By merging tracking data from ELDs, back-office systems, and mobile applications that carriers use to provide a central dashboard for monitoring in-transit shipments, freight visibility platforms are helping to fill in visibility gaps and drive inefficiencies out of the supply chain.
Vehicle tracking technology has been around for decades, with the earliest iterations of it including large auto manufacturers that used telematics (i.e., using telecommunications to transfer information) to catalogue their cars as they rolled off the assembly line.
As technology advanced, fleet telematics matured right along with it. Thanks to GPS, the Internet of Things (IoT), and other advanced tools, modern-day fleet tracking has become simpler, more reliable, and more affordable for a broader range of companies.
“As long as there have been loads, shippers have wanted to know the status of their freight. Long before the information technology revolution, ‘Where’s my load?’ was a constant question,” Truckinginfo’s Jim Beach explains. “Technology has made providing an answer much easier, and in the process may offer opportunities for improved efficiencies all along the supply chain.”
According to Beach, the telematics industry has progressed from phone calls to automated faxes to EDI status updates to web portals and to APIs (application program interfaces that allow various systems used by carriers and their customers to share data). Now, third-party vendors offer platforms to manage the data shared between shippers and carriers and also to collect carrier data into a central point for shipper access.
From Utter Complication to Streamlined Processes
Acknowledging that the process of producing an efficient supply chain is “utterly complicated,” Boss Magazine says that, “One proven method of improving the supply chain’s efficiency is to increase the visibility of the fleets and the goods through the use of fleet tracking software.”
Once in place, GPS fleet tracking systems help automate processes that would otherwise require constant monitoring. These systems send notifications when something requires attention, thus eliminating the need to hire additional staff for monitoring operations.
“Fleet tracking systems also improve efficiency for drivers and dispatch managers,” Boss Magazine explains. “With a GPS fleet tracker, fleet managers can see vehicle locations in real-time. With this info, your team can plan detours to avoid accidents or plan new routes to bypass traffic without wasting any time. Your drivers will also see information about their routes, such as accidents and traffic data, in real-time.”
Fleet tracking systems also enable quick decision making, improve transparency across supply chain processes, help companies improve efficiency, and keep costs in check through predictive maintenance, route optimization, real-time fault code alerts, and workforce cost reductions.
Armed with real-time location updates with dynamic ETAs for rail, truck, intermodal, barge, and ocean shipments, for example, industrial manufacturers can make quick decisions, work proactively, and address potential issues before the turn into real problems.
Fleet tracking also helps improve fuel consumption. Using in-cab coaching systems, drivers can be alerted to actions that contribute to high fuel usage (e.g., speeding, harsh acceleration, and engine idling). This, in turn, can help companies save money, reduce vehicle wear and tear, and encourage safer driving.
“Because drivers are alerted through audio and visual signs to these actions, they can self-correct their behaviors and drive in a more fuel-efficient manner,” Supply Chain Digital states.
“Research has shown that when drivers were receiving this kind of feedback, they spent significantly less time with their engines idling than a driver who wasn’t receiving any feedback.”
Add these savings up over a year, the publication says, and the savings can be substantial. “These savings can then be invested in other areas of the supply chain,” Supply Chain Digital adds, “such as improved packaging or production, which can improve the whole chain.”