Technology has been instrumental in ushering operational efficiency across large swathes of the freight hauling space, utilizing data in ways that were virtually unheard of a decade before. Data analytics and machine learning have impacted the industry in several ways, identifying inefficiencies within processes and providing insights to foster frictionless freight movement.

Nonetheless, industry fragmentation has made it difficult for technology to penetrate the market depths; many small fleets and owner-operators are still in the dark with regard to driving value through data analytics. Fundamental to this process is data acquisition, and the need for fleet managers to train their drivers and the back office in adhering to reporting practices that simplify data collection.

Channeling this process via a transportation management system (TMS) is key; such a system helps to plan, execute and optimize a fleet’s performance. To understand how a TMS could identify inefficiencies within operations, it is vital to understand the relevance of organized end-to-end reporting that is enforced within a TMS.

Traditionally, fleets have suffered from a lack of visibility within the freight supply chain, which consequently results in carriers running thousands of deadhead miles even when there are shippers within the system that are in search of capacity. Fleets also find it hard to track and trace their trucks while they are hauling on the road. Tracking a truck would help management understand driver behavior, fuel consumption, idling time and even braking frequency – parameters that can be vital to identify areas that could be improved for better operational efficiency.

Inefficiencies that are left unnoticed often end up burning through the fleet’s bottom line. For example, if a fleet does not have visibility into the movement of its trucks, it cannot keep tabs on deliveries in real-time, and thus will not be able to step in if a truck runs into unexpected trouble – like an accident or excessive downtime at the warehouse. These inefficiencies will eventually creep into customer service, as the lack of visibility into operations makes it difficult for management to provide its clients with relevant real-time updates on their load.

Leading TMS provider nVision Global’s system, for instance, helps shippers identify the proper mode for the shipment, integrates with the vendor or customer, maps the shipment, integrates a spot quote module and tendering and provides real-time visibility of the shipment and bill of lading creation, among other functionality.

That said, incorporating a TMS within fleet operations is not just about creating real-time visibility over truck movement, but about exerting greater control over the supply chain – including improved driver satisfaction and retention.

For instance, consider the case of invoice submissions. Invoices, like most other freight-related documents, have largely been paper-based; the freight community as a whole has been slow to switch over to cloud-based electronic documents. Using a TMS would mean drivers can file invoices immediately and get paid faster, as they need not wait to return to a terminal or the back office to submit documents. Putting documents on the cloud helps gain customers’ goodwill as well, as it cuts down the paper documentation that shippers need to work on for moving their load.

Because of the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate, trucks are equipped with devices that record data like a driver’s hours-of-service and engine data to determine when a truck is moving, idle or shut down. Modern transportation management systems can integrate seamlessly with ELD loggers, while allowing fleet managers to collect data that helps automate routes, analyze loads and understand driver behavior.

Recent reports show that e-commerce is expected to grow in the double digits over the next few years, which will increase the need for trucking companies to look at “weaponizing” data and reducing operational inefficiencies to stay ahead of their competition. Incorporating a TMS like nVision Global’s that collects all this data and helps turn it into useful data can improve personnel training and lead to increased efficiencies. TMS adoption is a definitive step in the right direction toward not only surviving in the future but prospering.

Originally posted at:Freight Waves