How 3PLs utilize technology enhancements to simplify LTL freight shipping
Authored by SMC³ on April 5, 2022
The ongoing capacity crunch is making things less than ideal for the less than truckload industry, as the push for faster technology and greater efficiency intensifies.
Now more than ever, access to high-quality information into freight transportation sourcing, pricing and visibility is the factor separating leading shippers and carriers from the rest of the competition.
“The stress that they’ve endured with the pandemic followed by the capacity crunch has definitely put additional emphasis within their organizations to be nimble and flexible, having high-quality information at their fingertips at all times,” said Brian Thompson, chief commercial officer at SMC³, a leading LTL technology and solutions provider.
Dedicated to this niche sector of transportation for over 85 years, SMC³ has fully embraced the FreightTech age and plans to continue innovating its LTL pricing and bidding tools in 2022.
“Our mission is to seamlessly help simplify the complex world of LTL,” Thompson said.
Leading the field in LTL expertise, SMC³ offers a variety of application programming interface (API) and electronic data interchange (EDI) solutions to digitize the LTL shipment life cycle from quote to delivery via a seamless transportation management system integration or through its cloud-based LTL GO application.
LTL GO enables shippers and 3PLs to access shipment visibility and document retrieval capabilities through its intuitive web application. Users are connected to a wide carrier base to obtain price quotes, schedule pickups and receive digital shipment documents, among other features, through its platform.
Billy Wyatt, vice president of LTL and parcel operations at eShipping, has been an SMC³ customer for nearly two years. He said LTL GO has been an extreme benefit to eShipping, a nationwide distribution chain management company and technology provider based in Kansas City, Missouri. Wyatt contrasted how easy it is to get volume quotes immediately using SMC³’s APIs with the days of old, when he either had to call or email carriers directly to get pertinent information.
“There’s labor savings on our end, as we shorten our response time to customers we serve, by eliminating the necessity for a phone call or email. There’s also labor savings on the carrier end,” Wyatt said. “Providing information to customers faster allows them to act quicker on their end in determining if they need to move volume over regular LTL versus partial truckload.”
A large portion of eShipping’s customers use SMC³’s APIs, but Wyatt said he hopes to introduce even more customers to SMC³ in 2022.
Paul Birkhead, CEO of Eniture Technology, is another SMC³ customer who has benefited from its API solutions. Eniture Technology is a web technology company that helps companies run successful online stores. Its digital expertise has led the company to develop quoting apps for Shopify, WooCommerce and Magento, but it turned to SMC³ for help in developing a shipping platform for LTL freight, FreightDesk Online.
FreightDesk Online enables online merchants to significantly automate their ability to ship orders from online stores and marketplaces, including LTL freight, parcel and postal shipments. Using Eniture Technology’s Small Package Quotes and LTL Freight Quotes applications, shippers can generate shipping quotes during the checkout process.
“We have a multicarrier platform — largely as a result of our working with SMC³ — that allows merchants to connect to their storefronts, pull their orders with minimal effort, create bills of lading, and schedule their freight to be picked up by a carrier,” Birkhead said.
Birkhead credits SMC³’s PRO Number Assignment API for supporting a large number of FreightDesk Online’s carrier partners, which he said has substantially reduced the time it takes to procure the number and supply it to customers. When a bill of lading is created, the API generates and assigns each shipment a PRO number immediately.
“When we have a subscriber sign up for FreightDesk Online and create their bills of lading, we use that API to retrieve the PRO number for each particular shipment from the carrier that the merchants selected and then automatically update the e-commerce order with that PRO number so it can be sent to whoever purchased the order,” Birkhead said. “They then can have the tracking number to track their shipment.”
Thompson said that SMC³ plans to expand integration of its APIs into additional TMSs, hoping in 2022 to double the number of TMSs that it’s integrated with to date.
What’s more, SMC³ has a price administration system in the works that will allow carriers to dynamically price in the marketplace.
Thompson described LTL pricing today as very static despite the dynamic nature of the market. He said the desire to transactionally price shipments is great among the company’s carrier customers, many of whom have voiced frustration at the inability to fluctuate prices and respond to changing market conditions faster.
“Some of their customers, particularly 3PL companies, transactionally price and offer prices to the end shippers and their clients,” Thompson said. “So the carriers are saying, ‘If they can transactionally price, we should be able to transactionally price too.’”
He added, “If they have lanes that are heavy on the outbound and they really want to drive some more freight in the opposite direction, they can lower rates and raise rates in the direction where they have limited equipment available.”
Thompson said that such changes will give carriers the ability to respond quicker to weather events, operational inefficiencies and bottlenecks in their networks, and it will give them the foresight to reposition equipment if needed.
Users can also expect improvements this year to CarrierConnect® XL, SMC³’s comprehensive platform that provides high-speed, up-to-date LTL transit times and LTL carrier service details for shippers and TMSs. Thompson noted that enhanced informational messaging and embargo flag notifications will be added to the platform.
When trying to schedule a dispatch, it’s often frustrating for 3PLs or shippers to schedule shipments when carriers impose an embargo for a period of time. Thompson is hoping the additional messaging attributes will improve communication clarity between parties.
“The communication role that CarrierConnect XL plays is huge for keeping decision-making efficient as well as keeping the costs down for shippers and 3PLs when choosing a partner,” Thompson said.
Before joining SMC³, Thompson himself was an SMC³ customer, working at YRC Worldwide. He said his team relied on its pricing analytics and knowledge of LTL rates.
SMC³ strives to go beyond analytics, harnessing its expertise and data to provide forward-thinking solutions for the industry. “Our advantage is that we’re focused on LTL and LTL only, whereas most other competitors provide services across multiple modes, which really takes away focus from LTL,” Thompson said, describing the complexities of the sector.
He explained that just because the leading carriers have dispatching services doesn’t mean they all work the same way. Even if they all required the same information to schedule a dispatch, it doesn’t mean they process it equally.
“Relying on a company like SMC³ with our expertise and carrier relationships gives our customers smooth services and extra peace of mind,” Thompson said.
As the industry hub for LTL knowledge, SMC³ delivers technology solutions that support shippers, carriers, logistics service companies and technology providers, driving efficiencies across the supply chain. Learn more about SMC³’s solutions here and download resources here.
This article originally appeared on FreightWaves.com by writer Jack Glenn. You can read the original article here.