The Ultimate Guide to Real-Time Transportation Visibility Platforms

Your guide to the ins and outs of real-time transportation visibility (RTTV)
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The past year has seen unprecedented growth in the number of companies implementing real-time transportation visibility platforms (RTTVPs) to streamline their operations.

In a guest presentation at FourKites’ Visibility 2020 user conference, Gartner Research VP Bart De Muynck reinforced the idea that more and more companies are realizing the importance of real-time visibility in the supply chain, and investing accordingly.

“Visibility has become a core part of logistics technology. It plays a complementary function that supports transportation management, warehouse management, yard management, and fleet management.”

Bart de Muynck, Research VP, Transportation Technologies, Gartner

On this page, you’ll find the definitive guide to understanding, implementing and benefiting from real-time transportation technology for your organization. You’ll read about real-world success stories from major companies and enterprises, tips and tricks from professionals currently operating in this space, and advice from thought leaders like Gartner on how to best maximize your investment in this technology.

We’ll also cover some compelling success stories from leading global companies that have invested in real-time transportation data, as well as key factors to consider when evaluating one or more of the many different vendors in this rapidly emerging space.

Ready to go? Let’s dive in!

What Is a Real-Time Transportation Visibility Platform?

Real-time transportation visibility platforms are software tools that provide companies and consumers with live updates on the location and status of goods they have ordered. This information most often comes from dedicated GPS and telematics hardware located on the truck, trailer or container that is transporting the goods, and is activated as soon as the shipment leaves the manufacturer or warehouse facility.

Why Is Real-Time Transportation Visibility Important?

In this age of rising consumer expectations, giving individuals and businesses insight into the status of their deliveries is crucial to ensuring customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. Collecting real-time transportation visibility data offers companies the ability to deliver not only the physical products consumers paid for, but also the valuable, intangible benefits of improved customer experience and peace of mind.

Moreover, having accurate, reliable data on the location of inbound shipments allows companies, such as retailers, manufacturers and others to act swiftly and decisively in the face of disruptions, rather than having to guess at the best course of action.

Benefits of Real-Time Transportation Visibility Platforms

In addition to the customer experience improvements described above, investment in real-time visibility offers a range of benefits and ROI opportunities for companies of all sizes and industries.

As Gartner VP Bart de Muynck stated during Visibility 2020, “As supply chain companies strive to become more agile, they increasingly use visibility to move from reactive to preventive in the way they operate.”

In the context of a global pandemic, de Muynck says Gartner has identified multiple use cases where end-to-end, real-time visibility users have been able to attain immediate benefits from their tools. Five of these use cases are as follows:

  1. Access to Real-Time, Actual Data: Global transportation visibility allows companies to counteract the spread of false, inaccurate or sensational information among their workforce, as well as to better filter through the vast amounts of incoming information and focus on detecting and resolving exceptions.
  2. Detection of Actual Stops and Breaks: Visualizing where and how long trucks and containers have been delayed along their journey has enabled shippers and carriers to better understand the situation and potentially reroute transports where they’re needed most.
  3. Country Border Wait Times: The situation at national borders has been in a constant state of flux since the beginning of the COVID pandemic. Having live data into delays at both border crossings and ports of entry enables transportation planners to choose the most efficient routes despite unpredictable circumstances.
  4. Activity of Carriers and Capacity: In the midst of a global capacity shortage, understanding not only how much capacity is available, but also how to free up additional capacity is a major advantage that real-time visibility can grant shippers and carriers alike.
  5. Collaboration Between Shippers: Having real-time insight into supply chain performance opens up new avenues for collaboration among shippers, in the form of lane sharing, improved handoffs, enhanced communications and more.

Real-Time Transportation Visibility: Success Stories

Though still a relatively young category of technology, the world of real-time visibility is full of success stories from companies and individuals making intelligent use of comprehensive data to drive major improvements throughout their operations.

One of the earliest avenues for achieving strong returns on your visibility investment is the reduction and reallocation of existing labor costs. As companies are able to automate tasks that once required entire teams to accomplish, those personnel will be able to refocus on achieving tasks that can add a greater level of value to the business and its customers.

