Tech investors pump funding into ‘predictive freight matching’

Tech investors pump funding into ‘predictive freight matching’

Trucker Tools smartphone app.

The question shippers are asking is, “If you see the freight, can’t you let me know where there’s carrier capacity available?” Photo credit: Trucker Tools.

Demand for truck capacity has never been higher, and that’s encouraging investment in technology that can help brokers find capacity and carriers make the most of the capacity they already have. Investors pumped an additional $4.4 million into Trucker Tools, which develops software that helps carriers manage capacity and brokers match loads and available trucks.

Predictive freight matching

The end goal of Trucker Tools and its competitors is predictive freight matching, the ability to line up capacity for freight, and vice versa, before freight space is needed, eliminating empty miles and reducing overall costs at a time when truck rates are rising by double digits.

The question shippers are asking is, “If you see the freight, can’t you let me know where there’s carrier capacity available?” Mike Dieter, chief technology officer of Transplace, said at the third-party logistics company’s recent shipper symposium in Frisco, Texas. Third-party logistics companies and technology firms are investing time and capital to answer that question.

“We are helping carriers squeeze the best loads at the right time onto every truck they have, limiting downtime and using every possible hour of available capacity,” Prasad Gollapalli, founder and CEO of the Virginia-based Trucker Tools, said Thursday. “That reduces wasted capacity and helps optimize the carrier’s network and the driver’s available hours.”

The $4.4 million came from current investors in the company’s first major round of funding. Trucker Tools isn’t a digital startup, although it’s jostling with younger firms looking for a stake in a hot freight market. The company has been in business, developing its capacity tools, since 2009, two years after the iPhone ushered in a new era of mobile apps and technology.

The firm’s mobile driver app, introduced in 2013, connected truck drivers with shippers and brokers, helping small carriers and independents find loads, optimize routes, scan and send documents, and secure payment for services. That phone-based app, which has been downloaded by more than 500,000 truckers, is the basis for its Smart Capacity platform.

App released just as capacity really tightened

Trucker Tools rolled out Smart Capacity in September 2017, just as capacity in the US tightened dramatically in the wake of hurricanes Harvey and Irma and more robust economic growth. The platform connects truckers, brokers, and shippers and is designed to help streamline the flow of information, creating more opportunity for predictive matching of freight and equipment.

The ability to know where capacity will be available is “a real game changer for the brokerage industry, and capacity in general in our industry,” said Randy Mullett, principal at Mullett Strategies and an investor in Trucker Tools and member of its board. The goal is to crunch data to know where shipments are headed and where trucks will be needed.

“A lot of people have talked about being able to do this, but it’s not as easy as flipping a switch,” said Mullett, formerly a government relations executive with a major national less-than-truckload carrier. “The biggest challenge is it really changes the way brokers do their jobs. Right now they’re dialing for capacity, looking for trucks. They want to be dialing for revenue.”

In other words, the platform will give brokers better insight into where capacity will be, allowing them to spend more time searching for profitable loads farther in advance. “It’s a great service for shippers because the broker can say five days in advance that a load is covered.” That “predictive” capability could also help carriers and brokers reduce freight rates and costs.

The $4.4 million investment will help Trucker Tools accelerate development of the Smart Capacity platform and integration with transportation management systems and enterprise resource management systems. On the trucking side, “Our critical mass of connected capacity continues to grow,” Gollapalli said. “We’re just at the tip of the iceberg,” Mullett said.

Contact William B. Cassidy at bill.cassidy@ihsmarkit.com and follow him on Twitter: @willbcassidy.

 

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