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June 09, 2014

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SURFACE & DOMESTIC TRANSPORTATION 54 THE JOURNAL OF COMMERCE JUNE 9.2014 By William B. Cassidy SHIPPE RS INCREASINGLY ARE turning to technology for solutions to the twin prob- lems of capacity and cost: finding trucks and trimming transportation budgets even as trucking rates rise. Mike Schreiber learned first-hand how fast inefficiency pushes up transportation costs while working at a logistics company and then as a shipper and a truck freight bro- ker in Chicago. "The old model works, and it's been working for quite some time, but it can be really inefficient, in terms of phone calls, paperwork, e-mails," he said. What's needed, he decided, is a new model. He saw one in Uber, which uses loca- tion-based mobile technology to connect cabs, limousines and riders. So last year, Schreiber and Brian LeVert co-founded, a Web-based "virtual marketplace" that, Schreiber said, uses Uber-like technology to help shippers and brokers uncover "invisible" capacity and truckers, especially those who own their own rigs, to quickly find loads to haul at better rates and profit margins. The service went live in February, and a mobile app is being developed. "We thought we could give everyone a more efficient way to handle the process," Schreiber said. "We saw the industry mov- ing toward more technology and thought we had a better way to handle it for each side." FIND ME A MATCH Technology startup develops an Uber-like system to match shippers and over-the-road equipment "We're starting to see the emergence of new technologies to address complicated problems." DRIVER SEARCH TURNS TO BIG DATA TRUCKING COMPANIES ARE turning to technology to recruit, train and keep truck drivers, as qualified job candidates become increasingly dif- ficult to find. Companies such as J.B. Hunt Transport are analyzing so-called Big Data — large amounts of information gathered from multiple sources — to better recruit and manage truck drivers, said Richie Henderson, senior vice president of administration and technology for the fourth-largest U.S. truckload carrier by revenue. "We're certainly leveraging Big Data on the recruiting side, and we're also capturing all the EOBR (electronic onboard recorder) data," Hender- son said at the ALK Transportation Technology Summit in Princeton, New Jersey, in May. "We have great visibility into how many hours drivers are spending on every aspect of their day." Detailed analysis and day-to-day planning are increasingly important to carrier bottom lines in an era of tight truck capacity and stringent driver work rules. "How we plan the driver's day is becoming so much more critical, how we manage customer appointments to avoid detention and maxi- mize driving hours," Henderson said in his keynote speech at the summit, attended by more than 200 trucking, shipping and logistics executives and technology developers. "The data we capture inside the cab (from EOBRs) and through the ECM (the engine's electronic control module) is truly a way we're trying to leverage big data to make better decisions," he said. "We want to make sure we plan in an optimal way." Failing to plan optimally bears a high price tag. Henderson said it costs J.B. Hunt on average $5,965 to replace a truck driver. "It can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000," he said. And that doesn't include the eventual cost to the shipper. J.B. Hunt employs about 13,000 drivers, and this year, the Lowell, Arkansas-based company will hire 11,000 drivers just because of turnover, Henderson said. At only $5,000 each, recruiting those drivers would cost $55 million. "One thing is for sure, this cost is inflationary, and will make its way to the consumer," he said. Using data to increase driver per-mile pay is the ultimate goal if carri- ers want to keep someone at the wheel of their trucks. "We have to tackle the driver wage," Henderson said. "The historical view suggests drivers haven't had a real wage increase in more than seven years." Higher pay alone, however, will only keep a driver until a better offer comes along, he said. "Ultimately it comes down to how drivers are treated, the equipment they're given and how much home time they get," Henderson said. New technologies are emerging that will help. "Routing and schedul- ing technologies and transportation management systems are where people are placing their investment bets," Henderson said. He also cited the use of in-memory processing to get faster access to data and responses to questions when breaking down Big Data. "Data 'discovery' is a word you'll hear more and more," he said. — William B. Cassidy

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