Descartes MacroPoint has been a long-time innovator in visibility and enabled thousands of brokers and 3PLs to improve customer service, reduce operational costs, and win new customers. Real-time visibility is moving from competitive advantage to a minimum requirement. As a valued customer of Descartes, we wanted to ensure you were aware of new capabilities in the Descartes MacroPoint solution.

We recently held a web seminar with our expert panel of consultants who work with brokers and 3PLs, like yourself, and they shared their insights into best practices and innovative use cases. The panel format was Q&A style. In this blog, we are reviewing the highlights including:

  • New carrier connectivity methods
  • Carrier onboarding and compliance (i.e. ELD, etc.)
  • Detention visibility and reporting
  • Visualization and the Descartes MacroPoint control tower
  • Cold chain and temperature control monitoring
  • Capacity matching

Let’s dig a little deeper into the capabilities addressed in the Q&A session . . .

Carrier Connectivity

Q: A few years ago, when MacroPoint released their visibility solution, a majority of tracking sessions were done via cell phone. Can you share how this has changed over the past year or so?

A: While cell phone tracking is still offered, there are more popular ways to connect through electronic logging devices (ELDs) and transportation management systems (TMS). This has accelerated with the ELD mandate and helps increase how larger fleets can connect more quickly. The biggest benefit of these types of connections is since it’s completed in real-time with devices pinging every 15 minutes versus relying on cell phone triangulation.

Q: What are the pros & cons of the various connection methods?

A: We get great buy-in from carriers, because we offer multiple ways for them to connect. Each connection method offers their various pros and cons. For carriers, they may only use once or twice a year, so a cell phone connection works fine and allows for quick deployment. A potential con would be that a driver might end up going through dead zones or run out of battery. With ELD, GPS and TMS, the data is very accurate, typically within a few feet, and frequency averages around 15-30 minutes. A potential issue might be more for carriers that do a lot of repeat business with you, as they will need to be connected to your account, which could possibly take up to a few hours or days depending on the carrier.

Q: How are these new connectivity methods improving driver opt-in?

A: The advantage of the newer connectivity methods deals with the integration and approval process at the carrier level, and with a single integration or activation, all the trucks can be tracked. There is no need for drivers to opt-in, which dramatically increases the level of compliance. It should also reduce extra calls, since there are no drivers refusing to opt-in. We focused a good amount of effort on being able to quickly add new ELDs and integrate with carriers TMS or dispatch systems. In addition, if we’ve previously integrated with a provider, it is a simple approval and activation process with the carrier.

Q: Currently, how many ELDs is Descartes MacroPoint integrated with?

A: We are integrated with most of the major providers and are continuously adding new ones to support our customers. About 95% of the carriers in the marketplace that purchase a system, choose one of the providers we are already connected to. 

Carrier Onboarding and Compliance

Q: In the past 6 months, we have introduced updated onboarding tools and processes. Can you review these updates and the results you are seeing? How is this benefiting customers?

A: We have updated the onboarding tools with automated processes, self-serve tools for carriers and reporting metrics the broker can use to see progress and identify any potential issues. The self-service tools provide educational videos on benefits, FAQs, online connection guides to minimize or eliminate potential phone calls and questions. The easy-to-use registration form will help increase the success rate and speed up the initial carrier registration. Finally, we have automated communications to assist the customer through the process and prompt them if there are upcoming milestones.

Q: Can you outline the results you are experiencing with the latest updates? Also, how are these currently benefiting Descartes MacroPoint customers?

A: The updates have helped to accelerate the carrier onboarding process. We have seen our team’s ability to add carriers increase by over 200% over the last several months. This helps our customers in several ways. First, for new customers should see their time to value reduced as the share of loads with visibility continues to grow at a quicker rate, enabling them re-deploy their people on additional tasks. Second, since the overall network is expanding faster, existing customers will be able to add/switch their carriers more easily. 

Q: What recommendations do you have for customers to help accelerate carrier onboarding and compliance? Looking across your customer base can you provide some examples on the most successful use cases? 

