As complex as the world of freight logistics is, at a high level carriers offer just two fundamental types of services: full truckload (FTL) and less-than-truckload (LTL). FTL shipments are just what they sound like – one shipper filling an entire semi- or intermodal container with goods for delivery. LTL shipments, on the other hand, tend to be utilized by shippers who need to transport fewer goods – a few pallets, for example – and they need them to get to their destination fast. An LTL carrier ships those goods together with many other customers’ shipments in the same container.

LTL is more cost-efficient than FTL, and a more appropriate mode of transport in many situations. And LTL shipments have been on the rise; FourKites saw a 182% increase in LTL shipments for Q1 2020 as compared to Q1 2019. This is due, in part, to the volatility caused by COVID-19, as well as macro trends, such as increasing levels of e-commerce and the need to move palletized freight closer to consumers.

But it’s no secret that LTL shipments are notoriously unpredictable when it comes to delivery times. Shippers may be given an ETA window or more typically a “day-of” date, but too often, those very rough ETAs are missed. This is due to the multiple terminal stops and varying transit times inherent in LTL shipping. The lack of predictable and reliable ETAs translates into delays and dissatisfied customers, up and down the supply chain.

That all changes now, with FourKites’ introduction of Dynamic ETA for LTL (you can read our full announcement here.) Dynamic ETA for LTL freight enables shippers, carriers and 3PLs to track LTL shipments from pre-pickup to proof of delivery, with highly accurate, dynamic and automated ETAs – down to a window of just hours, not days. Improved LTL capabilities also include automated PRO number generation and comprehensive document retrieval capabilities to streamline processing and keep supply chain partners aligned.

How it Works

The scale of real-time freight transit data captured by FourKites is unrivaled. In the last year alone, FourKites has tracked over 3.2 billion miles of LTL freight and millions of individual loads. Our talented  data science team then applied machine learning to analyze those loads together with hundreds of load attributes. All told, the system looked at more than 1.3 trillion combinations to generate a robust and accurate LTL ETA model that offers unprecedented accuracy and granularity when it comes to LTL freight movements. In fact, 80% of initial ETAs fall within two hours of the actual arrival times, which is 6x more accurate than industry-standard ETAs.

The results have been impressive. One major FourKites food and beverage customer experienced a 67% reduction in customer service calls after deploying the service. Their customer service ratings jumped 147% after they began communicating Dynamic ETA times to their customers. And one of the largest food producers in the country experienced 87% more accurate ETAs with FourKites when compared to industry standards, as well as a 1-hour arrival time window, compared to median industry-average windows of 600+ minutes.

The system’s automated PRO and document generation and retrieval capabilities confer additional benefits. For instance, shippers often have to wait for PRO numbers, if they can get them at all. Without a PRO number at origin, shippers must rely on alternative reference numbers – bills of lading, for example – until a PRO number is assigned at a carrier’s origin terminal. After that, they can only hope that the carrier’s system will reference that alternative number. Tracking LTL shipments without a PRO number leads to missed pickups and inability to identify the location of critical freight at any given time. Now, FourKites’ LTL tracking API has the ability to retrieve PRO numbers as well as the associated documents, which makes life easier for shippers and carriers alike.

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These LTL enhancements are undeniably game-changing, adding a missing link that many thought would never be achievable. Armed with highly accurate and granular LTL tracking, shippers are now empowered to move goods with greater speed and confidence, and at reduced cost, driving customer satisfaction in the process. Indeed, this is a new era in LTL freight management.

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