Tip of the Iceberg: Digital Tools and Cloud Connectivity in Transportation

The speed of adoption will continue to grow considerably, and mass adoption is still ahead. It’s an exciting time for the transportation industry.

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There’s been a significant push over the last five years to understand how digital tool sets can help improve efficiency and operations in the transportation industry. Whether it’s navigating the driver shortage, or increasing load visibility, carriers and shippers are adopting and deploying digital solutions. Technology plays a vital role in optimizing processes and providing insights that keep fleets in motion.

While the trucking industry has been slower to modernize its operating systems compared to other industries, the opportunity to add digital solutions to existing systems and the increased connectivity throughout the industry is changing the outlook.

Digital tools are enabling more collaboration internally and externally, so companies can improve workflows and cross-communications, solve freight management challenges, improve data collection, reporting requirements and more. Automating processes allows employees to focus on higher-level, more meaningful work that involves strategic thinking, insightful planning, human interaction and thoughtful communication.

Furthermore, the data and insights gleaned from digital tools are giving company leaders a strategic eye into what’s truly working, any shortcomings and new ideas on how they can make adjustments along the way to help run their businesses at optimal efficiency.

Market Impact and Foresight

Back in 2020, when the trucking capacity was constrained, rather than pull back, some companies started heavily investing in new resources and human capital to try to solve the problem. Repeated disruptions and accelerated growth in e-commerce at that time emphasized the need for more flexible supply chains, and digitization provided the scalability some companies needed to get to the next level.

This initiative and foresight thrust some companies ahead and has given them a competitive edge today despite the uncertainty in the market.

This past year, the industry saw the opposite: an excess of capital, markets turned upside down and spot market rates dropped through the floor. Navigating the freight recession has been challenging, but those who invested in technology early on are in a better position and have become the ones leading the industry forward.

According to 2024 trends from the Truck Driver Institute, transportation companies and their partners will continue building technology solutions, robots and adaptable supply chains by involving diversified suppliers, implementing contingency plans and utilizing technology to enhance visibility and predict potential disruptions. Plus, more sophisticated data analytics tools and AI-driven insights to optimize routes, reduce fuel consumption and enhance efficiency will continue to exist and accelerate.

Connectivity Through the Cloud

The real power of using innovative digital solutions is the ability to easily access and connect them in one place. While many companies have purchased and implemented technology solutions and systems for fleet management, back-office operations, maintenance and more from a variety of providers, often these solutions are disconnected because of systemic incompatibility or their inability to communicate with one another. 

Enter cloud platforms that provide carriers, shippers and other users access to real-time, common data drawn from the entire transportation ecosystem, and thus offering the ability to bring together disparate systems. By connecting transportation management systems for planning purposes along with freight procurement solutions, data can be transferred to telematics units so that drivers benefit from information in real time. Data entering the cloud from truckers gives dispatchers full visibility into route activity and deliveries. The entry and delivery points are endless.

Creating the Ecosystem with Partner Solutions

The popularity and growth of APIs (application programming interfaces) have allowed people to share data between solutions in the cloud. The cloud allows companies to collect and analyze vast amounts of data regarding shipments, carriers, and markets, which can be used to make better decisions about costs, lanes and risk management. No one company can realistically aspire to provide all the data throughout the entire transportation lifecycle, so the cloud opens this access and playing field to everyone.

Improving Workflows and Finding Added Value

Using a centralized cloud platform not only creates better visibility for users and customers but it can help improve workflows and offer opportunities to scale up or down with solutions.

A few years ago, a leading trucking company in the Midwest started using cloud-based applications to become nimbler, add customization and improve its driver-centric workflow and response strategy for customers. Having a single point of integration made sharing information with their vendors easier in addition to discovering process efficiencies.

By using an adaptable cloud platform, fleets can enhance their TMS with modules and add-on solutions, as needed. One popular add-on for many trucking companies is an integrated service that provides real-time alerts for weather risks and hazards along routes. One example being used in the industry are predictive hyper-local weather alerts which incorporate data from different partner sources to enhance driver safety. With the benefit of cloud connectivity, both drivers and back-office teams can receive the alerts simultaneously and make real-time, efficient decisions and route changes to benefit the safety for all.

Moving Forward

Digitization in the transportation industry is still just getting started and the opportunities are vast. The sooner companies can capitalize on the wealth of data provided by modern software tools, the more valuable and resilient the supply chain will be. The speed of adoption will continue to grow considerably, and mass adoption is still ahead. It’s an exciting time for the transportation industry.