November 2003 | Commentary | Checking In

Pushing Back the Last Mile

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There was plenty of activity at the American Trucking Associations meeting and trade show in October, especially at booths exhibiting wireless technology and systems to empower carriers—technology transforming transportation. Here's a look at some of the solutions exhibited at the ATA conference:

  • MobileCast by UPS Logistics Technologies and Tripmaster's Intelligent Delivery System offer a fleet management solution that works with the RoadNet Transportation Suite. The system provides street-level optimization solutions, wirelessly enabling a more efficient order-to-delivery process.
  • Air IQ just launched a satellite-based suite of services that, when combined with the land-based cell phone network, gives carriers and fleets real-time delivery advice and control.
  • SkyBitz offers GPS-based solutions that enable single-trailer optimization, or optimization of the entire fleet. The systems help truckers manage assets and the cargo they carry, including theft prevention.
  • XATA's new web-based solution for fleet carriers and their GPS "customers" combines the power of the web with wireless technology to offer enterprise-wide control from the drive back up to the corner office. Decision support technology at the execution point, combined with back-office management and strategic needs, offer true end-to-end visibility.
  • Trackstar offers similar GPS-based solutions for a lower cost.
  • The star of the show was Nextel, whose cell phone-based wireless systems offer very powerful solutions to carriers and couriers managing fleets of any size, large or small. Nextel's solutions are certainly an equalizer over the more expensive GPS systems.

Carriers love this kind of technology. They buy it to control their inventory (equipment), keep these assets full and moving, and boost productivity. The reason they invest in technology is primarily to keep costs and operating ratios low. But what does this technology do for you—the transportation buyer?

Technology pushes back the last mile, in a sense. When carriers are equipped with the type of technology exhibited at the ATA conference, shippers, receivers, and intermediaries achieve control over their products—receiving them before they get them.

Carrier technology that was stealing all the attention at the ATA show serves a dual purpose: it drives efficiencies internally and provides the information stream for customers to push back that last mile. Transport buyers virtually receive shipments by channeling that information flow into their internal systems, which provide the ability to better match their demand to their supply.

Add the fact that costs for these systems keep coming down and it is easy to see why carriers, even in a down market, will continue to invest in this technology.

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