The phone booth used to be a critical tool for trucking companies, shippers and drivers when it came to tracking shipments. That concept is as ancient as the phone booth, but the desire to track shipments has only intensified in the past few years.
"A big part of what's been driving this is technology," said David Broering, president of non-asset solutions for NFI Industries, "if you think about [how far] we've come in the last 10 years with cell phones and tracking."
Broering was speaking with Dean Croke, chief insights officer for FreightWaves, at FreightWaves LIVE Chicago on Nov. 13, during a discussion titled, "Where's My Truck?! Carrier tracking, transparency & ubiquity." The executive noted that as track-and-trace capabilities improved during that time, an under-the-radar event nearly killed the ability to locate trucks and loads.
"Things changed with the Cambridge Analytica scandal," he said. In that scandal, which occurred during the 2016 presidential race and involved the mining of personal data, a company called LocationSmart, which mined location data for most of the major cell phone companies, decided to stop sharing that data, cutting off a major source of location tracking for the industry.
"A lot of the data on ‘where's my truck' disappeared," Broering said. "I think it slid under the radar because ELDs (electronic logging devices) came on the scene."
This has made it more difficult to track, but it hasn't changed the minds of shippers that want to know where their load is.
"The biggest gap in the expectations of shippers is much bigger in the transactional space than the app space," Broering said, noting that many carriers do not provide drivers with phones, so it is "highly challenging" to get drivers to opt in to location tracking.
The second problem is that location data is more valuable for shippers than it is for carriers at this point. Shippers need to know where the load is and how soon it will be delivered, as this affects their operations; carriers, on the other hand, want to know where the truck is but have not found ways to monetize this data, so it isn't as critical to deploy solutions.
"Our goal is to close the gap," Broering said. "I think that gap is the carriers haven't gotten a lot of value from [the data] while the shipper gets a lot of value."
The question then becomes, how do you add value for the carrier?
"I think the idea of ELDs early on was scary for carriers, and I think the value after [implementation] is [growing]. They are starting to figure out how to use it," Broering noted.
Part of the answer lies in the connectivity of modern systems, making it easier than ever for multiple companies — shippers, brokers, carriers and IT providers — to connect for a single, transparent look at shipments.
"I think the big thing for us is how to close the gap between shipper expectations and [current] track-and-trace capabilities," Broering summed up.