Freight Goes Digital

Fresh industry faces and sophisticated new tools are making automation a crucial piece of the freight brokerage field.

* By Tom Gresham *

Spurred on by innovative new industry players and the increasingly ambitious investments in technology by the field’s more traditional companies, freight brokerages have taken a major step toward more fully embracing the digital in their processes, leading to rapid changes in the way goods are moved throughout the country. Mark Ford, chief operating officer for MHI member BlueGrace Logistics said those freight brokers who so far have been hesitant to embrace the industry’s digital evolution now face a steep climb to catch up with the competition.

“I think if you haven’t really started the process yet, you’re probably already too late to the party,” Ford said.

In recent years, digital freight brokerages such as Uber Freight, Transfix and Convoy have entered the field and made inroads, bringing with them an on-demand, automated approach to linking carriers with shipping loads through mobile apps, while more traditional brokers themselves have adopted a range of tech tools designed to maximize efficiency and take advantage of the new capabilities that sophisticated technology supplies. Change to the industry has come swiftly.

Jeff Hopper, chief marketing officer for DAT Solutions said freight companies have simple reasons for adopting more digital tools, even if companies vary in how they go about implementing those tools—and the extent to which they integrate them.

“It’s about having the right truck in the right place at the right time with the right load and the right price to move it,” Hopper said. “All at ultra-fast speed and efficiency. That’s what we’re all working toward.”

Many of the newer players that have entered the freight field with a digital approach have been vocal about their belief that the industry has lagged behind others in adopting digital technology, leading to waste and inefficiency. Drew McElroy, founder and CEO of Transfix, said the freight industry has long run on “antiquated methods, such as email, phone calls and manual logging.”

“Once digital freight technology broke the surface, there was inevitably some initial pushback and reluctance, as is the case with any deviation from the traditional way of doing things,” McElroy said. “Now, however, I think there’s been a change in perception. As an industry we have seen just how beneficial these tools have been to improving current processes and overall operations, so as a shipper or carrier I think it would be difficult not to be optimistic about what these tools may mean for the freight space moving forward. Even more so, I think whether companies are enthusiastic about this change or not, the future is growing increasingly digital, which means that making these integrations will be key to staying ahead of the competition.”

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