Transportation and logistics are always under construction. Changing consumer demands, economic swings, legislative reforms – the challenges require constant navigation. Technology’s ability to meet today’s challenges and anticipate tomorrow’s needs represent one of the only constants in supply chain evolution. As the industry continues to enter new territory, technology provides the guidance and paves the way for where transportation is headed next.

The Three C’s
It’s been a bit of a wild ride in transportation and logistics across the last 24 months. When we think about the major challenges in front of us, we can really put them into three major categories that I like to call the “Three C’s” – capacity, clocks or time, and cash flow.

On the capacity front, we’re currently sitting about 50,000 drivers short. Carrier utilization has consistently hovered between 98-103% utilization. Between 2017 and 2018, loads to trucks increased by more than 29%.

Of the capacity we do have, it’s highly fragmented, with about 97% of for-hire carriers comprising fleets of 20 trucks or less.

Normally, to capitalize on a carrier-favored market, fleets would flex up using independent contractors, but with more than $700 million awarded from independent contractor misclassification lawsuits in recent years, fleets are understandably hesitant to leverage an independent contractor model, or to grow the one they already have.

Further compounding the problem is that trucks are only logging about 6.8 productive hours per day. Miles traveled per day also has decreased between 10-20% due to things like the implementation of electronic logging devices (ELDs), redistributions of shipper networks, and overall congestion and traffic.

Therefore, to increase capacity, fleets are paying drivers more. Driver pay has increased by about 12%, which is pushing freight rates higher. By the close of 2018, rates increased around 10-15% with another 5% increase anticipated for 2019.

To combat rising rates, shippers are extending pay terms to improve working capital. More than 40% of shippers pay carriers in 30 days or more. Of the top 1,000 US companies, average days to pay suppliers sits at 57. This creates a major capital and cash flow challenge for carriers.

These challenges collectively are what’s sparking so much innovation and technology deployment in transportation.

Digital Demands
Accenture conducted a study of digital disruption in transportation and logistics. They estimate that companies choosing not to implement a digital strategy in the upcoming years will start to see downward pressures of approximately 3% EBITDA as compared to companies that adopt a digital strategy. Companies digitizing the customer experience, adopting new digital models, or digitizing operations collectively can improve EBITDA by 13%.

It’s numbers like these that have promoted more than $42 billion of investments in transportation and logistics technologies in recent years.

We’re seeing new technology providers gain footholds inside of transportation – names like FreightRover, Uber Freight, Convoy, Transfix, uShip, and project44.

Transportation staples like DAT and Truckstop.com are evolving their models to keep up with where the industry is going.

The traditional, out-of-the-box TMS providers are moving away from their homegrown, proprietary development models to integrate with new technology providers to meet customer demands.

Logistics providers of all sizes are now launching digital freight management models, rather than solely relying on human capital, to bring speed and transparency to their work.

Business as Usual, but Better
However, transportation as a whole generally sits near the end of the Innovation Adoption Curve. Therefore, the technologies that are proving the most successful are the ones that support a “business as usual” mentality, but also bring something better to the table. That’s exactly where FreightRover shines.

FreightRover includes a suite of four platforms designed to streamline supply chain management and to tackle the “Three C’s.”

CarrierHQ is an online marketplace offering cost- and time-saving services to fleets of all sizes. Services include insurance enrollment, fuel savings, business formation, factoring, and pay-by-trip driver settlements. CarrierHQ also assists large fleets in mitigating risk around independent contractor misclassifications by giving entrepreneurial choice to the drivers on which services they choose for their business.

PayEngine automates the back-office work around supplier payments and provides shippers with extended pay terms while allowing carriers and other suppliers to benefit from a customized quick pay program.
Freight xChange provides automated end-to-end freight management and brings shippers and carriers together online.

SmartLTL connects with all major domestic LTL carriers and provides shippers with quote to dispatch in under 60 seconds.

The Future of Transportation Tech
FreightRover is bringing automation and efficiencies to transportation and logistics today, but there is a lot more innovation for the industry on the horizon.

3D printing will significantly increase nearshoring and challenge the industry in how to do a better job of shipping made-to-order products.

We’ll see changes with equipment utilization as we look to maximize the space inside of trailers by leveraging multiple shippers and lanes together. These changes will ultimately alter the way we price truckload freight.

As we progress from EDI to API connections, giving us larger data parcels at quicker speeds, we’ll have an infusion of data to improve the productivity and profitability of our businesses.

The Internet of Things (IoT) not only will improve the way we maintain our equipment by helping with things like pre- and post-trips to ensure we are safe and compliant, but IoT also will transform our offices and homes by creating smart environments that know when products need ordered before we do. We won’t need to get on our phone or push a Dash button to order a product. And, if we think 48 hours is tough to deliver on, changing demands will only shorten the timeliness of the supply chain as consumers want things faster and faster.

