Predictability Is the Game. What Position Are You Playing?

Recently, as I was driving from Van Buren, Arkansas, to Tulsa, Oklahoma (in a passenger car, not a truck cab) it occurred to me: We drivers all want the same thing. Whether it’s me and my family heading off on a weekend trip, or a long-haul veteran pulling a load of perishable produce, one common denominator connecting anyone behind the wheel is a desire for a smooth trip without any surprises. Predictability is key, and we have been conditioned to expect predictability at every moment.

Technology has given predictability a big boost over the last decade, and even more so recently. Yelp and Waze have brought an entirely new ecosystem into play by leveraging the power of the network effect – that is, the ability to harness the data of thousands of users in real or near-real time, to deliver accurate, predictable intelligence to the palm of your hand. These and similar apps let you know what to expect and help to eliminate – or greatly reduce – the unexpected.

That’s a huge benefit to consumers and businesses alike. In our industry, eliminating blind spots and uncertainty brings the promise of ever-greater efficiency to the entire supply chain. For drivers, it can also mean the difference between a relaxing trip and one spent worrying whether receivers will be ready to unload the trailer when they arrive or whether they’ll have access to clean facilities or overnight parking.

Are there constraints around shipping and receiving hours? Are the docks and door numbers clearly marked? Are the restrooms in working condition, and do they include shower facilities? Does the delivery address actually get the driver to the correct location? These are the sorts of blind spots can undo the best route planning and force decisions that may not show their real impact until hours or a day down the road. While there are already plenty of apps that tell a driver where to get the best cheeseburger in town and where to refuel, those same apps aren’t covering the most basic information about the two places that a driver has no choice but to visit: the pickup facility and the drop facility.

At FourKites, our unparalleled network of shippers, carriers and 3PLs gives us a unique opportunity to build products that enhance the driver experience. Of late, we have been working closely with our shipper customers to add facility profiles to our CarrierLink app, a mobile app designed to help drivers improve tracking quality and optimize the delivery process. Putting this detailed facility information – which is not publicly available – right at drivers’ fingertips, and allowing them to rate the quality of facilities they encounter, creates a lot of good will toward the carriers, shippers and storage facilities. Since its initial release in February, CarrierLink has been downloaded over 150,000 times, with over 10% growth in downloads month over month.

In addition to driver benefits, the Facility Profile functionality provides route planners with a clearer view of the key constraints involved in certain routes, helping them piece together additional legs of a trip and optimize loaded hours for each truck. Truck drivers today are permitted to drive 11 hours each day, but only about seven of those hours are actually spent driving, due to detention, load time, rest time and other delays. And of that driving time, it’s estimated that roughly 40% of miles driven are empty miles, which are generally at a reduced payment or no payment. In an industry already constrained by driver capacity, the costs of wasted utilization are becoming increasingly burdensome to carriers and drivers alike.

“No! Not another app!,” you say. It’s hard to argue there; drivers today are inundated with apps from all sorts of vendors. But CarrierLink is different. Not only is FourKites creating tools that offer immediate and highly tangible benefits to drivers that are unavailable on other platforms, we are also giving drivers the opportunity to join the largest shipper and carrier network on the planet. It’s a way to collaborate with supply chain partners and to reap the long-term benefits of a vast sea of data that will ultimately help all parties lower detention time, generate operational improvements, improve customer satisfaction and much more. By taking their place in this transparent data network, drivers are contributing to and reaping the benefits of the next wave of supply chain innovation. And that innovation will pay dividends for years to come.

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