The trucking industry is being rewired, thanks to rapid changes in technology, regulatory and competitive demands and acquisitions and investment. That’s good news for trucking companies and shippers, says Ron Konezny, founder of PeopleNet and now general manager of Trimble’s Transportation and Logistics Division.
“The pervasive theme, which still is very early in its development, is ‘closed loop’ logistics,” Konezny said after Trimble, a $1.64 billion mobile technology company, acquired trucking and logistics software firm TMW Systems for $335 million in cash. The acquisition will help Trimble close the loop for customers, he said, by linking transportation and logistics management with in-cab data collection and combining disparate data to produce “meaningful” results.
“There are changes happening in the back office as companies move beyond data collection to using data for more predictive analytics,” he told the JOC.
The goal is to take information from applications that used to be stand-alone systems, from customer relations and dispatch to electronic onboard computers and vehicle maintenance, and manage operations proactively, not reactively. “The manager not only knows shipment origin and destination points for routing and dispatching; he is tied into the driver’s logbook and knows how many hours he will have, he knows how much fuel is going to be in his fuel tank when he gets to his destination. He can predict where a driver might have a problem,” Konezny said.
That kind of analytical power can make the trucking business more efficient for everyone from the truck driver to the shipper, he said. “You’re offering a much more detailed plan to the driver, so he knows what you expect. You’re tracking performance against that plan and clearly communicating data to the shipper.”
The acquisition of TMW, one of the largest trucking enterprise software players, will combine the Beachwood, Ohio-based company’s fleet and transportation management software with Trimble’s mobile applications, including GPS navigation and driver management systems. Trimble acquired PeopleNet, a mobile communications provider, last year. TMW, founded by entrepreneur Tom Weisz in 1983, also grew through acquisition. Since being acquired by Pamlico Capital and Peppertree Capital in 2005, the $96 million company has purchased Innovative Computing, Maddocks Systems, ISDC, TMT Software and last year Appian Software.
TMW and Trimble also have expanded their reach through partnerships. TMW has 175 partners in its “ecosystem,” Konezny said, including Trimble competitor Qualcomm. That won’t change, he said. “What you’re seeing more of today is what could be called ‘coopetition.’ We cannot hit our objectives if we only work with each other exclusively. We’ll continue to work with (TMW competitor) Tom McLeod Software and Roadnet Technologies, and TMW will continue to work with Qualcomm. What we’re really focused on is the customer’s best interest.”
What’s in the customer’s best interest is innovation that can help carriers reduce costs and help shippers and logistics companies more efficiently manage supply chains. The TMW acquisition should spur greater investment and innovation and integration of technology used to link carriers, shippers, logistics companies and brokers and truck drivers, and possibly more acquisitions and partnerships.