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.

When people think of artificial intelligence (AI), they often conjure movie scenes with robots taking over the world. Tech entrepreneur Elon Musk hasn’t helped that image by calling AI the world’s “greatest existential threat.” While great for the box office, these misrepresent AI and discount its tremendous benefits for nearly every aspect of our lives.

Driver-assisted cars, improved customer experiences, cancer detection, and wildlife conservation – artificial intelligence is powering it all, but that’s just a small portion of how AI impacts our everyday lives.

What is artificial intelligence?

Artificial intelligence comprises computer systems able to perform work typically limited to human intelligence. Machines use large amounts of data and its patterns to learn tasks. The technology becomes “intelligent” over time through experience to achieve decision-making abilities comparable to humans. Using this learning, AI creates automation for specific activities typically performed by humans.

Is AI the end of the workforce as we know it?

Former Alphabet Inc. Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt shared a story of automation at the Global Digital Futures Policy Forum in 2017. The introduction of ATMs in 1969 was thought to be the elimination of teller jobs in the banking industry. However, the number of tellers doubled between 1970 and 2010. ATMs allowed banks to operate with fewer tellers, which supported the opening of more banks, increasing teller jobs overall. The moral of the story? While artificial intelligence will change job duties over time, it doesn’t necessarily mean the elimination of jobs.

Doug Thompson, president of Agilify Automation, which specializes in machine learning, often gets asked about AI’s impact on staffing. He doesn’t see AI automating whole jobs, but instead giving higher-level cognitive opportunities for staff and leaving lesser tasks to computers. When speaking to the Indianapolis Customer Experience Professionals Association recently, he said, “If a company doesn’t remain competitive, people will lose their jobs. If a company applies AI to process more volume at higher quality, they remain very competitive and don’t have to eliminate jobs.”

What are AI’s major benefits?

Resource savings

AI is a time and money saver for organizations. Traditional IT projects often require long development cycles with expensive internal or external human capital attached. Machine learning projects by comparison can be deployed more rapidly with less money. Surveyed organizations at the forefront of AI adoption report seeing up to 44% cost savings on projects. AI also brings new tech to legacy systems. The risks associated with switching CRMs or ERPs keeps many businesses on outdated technology. With the assistance of subject matter experts within the business to identify areas for automation, machine learning can bring new life to existing systems at a significantly lower cost than adopting a new management system.

Data discovery

Approximately 90% of the world’s data was created in the last two years. This glut of information presents prime opportunities for machine learning. Unlike humans, artificial intelligence can analyze vast amounts of data quickly. Businesses can leverage information never considered before to create competitive gains.

Connectivity

Artificial intelligence works across systems and can streamline multiple databases. Consider a customer service representative working with clients of various product lines. Information often sits within different systems requiring CSRs to access multiple data sets to generate solutions. You know it’s happening when you hear, “Can I put you on hold for a moment?” Artificial intelligence brings this data together rapidly allowing CSRs to quickly access answers to improve customer experience.

Error Reductions

AI lives on data inputs. Clean information eliminates errors caused by human interpretation. AI also minimizes person-to-person knowledge deterioration when training. Machine learning brings continuity to job-related tasks and the timing of their delivery across staff for better employee management. Machines, unlike humans, also don’t take vacations or get sick. Their work is always as good as the data given to them and they can work continuously.

What can be automated?

Think of AI like an Excel macro – it learns repetitive tasks and executes them as many times as needed. Ask your staff what tasks they do daily. Where do they get the information and what steps are taken to complete the task? How much time would be saved in automating the task? What additional work could replace that time? AI automation time adds up quickly. Even 60 seconds a day across 80 associates generates significant opportunities in an eight-hour work day for a company.

Does FreightRover use AI?

FreightRover’s affiliate partner Rover180 recently announced its acquisition of Vemity, an Indiana-based company specializing in artificial intelligence automation and machine learning. As a result, FreightRover will soon integrate artificial intelligence into its PayEngine platform to improve invoicing and supply chain payment processing. Vemity’s technology allows PayEngine to harness often overlooked data to reduce manual work, improve invoice accuracy, and increase payment velocity for buyers and vendors along the supply chain. The technology provides better payment processing scalability without increased time and effort.

What’s Next for AI?

According to The Brookings Institution, the US currently spends approximately $1.1 billion annually on non-classified AI projects compared to China’s commitment of $150 billion over the next decade to the technology. To stay competitive, President Trump recently signed an executive order called the “American AI Initiative” to dedicate more federal resources toward artificial intelligence advancement.

