Convoy, J.B. Hunt, and Uber Freight want API standards in freight tech. The three have formed the Scheduling Standards Consortium (SSC) to call for standardization in transportation appointment scheduling via a report from FreightWaves.
What’s the problem In Freight Tech?
Despite being a common task, appointment scheduling is still one of the freight industry’s most analog and disjointed processes. Freight tech companies have tried to tackle this issue but haven’t had insight into one another’s data. Going in without that open exchange doesn’t help fix fragmented supply chains.
The SSC wants to combine the work of logistics providers, warehouse management solutions, and transportation management systems to push toward industry standards in scheduling practices.
Standards Consortium started with an organic conversation…
…between three representatives from each company during a FreightWaves Future of Supply Chain conference back in May. It was there that Dan Lewis, CEO of Convoy, spoke with Stuart Scott, executive vice president and chief information officer at J.B. Hunt, and the co-founder and head of operations at Uber Freight, Bill Driegert. The three felt that as early technology adopters, they could lead the way to more efficient scheduling practices.
They say that the goal of SSC is not to create another commercial product but to pull multiple parts of the industry together “to design a common application programming interface for sharing scheduling data,” Lewis and Scott explained to FreightWaves.
Lewis adds, “By setting these API standards, it allows for more innovation in the future.”
What’s the response?
There’s already a website up and running. Scott says current contributors showed an overwhelmingly positive response to the goal of industry-wide API standards. But they still need to get more key players on board with sharing information. The goal is that seeing leaders like J.B. Hunt involved will convince others to join the consortium.
The SSC plans to roll out standards for full-truckload freight by Q1 2023.
Another win for robots! Locus Robotics, based in Massachusetts, has made a name for itself in the thriving warehousing robotics industry. This week Locus announced a $117 million Series F led by Goldman Sachs, G2 Venture Partners and Stack per TechCrunch. The company’s total funding is now around $400 million bringing Locus’s valuation close to $2 billion.
Locus is a standout among others in the industry like…
6 River Systems (acquired by Shopify)
Amazon Robotics (formerly Kiva Systems)
We can only expect ventures like Locus to boom…
…considering the accelerated growth of the eCommerce sector and rumors of names like TikTok pushing into the US market. In recent days, we’ve seen digital orders set records this Black Friday. In order to stay competitive, you’ve gotta bring in the bots.
Of course, industry giant Amazon still dominates. They were one of the early adopters of automation, acquiring Kiva Systems for their fulfilment centers back in 2012. Amazon sets the standards and goals that smaller retailers have to catch up to. Because of that, robotics startups have cropped up everywhere to bridge the gap.
Like others, Locus assures the public that no, our robots won’t run you out of a job.
They say they “understand the importance of having robots that work collaboratively with workers, not replace them.” They illustrate the point with digital line art showing an at-ease worker leaning against one of their robots. See? Total harmony.
For the future…
Locus looks towards further solidifying its place as a leader in the warehouse robotics space.
Powered Trailers Coming Soon Thanks to Range
Based in Mountain View, California, Range has created a powered trailer to “accelerate the electrification of commercial transportation” according to their website. Range was founded in 2021 by Ali Javidan, a former head of prototypes at Tesla.
How do They work? Range explains on its site:
An “integrated sensor and powertrain system” power the trailer.
A smart kingpin unit measures the load the trailer places on the truck.
The smart kingpin, sensor, and system communicate with one another, reducing the load on the engine under acceleration and recapturing kinetic energy using regenerative braking.
The trailers use standard interfaces and are compatible with both diesel and electric trucks. Even if the trailers weren’t plugged in, they can still safely haul cargo.
Who’s interested and why?
It makes sense that smaller trucking companies might be interested in this more cost-efficient alternative. The Tesla Semi, which reportedly completed a 500-mile haul, costs $180,000 or $150,000 for the 300-mile-range option.
The FMCSA has made its environmental priorities clear, wanting to curb engine emissions and pushing towards the adoption of zero-emission trucks. California leads the way in electric vehicle initiatives with goals to phase out diesel trucks in the next 20 years.
Range’s powered trailers could really help the little guys…
…stay relevant in this fast-changing industry. Their audience is clear to them. Range markets the powered trailers as a “practical, compliant, near-term solution to emissions mandates.”
According to Range, their trailers “reduce diesel consumption and tailpipe emissions by 41% in combined city/highway driving, with no increase to cost-per-mile.” And for those companies that may already have electric vehicles, the powered trailers extend the miles driven before the EV trucks need their next charge-up.
The company recently raised $8 million in Seed funding led by Up Partners, R7, and Yamaha Motor Ventures.