A: One of the most important points to remember is that this is a joint effort. The broker provides the initial communication; provides Descartes with the completed spreadsheet; assigns a dedicated person or team to work with the Descartes MacroPoint team to complete carrier compliance. Another key to success is to ensure there is an executive sponsor who is focused on success. The self-serve tools will enable the sponsor to see progress or address any carriers that may be lagging. They can jump in early to resolve and keep the onboarding process on track. Finally, the last recommendation would be to make sure you fill out the carrier onboarding spreadsheet completely (i.e. USDOT number, carrier contact and a technical contact) to help expedite the process, which includes ranking/prioritizing the carriers by volume to help bring the most value to the broker.

Detention Visibility and Reporting

Q: What are the challenges you see customers dealing with when it comes to detention?

A: One of the biggest challenges is the inability to validate in and out times and in the interest of maintaining good carrier relationships, paying detention fees without validation. Without a trusted data source, too often detention issues turn into too many phones calls and disputes that take too much extra time to resolve.

Q: Several Descartes MacroPoint customers use the solution to improve visibility and management of detention charges, can you share some examples?

A: Here’s a good example . . . normally brokers must wait for the carrier to submit an invoice, once received they can bill the shipper.  However, with the Descartes MacroPoint solution, brokers can be proactive and bill their shippers earlier, because they have data that verifies shipment was received. In addition, sometimes carriers will not submit detention bills, which allows the broker to realize additional revenue. Alternatively, some brokers pay their best carriers detention when it was due, but not charged, which strengthens the relationship.

Q: What are some of the enhancements that are being added to the solution around detention?

A: One enhancement is for ELD/GPS/TMS connections, we now ping the device at 15-minute intervals enabling the in and out times to be more accurate. Additional enhancements are around our new detention reporting. This new feature will allow customers to customize the detention alerts and reports setting in the system. For example, a broker can set a custom amount of time indicating “free time”. This will be the trigger for the detention period to start. Customers can also get alerts when carriers enter the “free time” and when the “free time” ends. If the carrier is still onsite when the “free time” ends, the detention clock will start and be captured for the report. Alerts can be set up to send automatically or customer can receive via the detention report.

Q: Are you seeing examples where brokers are using the detention data to work with shipper customers in a more strategic way to help improve their operations?

A: Yes, in fact we have had some customer use it as no opportunity to help the shipper invest in better system to help manage their pickup and delivers to improve operations, which in turn carriers, that once had thought they had a bad reputation for keeping drivers longer then needed.

Visualization and the Descartes MacroPoint Control Tower

Q: The Descartes MacroPoint control tower provides an extremely intuitive visualization of a broker’s active loads. How have you seen this being received by customers over the last 12 months? 

A: We’ve had excellent feedback! The ability to glance at the control tower and see only the loads in jeopardy allows brokers to focus only on those loads that are potentially at risk for failure. This can eliminate the need for check calling every single carrier/driver and manage by exception.

We also found that it helps onboarding new employees to the operations team. With our faster growing customers, they are always adding new people, often starting in the track and trace team. The control tower interface accelerates how quickly those new employees can add value and support future growth.

Q: How does it help brokers within other parts of their organization?

A: It depends on the of the organization. Let’s say someone in another area is responsible for specific customers or a region. That user will be able to create and save custom search filters in Descartes MacroPoint, enabling them to only focus on the loads they are responsible for.

Q: Can you provide some examples of how brokers have enabled the control tower for their customers and the benefits associated with it?

A: With some assistance from our support team, several of our broker customers decided to create a customer-facing portal enabling their customers to have access to a self-service option to know where their shipments are in transit.  This can dramatically reduce the “where’s my load” emails and calls coming into their call center. Also, the customers get used to the self-serve feature, especially when they expand to other parts of the organization including transportation, operations, merchandizers, etc.

Q: Having the ability to see the traffic and weather on a map and determining how it could potentially impact a load provides great insight. Can you share an example of how this helped a customer?

A: Yes, we have a customer that noticed one of their loads had fallen behind and was not going to make it to the destination on time. They were able to check the traffic and there was a huge traffic jam that shut down the highway. The user was able to call the customer to notify them of the issue, because the user was honest and explained the situation. The shipper appreciated it and was able to unload other trucks and send his crew home without having to pay any over time by keeping the crew late waiting on the truck stuck in traffic.