We will continue to operate in an AI-filled world with new discoveries happening in nearly every sector including healthcare, manufacturing, retail, and finance. Unlike the Hollywood movies, rather than robots taking over the world, they will be helping to solve the world’s challenges. To quote HubSpot, AI isn’t “human versus machine. It is human and machine versus a problem.” With that in mind, the opportunities are endless.

FreightRover’s PayEngine provides a mutually beneficial supply chain finance program for companies and their vendors. Companies benefit from extended pay terms to improve working capital while providing their suppliers with tailored options for accelerated receivables.

Despite the wins supply chain finance provides both parties, many companies hesitate to implement a structured payable program due to balance sheet concerns. Poorly managed programs can result in trade payables reclassifications to debt, which negatively impact leverage ratios and debt covenants.

PayEngine’s program meets all trade payables accounting standards to protect a company’s balance sheet and bottom line. Following is our guide to understand the difference between a trade payable and debt in a supply chain finance program.

The First Question:
Has the economic substance of the trade payable changed?

When accountants review payables classifications on the balance sheet, they look at each of the following categories to assess if the trade payable has been modified in such a way that it is creating a financing cash inflow that benefits the company. Accountants will look at the categories collectively to assess the entire supply chain finance program as well.

Terms:

  • Settlement of trade payables cannot take place at a date later than or for an amount other than what is stated on the original invoice upon submission to a third-party payor. Doing so would be considered borrowing, which is debt.
  • A new trade payables arrangement cannot change the terms between a supplier and a third-party payor that’s inconsistent with normal trade payables terms.
  • The company cannot participate in or influence term negotiations between the supplier and third-party payor. The vendor and third-party must negotiate directly.

Population Impacts:

  • A trade payables arrangement must apply to a broad range of suppliers. However, the program does not need to include all suppliers. Companies can extend days to pay without all vendors accepting the new terms if most suppliers do comply.
  • Supplier participation in a supply chain finance program must be voluntary. If enrolling is required to maintain a relationship with the company, a debt reclassification may be required.
  • Should a large majority of suppliers impacted by extended pay terms select an accelerated pay option, which marks a significant change from the previous arrangement, this could trigger a debt reclassification. For example, if a company extends terms from 30 days to 120 days and now most of their supplier base elects to monetize receivables and did not prior to the change, this would require review as potential debt.

Benchmarks:

  • Companies can extend pay terms to align days payable outstanding or other working capital ratios with peers without changing the structure of their payables to debt financing. As a reference point, the US average across the largest 1000 companies currently is 57 days.
  • Trade payables should not include the accrual of interest prior to when the trade payables become due. Late payments can incur interest without reclassification impact.

Credits:

  • A company must retain its negotiation rights with the vendor directly and have the ability to withhold payment. Application of credits must be consistent with past practices. For example, if a company places a freight claim against a carrier, they should have the ability to withhold payment to the carrier until the issue is resolved. If a third-party payor compensates the carrier prior to the completion of the claim negotiation, and the company must arrange for a credit that’s inconsistent with how they’ve traditionally done business with the carrier, there could be a debt implication.
  • Whether or not a vendor decides to monetize their receivable cannot impact the company’s cost of goods sold or services received from a vendor. The third-party’s arrangement with the vendor and company must be independent of the other party’s interests. Therefore, a company cannot pay a vendor more to offset the cost of accelerated receivables.

Legal Characteristics:

  • Companies cannot change the legal characteristic of trade payables. Events that indicate characteristic changes include: immediate draw-down of credit lines, altering trade payable seniorities, securing trade payables through collateral, or incorporating default provisions.
  • In general, trade payables cannot have guarantees. However, in the case of a parent company being “jointly and severally liable for a subsidiary’s obligation,” a reclassification may not be required if it is the sole indication of a debt trait.

Impact of Third-Party Payor:

  • Implementing a structured payables program may be part of a larger accounting outsourcing strategy. This could include using a third-party platform like FreightRover’s PayEngine, which includes posting invoices and assigning accounts for fund withdrawals as payables reach their maturity date.
  • Rates paid to the third-party payor by the company cannot vary based on things like the number of vendors selecting a quick pay option or number of invoices sold to the third-party.
  • Red flags for debt reclassifications include: the third-party receiving new rights, if the third-party has influence on which invoices get paid, or if the third-party can withdraw funds from the company’s other accounts without consent if sufficient funds become unavailable.

