The precarious state of global supply chains has sent shipping rates soaring, and carrier capacity remains a precious commodity. As congestion, shortages and cash flow continue to threaten ailing operations, how can shippers guarantee timely delivery?
Leveraging a freight marketplace can mitigate several issues shippers and carriers are facing. Here’s how.
Appointments themselves have become a precious commodity, especially given the congestion and backlog at the ports. This is an incredibly frustrating issue, considering half of all appointments are going unfulfilled. What’s worse, dual transactions at ports are commonplace, but often require stops at multiple terminals.
Leveraging a marketplace that automatically polls terminal websites, books appointments and returns, allows carriers to more rapidly pick up and deliver cargo. This is a way to avoid delays in the process that might mean missed appointments (i.e. waiting to return an empty at one terminal while an appointment gets issued).
To help ensure real-time scheduling, some platforms have even invested in API connectivity to terminals.
APIs are developed for specific purposes like unlocking data from systems, transferring data into processes or integrating software, and enabling communication between them. Essentially, APIs allow computer programs to communicate effectively. This type of connection significantly increases the likelihood of securing appointments promptly, helping drivers move between destinations with the minimal waiting time. The top capacity marketplaces all have some sort of API strategy in place to handle the programming side of things.
In addition to congestion, increased throughput at the ports also creates chassis shortages. In turn, these shortages are spiking container dwell times across the U.S., and its carriers who are being left to fend for themselves.
An obvious answer might be to build more chassis. However, it takes a long time to create new equipment. As it stands, manufacturers can't build chassis fast enough to fill the influx of orders already in the queue. The issue is more about getting containers delivered, unloaded and terminated in a timely manner, to free up chassis. Adding more chassis to the mix, though a short term fix, will have many carriers left with excess assets when the market stabilizes. This approach also has a component of "building the church for Easter Sunday." While chassis shortages have been prevalent over the years, a lack of goods in motion exacerbates the issue. If a container is parked on top of a chassis, that chassis is obviously unavailable. If containers are being moved off chassis instead of parked at yards, the chassis shortage is far less of an issue.
This is a case of utilization vs. capacity, and marketplaces can increase the former, while mitigating the need for the latter. Independent marketplaces can also help ease much of the strain. Driven by robust technology, these platforms offer shippers, owner-operators and fleet managers predictive load matching technologies that connect carriers with available loads. This helps trucking companies focus on moving loads and spend less time on fleet management.
Terminal Wait Time
A lack of reliable information regarding container status is a significant issue. The inability to accurately ascertain the location eventually leads to wasted time and resources. But the integration of technology and data sharing in real-time can help align the various players and improve the reliability of the data transferred between them. That's why choosing a platform with direct integrations (API/EDI) with the multiple touchpoints in the supply chain (from BCO to freight forwarder, SSL, terminal and carrier) is so important.
Alignment of processes and technologies will help ensure the accuracy of important data as it flows through several layers of processing. However, each hop in the chain presents an opportunity for data to be corrupted. As such, a direct link not only eliminates time delays it eliminates data issues as well. But given the patchwork of systems and processes, optimizing collaboration between all the players in the supply chain can be difficult.
Carriers need to confirm that their provider can reliably unite the various players in the supply chain. It's also good to ask if they can verify the accuracy of their data. Those that can do both can significantly reduce congestion and keep drivers moving.
Data integration between terminals, shippers and carriers, allows for timely and accurate updates across the logistics landscape. For carriers, this means more rapid payouts across the board, since most shippers anticipate a complete picture of their freight’s journey before payment will be approved.
Secondary to faster pay, it also means the ability to execute more moves, especially at terminals, allowing drivers multiple turns at ports and increased income that comes from carrying more loads.
In the end, the right technology and marketplace can change the dynamic, mainly when it can be used to better align all the critical processes and players within the supply chain. Technology solutions can also create more transparency, which will improve the overall speed and reliability of data within the industry — the result being improved communication around capacity, container status yard availability, chassis, pricing and more.
Corey Riggins is vice president of capacity at NEXT Trucking.
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