Q: Can the control tower integrate into my transportation management system and/or existing customer portals?

A: Yes, there are multiple ways that customers have integrated the control tower and the underlying information into their TMS and/or portals.

Cold Chain and Temperature Control Monitoring

Q: Now that Descartes MacroPoint has temperature control capabilities, can you describe how this works and what is required from the carriers?

A: Through integrations, we can connect to carrier’s transportation management systems and collect temperature readings from the refrigerated unit. We can also integrate directly into the refrigerated unit. Trucks can have a single zone or multiple zones. Regardless of number of zones or loads, the broker can set temperature thresholds (minimum and maximum) for each. We are also able to collect ambient temperature. If the temperature drifts outside of the configured thresholds, the solution will send alerts to the broker or carrier, and ultimately notifying the driver of the issue. With this new capability enabled, the driver no longer must stop and take temperatures during the trip, which is much more efficient. One of our customers said these stops could take the driver between 30-45 minutes and was required every 3 hours. For them, this was a huge productivity gain.

Q: Can you share some customer examples of how they are using the temperature control capability to serve their customers more effectively?

A: Yes, one of our customers is a cheese producer that was experiencing issues with their product being returned, because the receiver would check the temperature of the trailer and refuse the load, because the trailer was too warm. Previously, our customer would have to take the product back and it could cost them up to $150,000. Now, with the temperature control capability enabled, they can provide proof of temperature in transit and through to delivery, basically eliminating the chance of a returned load.

We also have a chemical company that transports high-value chemicals that need to be kept at temperatures between 90-110 degrees. If they have issues where the temperature compliance runs outside that threshold, they would need to return the load and remix the chemicals to a lower grade, which would result in additional transportation costs, potential lost revenue and an unsatisfied customer.

Q: How is the data and/or alerts shared with shippers?  Are there options to set this up differently for each customer?

A: There are definitely various options for our customers to get date or receive alerts. The data can be sent directly to the customer, so they can determine whether to share with shipper, or the data can be sent direct to the customer. Some brokers prefer to receive the alerts first to be able to address any issues. The alerts can also be sent to the customer at the same time.

Capacity Matching

Q: At Evolution 2018, Descartes’ annual user conference and at the recent TIA event, Descartes shared the plans around the Descartes MacroPoint capacity matching capabilities. Can you provide an overview of these new capabilities?

A: Sure, we are very excited to be offering a comprehensive capacity matching tool for our brokerage customers. This capability would allow our customers to use their data to help better select available carriers for their upcoming loads. In addition, the tool will include a capacity co-op, which will enable brokers to share unused capacity within their network with other Descartes MacroPoint broker customers. They will be able to receive more data back to help them locate capacity for loads that need to be booked. It will indicate where the availability capacity will be in a particular area and the relevant historical date of the lane it normally runs, which will give the user the best chance for a completed match. This will ultimately help save time, minimize phone calls and reduce or eliminate empty miles on pickups.

Q: The capacity co-op is very interesting, can you describe how this will work?

A: The co-op is a very exciting part of the tool. The concept behind the co-op program is all the customers that are using the capacity matching tool in the program will be able to share “double blind” data from their carriers. This breaks down to include:

  • Historical booked loads (lanes where carriers / trucks normally travel)
  • Current booked loads to show the forward-looking capacity (knowing a truck is delivering in a particular area on a particular day)

The data will be used to help show the users, what trucks and equipment will be available on a certain day and time for a load. Customers will also be able to review the data to confirm if that truck prefers to move loads on that lane.

The data is double blind, so customers will never know which broker shared the data. The truck locations will be shown in a radius, so you will not be able to identify which customer that truck was picking up from or delivering to.

Q: What feedback have you received from customers so far? Can you share what the expected benefits will be? (time savings, lower rates, less dead head miles, etc.)

A: Yes, we’ve received positive feedback to date. The potential benefits include time savings, lower rates, fewer dead-head miles and more.