. This ETA is based on a number of factors, including the carrier itself, the pickup appointment time and the average transit time for that carrier on the given lane. This ETA is then used as a reference in the eventuality that the carrier fails to provide an ETA once a load is picked up.

FourKites is using pre-generated PRO numbers to get instant visibility into LTL shipments when they are picked up. What happens if a shipper does not use a BOL with the pre-generated PRO, or if a driver puts their own PRO over the pre-generated one?

In both of these cases, we rely on the PRO number provided by the carrier to track the shipment.

Is LTL supported in Europe, or just the United States?

We cover LTL in Europe, as well!

How does FourKites track an LTL load that is managed by a broker?

FourKites integrates directly with the broker (we currently have hundreds of such integrations on our platform). The broker then provides us with the shipment data we need to create and track the load in our platform.

Do you capture exception statuses? If so, do you provide alerts?

Yes, we capture both exceptions and milestones for a load in transit. We are also capable of providing notifications and alerts for each.

Can you name some variables that are used in the Dynamic ETA calculation? 

Collectively, we have synthesized billions of different data points to calculate our Dynamic ETAs, in categories ranging from shipper and carrier behavior to seasonality, distance, carrier ETAs, appointment times and more.

What connectivity method do you use to connect to LTL carriers?

We have multiple ways of connecting with LTL carriers, including API integration, EDI status updates, web scraping, direct integration with the carriers’ ELD system, and more. Since carriers have vastly different technical capabilities, it’s important for a visibility solution like FourKites to be able to accommodate many different formats of data, rather than relying on a single method such as API.

How does your ETA consider drop trailers at pickup and delivery?

Our models learn the shipper/carrier/lane specific behavior based on the data, which includes drop trailer trends.

Learn more about FourKites LTL shipment tracking, or watch the webinar recording here.

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