September 27, 2019

Freight Tracking - Where do I Start?

Real-time freight tracking has become the holy grail of logistics - not only in the sense that it provides immense operational and strategic benefits when optimizing your supply chain, but also in the sense that it's entirely unclear how to get there. That's why new developments in freight tech are so exciting - not only have they made freight tracking more powerful and precise, they've made implementation easier too! Here's a few of our favorite approaches:

Carrier Integration

The current standard for achieving real-time tracking is still carrier integration - using carrier API or EDI connections to relay information from carriers directly to freight management platform. This approach has a few key benefits and drawbacks:

  • Pro: seamless operation once setup - once a shipment is booked, tracking is effortless
  • Con: expensive and time-consuming setup process requires custom integration with each different carrier/courier in your transportation network
  • Con: limited by the functionality your carrier provides; if your carrier doesn't support all the features you want, you might not get real-time alerts, temperature data, etc.

With these in mind, carrier integration is probably best for your tracking needs if you're in the following key demographic:

  • large enterprise with plenty of spending leeway for onboarding and implementation costs
  • 1-3 month implementation window to integrate, test, and launch new carrier connections
  • High number of shipments per day
  • Need for complete automation of your distribution tracking process

Internet of Things

Internet of Things, or IoT gateways and sensors are a new development that promise to revolutionize freight tracking by providing granular freight-specific tracking thats also carrier-agnostic - meaning that you won't need to integrate with each individual carrier/courier in your network to achieve real-time tracking on your freight. This technology works by attaching small, durable trackers to individual pallets or skids and tracking them through a portal like FreightPath. Some key benefits and drawbacks:

  • Pro: carrier-agnostic operation - track any freight with any carrier no integration needed
  • Pro: freight-specific granularity - get exact data per shipping unit with temperature, humidity, location, etc.
  • Con: expensive - since technology is still in its infancy, cost per tracker is expensive
  • Con: adds extra logistical work - since trackers are expensive, they must be recovered post shipment

Hence, given these pros and cons, IoT tracking is probably best suited for the following use cases:

  • Pilot projects with freight that is expensive, hazardous, or requires specific attention
  • Specific lanes where you have control over both the supplying and receiving locations

Driver Mobile App

What if carrier integration and IoT solutions aren't for you? The last solution to achieve real-time freight tracking is the implementation of a driver-side mobile application designed to track trucks and freight in real-time. These apps are directly connected to your freight management platform, and relay data in real-time over cellular data between carrier truck drivers and your logistics operations.

An example of these apps is the FreightPath driver app, which allows carriers to provide freight location, as well as status, delays, and more in real-time to the FreightPath platform. This can then be shared directly to both your operations staff, and your end customers. Some benefits and drawbacks of using this type of tracking solution:

  • Pro: no cost to implement - the FreightPath Driver Portal comes included with FreightPath Professional and Enterprise
  • Pro: full functionality - provide location data, plus custom statuses and delay alerts in real time
  • Con: requires some driver cooperation - carriers and drivers must agree to use the app for it to work
  • Con: requires cellular data connection - added cost for carriers that must be accounted for

With these benefits and drawbacks in mind, this type of solution is best for you if:

  • Have good carrier relationships but a low cost overhead to implement a tracking solution
  • Need instant implementation without upfront costs
  • Don't need full process automation - app must be setup first per carrier driver

Hopefully this article gave you a better idea of the types of freight tracking solutions on the market, and how they can be implemented along with their various pros and cons. If you're looking for a freight management solution that supports all three methods - carrier integration, IoT trackers, and a driver mobile app - check out FreightPath Professional or contact us at info@freightpath.io for more details.

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