Legacy trucking companies, once at the forefront of innovation, have fallen behind in the FreightTech arms race in recent years. Freight brokerages are now the trailblazers.
By implementing the latest visibility technologies, brokerages like Loadsmith are now confidently competing with the largest asset-based carriers.
“Digital freight matching and real-time rating and visibility — the greatest advancements in [freight] technology over the last five years — have not been developed by your traditional trucking companies,” said Loadsmith CEO Brett Suma.
Things have only gotten worse for such carriers as capacity has become scarce to the point that shippers are finding difficulty in committing freight with preferred carriers, even with larger trucking companies.
For this reason, Suma urges shippers to shake the notion that asset-based trucking companies are first and brokerages second in the pecking order for contractual freight.
“Customers [shippers] don’t look at brokers the same as they do asset-based brokers,” Suma said. “I think that’s a mistake because brokerages such as Loadsmith have a tremendous amount to offer.”
Brokerages like Loadsmith, Suma said, view relationships with the customer through the same lens as a trucking company in terms of wanting to build out its freight networks and lane density.
But Loadsmith is not a typical brokerage. Its value propositions include capacity, service and price — with an additional carve-out for real-time visibility.
“Ninety percent of our freight’s contractual — that’s unheard of for a brokerage with the growth trajectory of Loadsmith,” Suma said.
In fact, Suma doesn’t think the title of brokerage applies. “I don’t call Loadsmith a brokerage. In our mind, we’re not a brokerage,” he said. “Do we broker freight? Yes. Most asset-based trucking companies broker freight. … We’re no less a trucking company than the largest out there, it’s just that our assets are independently owned and operated.”
Further distinguishing Loadsmith is its unwavering goal of optimizing its freight network with greater consistency and lane density.
“The more consistent we are, the more efficient we make the carrier,” Suma said. “The higher our reuse rate, the more capacity that we provide our customers.”
It’s not that asset-based trucking companies are willfully ignorant of innovation, it’s just that they can’t afford the freedom that 3PLs and brokerages like Loadsmith can. Suma explained how the messy business of driver recruiting and retention is proving to be an obstacle holding back many trucking companies from tech exploration.
“[We have] an advantage in the marketplace for drivers because we’re not trying to hire employees to come drive for us; we’re working directly with business owners that drive,” Suma said. “And because of that, we’re able to focus on the future of truckload transportation instead of having to hire, retain and manage thousands of driving employees.”
Freedom from such constraints has allowed Loadsmith to aim for an autonomous future. Suma outlined Loadsmith’s plans with FreightWaves last month — namely, to fully automate trucking’s middle mile by 2024.
“Autonomy thrives in repetitive tasks, so it fits right into our capacity-as-a-service platform because of the density of our freight networks,” he said, explaining that a high-density corridor with moderate and predictable weather and route conditions, such as between Dallas and El Paso, Texas, is the perfect testing ground for the company’s autonomous plans.
A recent partnership with autonomous driving technology company TuSimple will give Loadsmith 350 self-driving trucks to exclusively run middle-mile logistics when the technology is fully operational. Loadsmith looks to be on the right track: Earlier this month it selected Mastery Logistics’ MasterMind TMS to power its capacity-as-a-service network.
Although Suma aims for Loadsmith to become the first driverless trucking company, he’s made it clear that drivers will still play a crucial role. With a power-only middle mile, drivers will still be needed for first- and last-mile duties. He said this not only guarantees them work in the future, but that its more regional routes will provide drivers more opportunities to be home each night.
“The future is a mode-agnostic middle mile,” Suma said. “Our autonomous middle-mile trucks will operate any mode needed, whether it be a flatbed moving one direction, then a van moving the other; it could be a third-party trailer going one way and an ocean container in the other. Mode agnosticism allows us to really focus on optimization.”
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