However, perhaps the most overlooked area for new innovations comes from ELDs. This data will help us manage detention better to ensure drivers are compensated for their time. Using location and hours of service data, we’ll be able to issue smart notifications to find a truck and driver the perfect piece of freight to maximize productivity.

But, perhaps the most exciting innovation is using ELD data to create behavior-based insurance, which is exactly what Aon and FreightRover have partnered to do. The industry soon will see the launch of a behavior-based auto-liability insurance program using a proprietary algorithm of things like speed and hard-braking to generate a monthly rate by driver. Safe drivers get rewarded with lower rates. Risky behaviors require higher payments. The deck resets monthly, generating a new monthly rate based on the previous month’s driving data.

Not only will this program help create safer roads and control insurance costs, but we also believe this is a stake-in-the-ground moment for truly creating capacity in the industry. Today independent contractors and small fleets have a huge capital outlay of several thousand dollars per truck to purchase insurance. Our program provides a monthly rate, with no upfront investment, deducted through an easy settlement withdrawal. Drivers also can generate real-time quotes and enroll through their mobile phones, connect their equipment, bind the insurance, and be on their way.

It’s truly an exciting time to be in transportation. Where we used to see technology as the great differentiator, we’re now seeing it as the great equalizer. Plus, the technologies we’re talking about aren’t years away, they are happening right now, and they’re changing the way we do business. The journey is just beginning and there is a lot more innovation on the road ahead.

Companies across the US are extending pay terms, leaving suppliers to pay the price.

Days payables outstanding at the nation’s 1,000 largest companies averages nearly 57. More than 40% of all shippers require pay terms greater than 30 days. Some of the nation’s largest companies even stretch days to pay to 120.

Extended pay terms financially strain suppliers, especially smaller businesses susceptible to cash flow struggles. This is particularly true for transportation providers, 97% of which fall into the small business category with fewer than 20 trucks.

Factoring addresses conflicting capital interests between companies and their suppliers by providing accelerated receivables at a fee. If leveraged correctly, factoring improves liquidity and profitability for suppliers. However, lack of understanding sometimes leads people to give factoring a bad rap as a poor business practice rather than a helpful financial tool. Those individuals might be the ones leaving the most money on the table.

Bad Rap #1: “Anyone who factors isn’t running their business properly.”

Transportation requires many large upfront investments for equipment and insurance, in addition to several thousand dollars spent weekly for fuel and pay. Businesses must have good cash flow to survive, which factoring provides. Receivable delays have a ripple effect contributing to financial impacts like late payment fees, loan defaults or credit line interest that could cost a transportation provider more than a factoring fee. Extended pay terms also stymie business growth in an industry currently short 50,000 drivers. Every business is different; therefore, factoring does not indicate poor cash management. Rather it shows companies working to thrive in this very capital-intensive industry.

Bad Rap #2: “I do all the work for you to get paid.”

The right factoring partner should decrease a client’s workload. Good factoring companies, like FreightRover’s partner Rover180, assume responsibilities for much of the back-office work around payments. First, factoring companies check shipper credit before a carrier picks up a load to ensure they are hauling for solvent businesses. Clients then submit invoice images by mobile phone or email. The factor issues payment to the client and collects on the invoice as it becomes due from the payor. The transportation provider can spend their time and resources moving more freight rather than calling multiple shippers collecting on invoices.

Bad Rap #3: “I’ve got bad credit. Factoring won’t help me.”

Factoring cares about the credit worthiness of the shipper/payor, not the payee. Many transportation providers that struggled with credit in the past prefer factoring. It often results in a lower rate than high interest short-term loans and provides quick payments to businesses unable to obtain credit otherwise.

Bad Rap #4: “You never know what you’ll actually be paid when you factor.”

Not all factoring companies are created equal. Understanding the factoring contract is key to managing receivables and knowing deposit amounts in advance. Some factoring companies offer a low invoice factoring rate, and then make additional money from monthly minimum requirements, invoice processing fees, and payment issuances. Other factoring companies might offer a slightly higher factoring rate and eliminate all other fees. Non-recourse agreements command higher rates than recourse. Factoring companies also consider how quickly they receive payment on invoices. Shippers with extended terms beyond 30 days could prompt higher factoring rates on invoices to account for the cash float. Businesses that know their contract and shippers, know their receivable amounts due.

Bad Rap #5: “Factoring costs too much.”

