Automated Dispatch Keeps Freight and Drivers Moving
Freight dispatch technology has moved to the cloud, supporting advanced analytics that matches drivers with the best loads and powers a same-day economy.
There’s a nearly invisible economy of freight buying, truck dispatch, and routing technology that powers every “same-day delivery” message we find on countless websites. Moving freight in under 24 hours is now commonplace, but shipping products any distance used to require weeks of planning and multiple days of driving.
Getting what we want near-instantaneously is largely due to better freight dispatch software and mapping technologies. Truck drivers can now quickly see local jobs, and platforms can automatically optimize routes to avoid delays due to bad weather and traffic, which previously added days to moves.
The logistics industry has come a long way, and when we look back at its evolution, arguably the most impactful developments have happened in the last three decades.
A Brief Look at Early Web Mapping Technology
Geographic information systems started with the early computer systems of the 1960s to help people and organizations understand spatial relationships. Satellite navigation platforms began around the same time, an outgrowth of military innovation. In 1983, GPS technology was expanded to civilian use, and Magellan unveiled the first commercial handheld GPS receiver in 1989.
These two systems started us on a path of understanding the world around us and how to move within it. We could know our position and the layout of the world but often had to develop our own path to get from point A to point B.
Internet-based services took up some of this slack on the commercial side, with services like MapQuest — among the first web mapping technologies available to businesses and consumers — launching in 1996.
In more recent years, compelling innovation has come from the ability to combine positioning, directions, and topographical as well as real-time spatial information. As more sensors and feedback opportunities grow, spatial information has expanded to more granular insights, including traffic and construction.
Always in the middle of this technology was truck and freight dispatch. Drivers need a wide range of support and information to make the smartest decisions. Automation allowed some options to move into the truck cab, as well as personal cars. This shift allows todays’ dispatch to focus on business solutions such as fuel economy and fleet optimization, while also serving as an information backup for trucks that need assistance and companies relying on those trucks to move goods.
Truck Dispatch: No Left Turns
Early mapping technology, including truck dispatch systems, provided companies with valuable insights, some which challenged conventional wisdom and others that reaffirmed the truck driver hive mind, which was simultaneously becoming more connected. An early discovery coming out of mapping tech was the value of making as few left turns as possible on your route.
UPS introduced an unofficial policy of not taking unnecessary left turns back in the 1970s. Left turns often leads to idling and waiting for breaks in traffic as well as an increased risk of accidents. This driver knowledge was backed up by real data and put into company practice with the advent of its ORION (On-Road Integrated Optimization and Navigation) platform, developed in 2003 and internally tested through 2012.
By analyzing drives and eliminating these turns from routes, it now saves UPS more than 10 million gallons of fuel annually and another $300 million in cost avoidance.
Intelligence Enters Freight Dispatch Software
The ORION system developed by UPS shows how dispatch technology and smart mapping can save a single company with its own fleet.
Today’s freight dispatch systems not only cover more intricate interactions but also include a wider number of service and time requirements. Cloud computing and the powerful devices that power it have simplified the task of instantly identifying where a truck is, allocating a load, and projecting time to destination.
Dispatch technology has eliminated the need for customers to call trucking companies, dispatchers to call trucks, and then return phone calls to verify status, delivery times, and schedules. Every minute saved can instead be used for other mission-critical efforts, while warehouse and other staff can more efficiently plan loading dock usage. Operations run smoother and the downtime of being on hold or waiting for a callback can be virtually eliminated, protecting your margins.
Now with high-quality mapping and routing technology that pinpoints truck locations, we no longer need to spend hours on the phone to move freight. Processes that are largely manual — phone calls, faxes, spreadsheets you must update yourself — can be updated easily or even automatically thanks to Internet-based services. Embracing this digital shift can help businesses reduce the time they spend on such activities, while gaining greater insight into how they run and what it means for their operations.
Automated Dispatch and Smarter Real-Time Data
The next big innovation in dispatch technology is the ability to combine multiple sets of real-time data to automatically trigger events such as allocating a shipment or modifying a truck route. This is the rise of automated dispatch and routing technology.
Platforms like Mothership use live, Internet-powered location data to know the exact position of any truck within a fleet at any given moment. Combining that with real-time traffic data from Google Maps and modeling of transit times, unloading times, and more, allows us to accurately predict the best driver for any given order.
Instead of companies and drivers trying to bid on loads and then hope they make each in time, automated dispatch will send jobs to drivers who have plenty of time to meet requirements. Tools including ours also ensure trucks meet broader requirements and compliance, including hazmat, lift gates, and HOS restrictions.
“By converting UPS, FEDEX, and short LTL shipments to the Mothership same-day network, an LA-based manufacturing company was able to seamlessly convert their distribution model resulting in an increase in operational efficiency of 11x and savings of $82,000.”
— Mothership Director of Sales, Dustin Teves
Using our solution, they were able to cut LTL short haul costs by reducing human capital expenditures and automatically dispatching loads to the nearest driver. Beyond reducing overhead, the company was able to cut compliance costs for concerns including missed pick-ups, which previously required them to spend additional money and time finding a new carrier to keep business running.
When the unexpected happens, from accidents and construction to significant delays caused by waiting to load or unload, automation is there to shift future loads to other trucks, keep customers happy, and reduce liability and lost earnings for drivers.
Planning to combat these events is how same-day freight became a reality for many businesses.
The trucking industry has faced a driver shortage since 2009. While no technology can eliminate that concern, automated dispatch plays a role in optimizing moves and truck utilization so that today’s drivers can operate at their best, take more loads, and keep more local businesses running. At Mothership, our mission is to use the latest technological capabilities to optimize every load, find the nearest driver with the right equipment, and maintain an 11x faster shipping experience for any company that needs to move any product. That is our role in ensuring the future of freight is same-day.