Pixelle, one of North America’s leading paper and packaging companies, witnessed a rapid reduction in track-and-trace calls after choosing to implement a real-time visibility solution. Within less than a year of investing in the new technology, Pixelle’s leadership observed that emails sent by load planners, carriers and customer service groups trying to locate a particular shipment had been cut nearly in half.


Schreiber Foods, the recent recipient of one of FourKites’ annual Golden Kite Awards, used real-time transportation visibility to supplement their existing process for approving carrier detention time requests. By cross-referencing incoming carrier requests for detention time with existing real-time visibility data, Schreiber was able to cut down on unsubstantiated requests, saving money on fees and reducing the overall number of detention requests received by 15% in 2020.

Kraft-Heinz, another recent Golden Kite winner, leveraged their real-time visibility investment to not only help their bottom line, but those in need as well. For over three years, they’ve fine-tuned their ability to streamline transportation management using real-time transportation data. During the early days of the COVID pandemic, they adapted that approach to their efforts with Feeding America, working to optimize their process for getting food to those most in need even as demand for such assistance grew to unprecedented levels.

These are far from the only stories of success and innovation using real-time transportation visibility. Other FourKites’ customers – including some of the largest shippers in the world – have successfully leveraged FourKites’ real-time transportation visibility capabilities to:

  • Reduce detention costs by $10 million annually
  • Slash transportation-related customer service calls by 65%
  • Save $300K-$500K per month on fines and penalties

Quantifying the ROI of Supply Chain Visibility

In this infographic, FourKites outlines the 8 major areas in which shippers can derive value from real-time visibility, and highlights success stories from top global customers.

Key Factors to Consider When Evaluating Real-Time Transportation Visibility Platforms

As the market for global, end-to-end transportation visibility continues to grow, the number and variety of product offerings within this space will continue to increase, as well. Given the rapidly globalizing nature of the supply chain industry, and the increasingly urgent need for technology solutions to help navigate disruption, savvy companies would be wise to seek out technology solutions that will grow with them — adding new features, functionalities and geographies to suit both customer demand and the emerging capabilities of the technology itself.

Some key factors to keep in mind when deciding among RTTVP providers include:

  • Carrier Connectivity: Platforms should have a robust operation for onboarding and managing carriers, as well as a strong carrier network both domestically and internationally.
  • Status and Condition Tracking: In addition to location tracking, look out for real-time transportation visibility solutions that offer the ability to track status of shipments, such as temperature, as well.
  • Integration With Core Business Systems: Visibility is not a replacement for the TMS; rather, the visibility solution you select should offer seamless out-of-the-box integration with your TMS, ERP, etc.
  • Multimodal Capabilities: If your business moves freight by a variety of modes (e.g., full truckload, LTL, ocean, rail), then your visibility solution should be able to track all of these modes, as well. Don’t try to stitch together offerings from companies with different specialities; one of the most powerful aspects of RTTV is the ability to view your entire supply chain within a single pane of glass.

In addition to these key areas of concern, there are several other functionalities that may benefit your operation:

  • Yard-level Visibility: More advanced solutions will pair in-transit visibility data with the ability to monitor performance in the yard, giving you increased granularity and insight into where delays and bottlenecks are occurring.
  • PO-level Tracking: If keeping an eye on individual products is a priority for your organization, you’ll want to go with a solution that can accommodate these requirements, rather than simply sending you blanket updates on the status of a truck or trailer.
  • Advanced Analytics: Such products can offer detailed insights into loads requiring immediate attention, performance of individual lanes and facilities, even the carbon footprint of your entire supply chain.

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In conclusion, real-time transportation visibility platforms (RTTVPs) are quickly moving out of the realm of emerging technologies and becoming a pillar of the modern business enterprise. The benefits derived from RTTVPs are extensive and far-reaching, regardless of industry, geography or company size. However, it is precisely because of this rapid growth that you will want to take a detailed approach to choosing the platform that is right for your organization and that can scale with you as you grow.

Ready to make the leap to choosing a real-time transportation visibility solution for your business? Contact our team to find out more.

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