Companies have many financing options for their business, and factoring represents one of them. Transportation providers should compare factoring fees to other options like loans or credit to see what rate works best for their business. Factoring often proves to be the lowest fee option. Many suppliers that factor include the rate in their linehaul agreements with shippers to get paid quickly without compromising overall income. Businesses also benefit from other savings factoring companies may provide around equipment, fuel and insurance.

Factoring also creates some parity among shippers. Freight decisions transition from when a transportation provider will get paid to better metrics like lane quality, utilization and load rate to maximize profitability.

Bad Rap #6: “Factoring takes too long to get paid.”

Factoring issues quick payments by design. If a transportation provider does not receive payment within 24 hours, which is industry standard, a broken process with the factoring company likely exists and it is time to ask questions.

Bad Rap #7: “Once you start factoring, you can never stop.”

Factoring companies work hard to keep your business, but you can cancel based on contract terms. Contracts for reputable factors include defined durations and reasonable termination notice periods. To switch factoring partners, the process typically requires a written notice of termination and an authorization agreement to transfer receivables. The new factoring company will issue notice of assignments on the transportation provider’s behalf to each payor to update them on where to send funds. Switching factoring companies does require coordination between all parties, but the cost savings can be worth the work.

Businesses letting the myths outweigh the math might be missing out on money. To learn more about how the best factoring companies set themselves apart, watch our quick video on FreightRover Factoring, test our savings calculator, or request the right questions to ask factoring companies.

Major parcel carriers are sounding the warning bell on possible significant service disruptions this holiday season, which could dramatically decrease capacity as soon as November 8. This also comes on the heels of announcements of free holiday shipping from Target, Walmart and Amazon to boost sales. With annual ecommerce sales expected to peak during Q418 under already constrained less-than-truckload conditions, losing another 7-10% of total LTL capacity will impact everyone.

What does this mean for you?

You already may be experiencing freight rejections. Many 3PLs are actively directing customers to alternate carriers to keep freight moving. This is tightening capacity across the entire domestic LTL network, an effect felt by all shippers, not just parcel carrier users. As available capacity lessens during the Q4 peak season, rates will rise. Shippers should expect to pay more this season, which means consumers will too.

What can you do about it?

  • Strengthen your bench – many shippers prefer specific LTL carriers, whether for price, service or speed. Despite having a favorite, savvy shippers often establish relationships and rates with multiple LTL carriers to ensure they always have options for moving their goods.
  • Plan ahead – the LTL shipment you’re used to tendering same-day might not move as planned. Give LTL providers as much notice as possible so they can maximize trailer space and routes to move your shipment on time.
  • Know your ‘stuff’ – providing inaccurate information to carriers regarding shipment dimensions, weight or class that impacts their asset utilization is a quick way to get kicked to the curb. It’s also a way to get your shipments left on the dock while working out the details. When competing for capacity, the easiest shippers often get the space.
  • Ask for help – using multiple LTL carriers under different rates without a transportation management system is tricky and time-consuming. Look to leverage a system or 3PL for easy quoting and dispatch that doesn’t break the bank.

How can FreightRover help?

FreightRover’s SmartLTL offers multiple quick fixes for shippers responding to the looming LTL capacity dilemma:

  • Capacity options – The system provides shippers immediate access to multiple carriers specializing in all US regions.
  • Rates – Shippers can leverage their existing carrier rates or use pre-established carrier rates without individual contract negotiations needed.
  • Speed – SmartLTL offers quick quote-to-tender capabilities in under 60 seconds. Shippers receive immediate quotes from multiple carriers and can sort by rate or speed of delivery.
  • Efficiency – Easy data saves accelerate shipment builds. Create the information once, save it, and use the easy search and click option for creating future shipments.
  • In-system shipment tracking – Shippers receive a tracking link at shipment dispatch to monitor their shipment or can leverage the customer service team for shipment information.
  • One-click invoice approval – SmartLTL publishes invoice amounts online for easy review without the unnecessary paperwork.
  • Streamlined payments – FreightRover acts as a third party to issue carrier payments, so shippers move to one payee. This eliminates the need for long carrier onboardings and managing multiple carrier pay terms.

Perhaps most important, regarding the impending capacity question, FreightRover can get shippers operating in the platform within 24 hours. Launch includes three easy steps: 1) agreement signatures, 2) quick system tutorial, and then 3) shipment builds begin.

The system doesn’t require subscription fees or licenses, so shippers only pay a low fee per shipment for SmartLTL access. They can use the system permanently or until LTL capacity returns to normal.

It’s always good to have a Plan B when it comes to shipping. Block some time to think about your alternative strategy as the capacity crunch lingers. SmartLTL is here to help. It makes a great Plan B, but after trying it, we think you’ll consider it your new Plan A.