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When your business is packing and shipping fresh fruits and vegetables that you and others have grown, it's imperative that you get that produce across the country to your customers as quickly as possible. However, your concern should not be the minutia of transportation – just where those trucks loaded with perishables are and whether they are set for on-time delivery. That should be something that you can offload onto somebody else to take care of.
For over a year, SunTerra Produce, a shipper of a diverse range of fresh fruits and vegetables, has been able to spin off the headache of keeping tabs on transport to Cargo Chief, a third-party logistics services provider based in Mountain View, Calif.
SunTerra, a national produce brokerage firm headquartered in Newport Beach, Calif., partners with “the best growers in the U.S. and Mexico to provide the most delicious, healthy and safe fruits and vegetables to the finest retail, foodservice, processor, and wholesale customers in North America,” according to Shaun Black, head of the International Produce Exchange, which also serves as the Chicago office of SunTerra.
Appropriately enough, SunTerra’s concern is with food safety. It has multiple in-house quality control team members who are on site at its fields, packing houses and cooling facilities daily. Each phase of SunTerra’s operations undergo regular third-party audits. But moving product is the province of carriers organized by Cargo Chief.
The 3PL, which launched in 2012, says it utilizes a platform that enables seamless integration with carriers and partners – a network of more than 500,000 trucks. Its Cargo Locate technology provides 24/7, real time on-map tracking, instant pricing and automated persistent carrier insurance and safety compliance.
“The value we’ve received from Cargo Chief is in its fantastic technology, which gives us peace of mind and gives our customers a real, actual understanding of where their product and load is and when it’s going to arrive,” says Black. “That seems like a simple concept, but when you’re moving as many loads a week as we do, it can be daunting to gather all of that information.”
Cargo Locate’s triangulation technology tracks the location of a shipment in real time and shows the location on a map from any smartphone or computer. Customers can easily track their own shipments, which relieves SunTerra from having to stay on top of a shipment’s progress.
Cargo Chief has partnered with all major cellular service providers and cellular specialists to deploy Cargo Locate, which leverages cellular tower triangulation to locate the truck driver’s mobile phone. Universal in application, the technology avoids the expense of sending, managing and returning a special GPS device.
Shippers may request Cargo Locate while inputting their requirements for a quote. Prior to responding to quote requests, carriers know that a specific load will require Cargo Locate. By bidding on a load with Cargo Locate, the carrier is pledging that its driver will enable Cargo Locate for that load.
During the loading process, drivers receive a text message on their mobile phone. They simply reply “yes”, which does not generate mobile phone charges for drivers.
When the shipper logs into the Cargo Chief website and clicks “Track”, the provider’s Tomahawk transportation management system sends the driver’s mobile phone number through an integrated API to the mobile phone service provider for the driver’s phone. The distance from that mobile phone and each of the three closest cellular towers is then determined. The longitude and latitude of the phone is calculated and Cargo Locate displays the path and current live location of the shipper’s load on a map, with the route from the origin to the destination highlighted.
Once the TMS has received the update that the load is delivered, the system automatically sends a text to the driver to notify him that his phone is no longer being tracked by Cargo Locate. When he hauls his next Cargo Locate load, he will need to opt in again in order for Cargo Locate to track his phone.
An added bonus is that transportation history is retained. Days, weeks or months after the load has been delivered, clients can quickly navigate to load history and see a map with time stamps detailing the actual historical progress of a specific load.
For Black, the beauty of the technology is that “customers can see with their own eyes where their trucks are on the road, anytime, anywhere. That’s given them the information they need while allowing us not to have to go all through the hoops that we typically have to go through in order to give customers some sort of accountability.”
SunTerra’s is a just-in-time business. Product has to be delivered timely for a number of reasons, not least because there are food safety concerns with perishables, such as fruits and vegetables.
Customers aren’t necessarily looking for “their” trucks unless delivery time is approaching. Traditionally, that’s when the phone calls would come in to SunTerra.
“We’re actually buying and selling every product that goes on a truck,” says Black. “Our core business isn’t to keep track of all of our trucks all of the time. That responsibility has fallen on us because we’re providing transportation.”
It’s a necessary chore, but one that Black is glad to hand over to Cargo Chief. “What our customers look to us for is the lowest cost of goods to deliver to their warehouse. That isn’t to say that customer service isn’t important. It is, and we’re taking that very seriously.”
But that, he says, is exactly why SunTerra is doing business with Cargo Chief. “It allows us to source the right quality products for the right price for our customers. That’s our core business. That’s a real difference maker for us. And it compels me to want to do more business with them.”
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