Commercial Carrier Journal: Can motor carriers prevent their data from being a commodity?

By Aaron Huff | June 1, 2020

With industry-wide use of ELDs and fleet telematics technology, motor carriers may be concerned that the information they are providing to shippers has become a commodity.

As noted in this recent CCJ article, many shippers now require automatic shipment updates to be sent directly from carriers’ ELD systems and transportation management software (TMS) via integration with third-party freight visibility platforms.

Visibility platforms aggregate tracking data from carriers and give shippers a control-tower view of shipments in progress. Having internal visibility of shipments for early, on time and late arrivals is not enough for shippers to compete in an age of e-commerce. They also need to give their own customers a “continuous delivery experience” similar to that of Amazon, said Adam Compain, founder and CEO of ClearMetal.

A continuous delivery experience centers on the end customer having reliable, end-to-end visibility of shipment status.

ClearMetal gathers shipment data from carriers and transforms it to insights that shippers use for planning and execution by having accurate lead times, predictive ETAs and real-time exception alerts. As a freight visibility company, it uses machine learning and AI to predict and validate accurate lead times for shipments across all transportation modes (ocean, rail and ground) to give shippers the information they need to provide their own customers with a continuous delivery experience, Compain said.

The company works with motor carriers that do business with its shipper customers. In general, shippers continue to expect transportation providers to give more information and value-added services to make real-time decisions and stay competitive. The premise of ClearMetal, founded in 2014, is that transportation is no longer about metal assets but “seeing through that and paying attention to data beneath,” Compain explained. Carriers, 3PLs see ‘Amazon Effect’ on shipper visibility expectations New technologies continue to enter the supply chain, creating new customer expectations for carriers and 3PLs to meet.

Rather than view freight visibility vendors as another middleman, motor carriers that work with ClearMetal, and other visibility providers, are looking to ensure that shipment tracking and other data they provide is a cut above the rest. Visibility companies can help by identifying and correcting errors in the data received from carriers as well as getting business systems to share data in the format that shippers require.

Compain said that ClearMetal is helping carriers meet the expectations of shippers by giving carriers the flexibility to “throw data at us in a raw form to reduce their expenses.”

Motor carriers may no longer have the advantages of working directly with shippers to provide tracking and other information that their competitors are unable to match. Increasingly, they find themselves working with freight visibility suppliers to refine and augment the information they provide to gain a market advantage.

“The game to us is not aggregation but how to make sense of data and what other insights and customer experiences you can create,” Compain said.

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Inbound Logistics: What Is a Continuous Delivery Experience and How Has COVID-19 Increased Its Importance in the Supply Chain?