Fleets often have clear goals in mind when adopting vehicle and information management solutions. In many cases, they also find new value in the systems and software they have chosen.
At Old Dominion Freight Line, the less-than-truckload cost information system (LTL/CIS) developed by Transportation Costing Group (TCG) has provided cost information for pricing, yield management and operations for more than 10 years. Based in Thomasville, N.C., ODFL serves more than 48,000 points through 220 service centers in 48 states with a fleet of more than 6,000 tractors and more than 24,000 trailers.
“We use the system’s ability to account for costs in linehaul, P&D, dock handling, cargo loss and damage and billing and collecting,” said Todd Polen, vice president of pricing. “It clearly allocates costs, including those for overhead. It’s activity-based, meaning we can look at costs for each part of our business and for each customer.
“Every LTL shipment is a unique combination of weight, pieces, density, origin and destination and has specific handling requirements,” Polen added. “Shipment costs must be properly accounted for if we’re going to be able to make sound business decisions.
“What we’ve found is that the LTL/CIS software provides other valuable information,” he continued. “For example, in some smaller terminals, drivers may also work on the dock. Especially in light of new Hours-of-Service regulations, it’s important to classify their activity and adjust labor rates correctly, an ability we have with this solution.”
Polen also pointed to the ability to monitor dwell times at pick-up and delivery locations. “We find savings by addressing these issues with drivers and customers,” he said. “Sometimes the delay is legitimate, but when it’s not we can work with our driver, or put pricing in place that accounts for the time our customers need our equipment at one of their locations.”
TCG’s LTL/CIS software also is helping manage costs by terminal. “With the solution, each of our freight terminals has a separate record of its specific costs,” Polen explained. “Each terminal profile also has data on P&D performance by run or location, and all outbound linehaul legs, including miles, cost, load, cube and balance. Knowing exactly where costs are being incurred gives each terminal’s management team a better way to work with employees and customers.”
Sioux Falls, S.D.-based K&J Trucking provides 48-state refrigerated service from facilities in South Dakota and Oklahoma with 110 tractors and 165 trailers.
“We chose the R:COM Fleet Management solution from Blue Tree Systems for its trailer tracking and temperature management features,” said Michelle “Shelley” Koch, president of K&J. “Our goal was to get ahead of the curve when it comes to food safety regulations by having temperature data for customers and regulatory agencies.”
While K&J Trucking is using the Blue Tree system to enhance customer service, the carrier also has found it can provide data on trailer use at customer facilities that can be addressed in rates and pricing. Not to be overlooked as well are the lower refrigeration unit fuel costs that K&J is realizing from the information it now has at its disposal.
“The largest source of refrigeration fuel cost savings is coming from the ability to monitor and shut down refrigeration units when trailer doors are open,” Koch relates. “A pre-cooled trailer that is unloaded quickly actually holds its temperature more efficiently, especially on multi-stop loads, because a running refrigeration unit pulls in warm air. Conservatively, our fuel costs are down 2% per month and we expect that to increase as we work with our drivers to address temperature control and door opening times.”
Whether it’s recouping an investment in on-board technology through unexpected savings or cutting costs by accessing data that enables best practices and better decisions, the added value of these solutions is paving a path to higher revenue and improved profitability.
“It can be totally unexpected,” said ODFL’s Polen, “but mining information regularly and finding inefficiencies you may not have known about can be very enlightening.”