The wave of digital innovation is changing everything from how we answer the doorbell to the way modern factories operate. The freight-shipping industry hasn’t been left out.
Driverless trucks are getting a lot of attention in the press these days. They’re being tested in some states. But the reality is that it will be sometime before trucks drive themselves, if ever.
There are three areas where digital innovation is making an impact on freight shipping today.
1. Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs)
ELDs were created to help enforce the Department of Transportation’s Hours of Service (HOS) regulations for truck drivers. ELDs log and report when a driver is off duty, when they are in the truck’s sleeper berth, when they are actually driving the vehicle and when they are on duty but not driving, attending to things such as refueling, loading freight, inspecting the vehicle, etc.
The purpose of ELDs is to keep the roads safer by making sure drivers take breaks at regular intervals:
- A 10-hour break must be taken after the truck has been driven for 11 hours
- Once the driver goes on duty for the day, whether diving or not, a 10-hour break is required after 14 hours
- In an eight-day period, the total amount of time a driver is on duty or driving cannot exceed 70 hours
- During every eight-hour period that the driver is on duty or driving, they must take at least one 30-minute break in off-duty or sleeper status
Currently, only about 50 percent of all trucks on the road are equipped with ELDs. By the end of the year any truck that does not have an operating ELD could be taken off the road by an inspector. This will be a big change.
2. Digital Bills of Lading (BOL)
For those of you asking what a bill of lading is, here’s a quick summary.
The BOL is standard paperwork for all shipping and is required for all parties involved in a shipment. Information required on the BOL:
- Shipper’s name and address
- Any special shipping instructions
- Name and address of the consignee (party taking delivery)
- Name and address of the party to be billed
- Number of units being shipped
- Description and weight of articles being shipped
- Shipping rate and additional charges
Digital BOLs are already commonplace in parcel shipping and are beginning to catch on in freight shipping. Here’s why.
Traditionally, a paper bill of lading goes through a lot of processes where errors can happen. Some of these are faxing, copying, manual data entry, handwritten BOL changes and more.
By digitizing the BOL, information is entered only once and is immediately available to all parties. What’s more, carriers can see where their trucks are going to be and can plan for more efficient routing and loads. This will become increasingly important as LTL shipping continues to grow rapidly.
A significant amount of planning and expense will go into making digital BOLs universal, but digitalization will expand throughout the freight shipping industry, just as it has in business overall. There is no turning back.
3. Mobile Apps
Some freight carriers are making great use of mobile apps to:
- Show them exactly where all the vehicles in their fleet are
- Send drivers instant updates regarding jobs and routes without making the drivers stop
- Monitor the flow of goods
- Receive alerts when drivers are behind schedule or encounter problems
Apps can be created on both Android and iOS so drivers can download the app on their own smartphone.
When we see freight trucks on the road, it’s easy to think of freight shipping as an industry that hasn’t changed much. But the truth is that the freight shipping industry is racing ahead to digitize operations and processes, all with the goal of improving the flow of goods and meeting customer expectations.
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