If you are interested in learning more on trade payables or modifying your vendor payments using PayEngine’s technology and supply chain finance program, visit www.freightrover.com/pay, email info@freightrover.com, or call 866-621-4145.

FreightRover’s PayEngine provides a mutually beneficial supply chain finance program for companies and their vendors. Companies benefit from extended pay terms to improve working capital while providing their suppliers with tailored options for accelerated receivables.

Despite the wins supply chain finance provides both parties, many companies hesitate to implement a structured payable program due to balance sheet concerns. Poorly managed programs can result in trade payables reclassifications to debt, which negatively impact leverage ratios and debt covenants.

PayEngine’s program meets all trade payables accounting standards to protect a company’s balance sheet and bottom line. Following is our guide to understand the difference between a trade payable and debt in a supply chain finance program.

The First Question:
Has the economic substance of the trade payable changed?

When accountants review payables classifications on the balance sheet, they look at each of the following categories to assess if the trade payable has been modified in such a way that it is creating a financing cash inflow that benefits the company. Accountants will look at the categories collectively to assess the entire supply chain finance program as well.

Terms:

  • Settlement of trade payables cannot take place at a date later than or for an amount other than what is stated on the original invoice upon submission to a third-party payor. Doing so would be considered borrowing, which is debt.
  • A new trade payables arrangement cannot change the terms between a supplier and a third-party payor that’s inconsistent with normal trade payables terms.
  • The company cannot participate in or influence term negotiations between the supplier and third-party payor. The vendor and third-party must negotiate directly.

Population Impacts:

  • A trade payables arrangement must apply to a broad range of suppliers. However, the program does not need to include all suppliers. Companies can extend days to pay without all vendors accepting the new terms if most suppliers do comply.
  • Supplier participation in a supply chain finance program must be voluntary. If enrolling is required to maintain a relationship with the company, a debt reclassification may be required.
  • Should a large majority of suppliers impacted by extended pay terms select an accelerated pay option, which marks a significant change from the previous arrangement, this could trigger a debt reclassification. For example, if a company extends terms from 30 days to 120 days and now most of their supplier base elects to monetize receivables and did not prior to the change, this would require review as potential debt.

Benchmarks:

  • Companies can extend pay terms to align days payable outstanding or other working capital ratios with peers without changing the structure of their payables to debt financing. As a reference point, the US average across the largest 1000 companies currently is 57 days.
  • Trade payables should not include the accrual of interest prior to when the trade payables become due. Late payments can incur interest without reclassification impact.

Credits:

  • A company must retain its negotiation rights with the vendor directly and have the ability to withhold payment. Application of credits must be consistent with past practices. For example, if a company places a freight claim against a carrier, they should have the ability to withhold payment to the carrier until the issue is resolved. If a third-party payor compensates the carrier prior to the completion of the claim negotiation, and the company must arrange for a credit that’s inconsistent with how they’ve traditionally done business with the carrier, there could be a debt implication.
  • Whether or not a vendor decides to monetize their receivable cannot impact the company’s cost of goods sold or services received from a vendor. The third-party’s arrangement with the vendor and company must be independent of the other party’s interests. Therefore, a company cannot pay a vendor more to offset the cost of accelerated receivables.

Legal Characteristics:

  • Companies cannot change the legal characteristic of trade payables. Events that indicate characteristic changes include: immediate draw-down of credit lines, altering trade payable seniorities, securing trade payables through collateral, or incorporating default provisions.
  • In general, trade payables cannot have guarantees. However, in the case of a parent company being “jointly and severally liable for a subsidiary’s obligation,” a reclassification may not be required if it is the sole indication of a debt trait.

Impact of Third-Party Payor:

  • Implementing a structured payables program may be part of a larger accounting outsourcing strategy. This could include using a third-party platform like FreightRover’s PayEngine, which includes posting invoices and assigning accounts for fund withdrawals as payables reach their maturity date.
  • Rates paid to the third-party payor by the company cannot vary based on things like the number of vendors selecting a quick pay option or number of invoices sold to the third-party.
  • Red flags for debt reclassifications include: the third-party receiving new rights, if the third-party has influence on which invoices get paid, or if the third-party can withdraw funds from the company’s other accounts without consent if sufficient funds become unavailable.

If you are interested in learning more on trade payables or modifying your vendor payments using PayEngine’s technology and supply chain finance program, visit www.freightrover.com/pay, email info@freightrover.com, or call 866-621-4145.