Latest and Greatest From Around the Freight Web
Somebody Help!:On Monday night, Biden called on Congress to take action to avoid a freight rail strike. On Tuesday, Congressional leaders spoke up, expressing support for legislation on the issue. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “Tomorrow morning we will have a bill on the floor.”
Drug Bust: A truck driver was stopped at the US-Mexico border where his load of “surgical kits” turned out to be hiding 22.97 pounds of cocaine (an estimated street value of $291,760). In a statement, the driver said he was “obligated” to move the drugs.
Korean Wave: South Korea’s trucker strike, the second one this year, rippled through the supply chain. The disruption blocked access to two of the country’s busiest container ports. Following a 6-day strike, the truckers have now been ordered back to work.
Final Battle: In the battle of the brokers, many see 2023 as the time to prove yourself or sink. Legacy brokers like C.H. Robinson and RXO have expanded their own automated systems to compete with native digital brokerages like Uberfreight and Convoy. For smaller firms without AI tech…things will get pretty rocky.
Fast Friends: Turvo and DAT have formally announced their partnership bringing efficiency in the form of a “one-stop shop” for freight matching. DAT VP of Sales says their load board network will host more than 535 million load and truck posts.
Last time FreightCaviar made a list like this, we focused on what it’s like to work at some of the top freight brokerages in the US. This time we’re turning the mic towards those who worked with these companies and went on to voice their opinions on Google.
While Glassdoor highlights reviews from verified former or current employees, Google does not have a pre-check process. Compared to Glassdoor, Google may seem more of a free for all. Of course, that means we get to hear from a lot of trucking companies and some shippers who’ve dealt with these brokers.
Again, we’re only looking at companies who made it to Transport Topics 2022 Top 100 Freight Brokerage Firms and who also have more than 30 individual ratings on their Google listing. Because Google listings and ratings are locally-based, we focused on HQs only for this list.
Alright, now let’s get to it. Below are the freight brokerages that ranked the highest based on their Google listing star ratings. All of these companies had a rating of at least 4.2 out of 5.
Top 10 Highest-Ranked Freight Brokerage Firms on Google
Houston-based carrier Texas Interstate Express seemingly tried to dodge orders from the FMCSA to close its doors by rebranding itself to Pac Express LLC. On Thursday the FMCSA shut down both operations. Regulators served the companies a federal out-of-service order once they confirmed the link per a press release from the FMCSA office.
Why were they originally shut down?
Driver Problems: Employed drivers without CDLs, drivers prohibited from working for carriers, or drivers without any record of duty status.
Instructed drivers to violate roadside out-of-service conditions and continue with trips after monitoring stopped.
Told drivers to avoid inspections and bypass scales.
Dispatched drivers on trips that could not be made without violating speed laws or breaking hours-of-service regulations.
What’s more, Pac Express did not have any programs that would be able to detect if drivers used any controlled substances. The trucking company lacked a process to ensure driver quality and licensure. Also, they did not monitor hours of service, vehicle inspections, or repairs.
The imminent hazard out-of-service order stated that Texas Interstate Express’ and Pac Express’ violations and subsequent avoidance of the original order are reckless. There’d be “serious injury or death for [their] drivers and the motoring public…” if they did not immediately cease operations.
FreightWaves’ US Outbound Tender Volume Index (OTVI) shows container imports, rail intermodal shipments, and truckload demand have all fallen from their stratospheric heights during the pandemic. According to FreightWaves expert analyst Zach Strickland, these numbers may better indicate how inflation will be tamed in the coming months than the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
A Clearer Picture: Pre-Pandemic (November 2019) to Present
Container import bookings are ~6% higher than in November 2019 after averaging 80% higher throughout 2021.
Loaded intermodal container volumes on the rails (ORAILL) are 7% lower than in November 2019.
Outbound Tender Volume Index is just 9% higher than this time in 2019 after averaging 50% above pre-pandemic levels from July 2020 to March 2022. (As measured by FreightWaves’ Inbound Ocean TEUs Index)
Macroeconomic data doesn’t tell an accurate story…
…because the dollar figures they use are contaminated by emotion as well as supply and demand imbalances. For example, the scarcity effect is an economic psychological phenomenon that occurs when people believe something has a higher value simply because there is less of it. At the same time, they place a lower value on abundant objects. The scarcity effect has been one of the main catalysts of inflation these past two years.
Things look to worsen for transportation providers…
…as we enter December and January, which are typically the slowest months of the year for domestic freight movements. While truckload and import demand have not yet found their way back to pre-pandemic levels, it won’t be long before they do.
Overall, the trends remain unpredictable. The data we see on the macroeconomic level will take time to reflect what is actually taking place.