[PODCAST] Talking Trucking Tech - Episode 5

Microdea 2020-11-12 11:51:43
Microdea on Nov 12 2020

Below is an automated transcript of the podcast episode. There may be inaccuracies, or edits of the audio version added for readability.

Steele (00:09):

Hi and welcome to another episode of Talking Trucking Tech with Microdea. I'm Steele Roddick and I'll be your host each week as guests and I talk about how technology is transforming the transportation and logistics industry. The goal of Talking Trucking Tech or TTT is to help carriers and brokers successfully manage the rapidly changing landscape of freight technology, including trends, platforms, best practices, and business results. Today on TTT, we have Doug Schrier VP of Product Innovation at Transflo. In case you missed the big announcement Transflow acquired Microdia in October and combined --  We now provide the transportation supply chain with one of the largest digital platforms, helping shippers, freight brokers, carriers, and drivers improve communication, gain load visibility, expedite payment processing, and automate the back office. So we thought now would be a good time to talk with Doug about what Transflo is all about and where we're headed together.

Steele (01:03):

Doug, welcome to TTT. Excited to get your thoughts on a few things today. So let's, let's hop right into it. I know you've been in the industry for a long time and used to work for Covenant Transport, I  was curious, you know, what eventually convinced you or got you excited about, you know, going to the dark side, if you will, or you know, and how your experience has been working, you know, as out a vendor?

Doug (01:31):

Yeah, no, absolutely. It's funny. We always refer to transportation technology providers is working for the dark side and I don't know where that actually came from, but you know, it's definitely a different side of the fence. Yeah. one thing that, you know, has got me excited about transportation when I first came in I consulted for a whole bunch of different industries from very heavy tech to processing plants for chickens. So I've seen it all.

And what I saw with transportation, especially over the road transportation was that it was a problem of scalability. We, as an industry know how to move freight successfully from point A to point B, we can do that safely and we can do that efficiently until we're asked to do a thousand times a day. And that scalability solution, there's a lot of tech investment. It requires a lot of smart people, a lot of SMEs that have done this for years to, to come up with the right solutions. And it all ultimately rests on a professional drivers, you know, shoulders. And, you know, it's been a fun journey in the last 10 years working in transportation. My heart really goes out to their professional driver and day in and day out. We are trying to make it simpler and easier for them to do their job.

Steele (02:55):

That's really interesting regarding scalability. Thing's interesting because of like the industry is still quite, quite fragmented, but of course there are, you know, these, these major carriers, I guess, what do you think are like the, you know, sort of biggest lessons when it comes to really like overcoming the initial hurdles with scalability, because clearly it's, you know, it's a challenge that some have successfully navigated to, to at least a certain extent.

Doug (03:17):

Yeah. You know, you always have that kind of you know, desire, you know, first it is what are your biggest problems? Like it doesn't matter what piece of the supply chain you're in. We all have problems and, you know, you have them from a technology provider standpoint, you have them from carrier to broker to shipper, but what are the biggest problems and one of the practical solutions and delivering them, and then understanding the verticals out there and understanding the, the providers out there to say, Hey, has anyone solved this problem yet?

And how have they done it? Is this something that I can buy off the shelf and it solves my problem, or is this something that I'm going to have to go into a think tank with some really smart people and come out with a practical solution that we can scale? So those are always the things that I look at. What I found best for fleets is a combination of, of both finding really, really good providers that understand the industry have been in them shoes while also not stopping to their innovation cycle. Because frequently our customers are ones that drive us forward. We use a customer advisory board here at Transflow to really get what's what's going on in the industry, get their feedback on what we're doing to solve those problems and make sure it's the right thing at scale and across all of our costs.

Steele (04:41):

Yeah, no, the customer customer led innovation thing, for sure. Yeah. Maybe more specifically, I know Transflow his mission is to help enable a frictionless supply chain. So maybe when you look at this date of digitization today, you know, where do you see brokers and carriers kind of making the biggest gains and where do you, I guess, like where, where, where do they still have the biggest rooms for improvement lies?

Doug (05:02):

Yeah. So again, the biggest gain is going to be whatever you can do to save time for the professional drivers. So if you look at the time the driver leaves the door to the time they return. They're being asked to do some 140 different activities. Only one of them is [to drive] and go and safely down the road. We have several activities around FMCSA compliance, but many are about dealing with the customer the freight the broker, the carrier staying, you know, certified and up-to-date and keeping the truck up to date from a maintenance standpoint.

You know, it's not just one silver bullet out there, you know, if I could say, you know, there's one, I'd say anything that you can do to solve driver turnover. And generally that means taking and listening to your drivers feedback, provide them solutions that help them save time throughout the day in maximizing their use of their hours of service. And that's something that we'll see through and through is fleets that struggle with driver turnover. They tend to struggle with the application of hours of service and really, truly using the capacity of that professional driver.

When that driver's not moving down the road because they're doing some of the other 140 different activities is costing that fleet time, it's costing that fleet money, but it also not paying the driver, the driver in many instances, they only get paid for the miles driven, not the work that they put into those other activities.

Steele (06:34):

That's really interesting. So the, I know the move to digital, like digital ELDs instead of the paper logs that that's actually like made it more legible or kind of, you know, made it able to optimize a little bit better actually for driver's hours of service. It's, it's actually put some pressure on, you know, shippers to be a lot tighter about getting drivers moving and that sort of thing. Like how has, how has the ELD mandate, I know it's kind of changed this dynamic a little bit, right?

Doug (07:02):

Yeah. You know, luckily they brought back to split sleeper birth. So that gave a little bit of time back in certain situations for the driver. But we look at our platform as a collaboration platform and, you know, talking about the shippers and the pressure on the shippers, they want to reduce their supply chain costs as much as they can in the carriers need to maximize their value as much as they can so that they can pay the drivers and pay their employees well, and work on that driver retention thing. I think one of the biggest items that we saw during the period of COVID is a quick desire to go paperless within the supply chain through Electronic BOL POD type technology is where instead of getting a, a piece of paperwork and scanning it into your mobile application or through a truck stop network, that the are start in with a digital form of that document, or they're starting with just the data, that document.

And then what we transplant is creating that, that digital view of that information for, for the carrier, for the driver, those things really help accelerate. But anytime we can work with two different parties within the supply chain and work to get them working together, there's generally areas to improve productivity, reduce that friction and make everybody happier with lower costs and higher pay in the industry.

Steele (08:29):

Yeah, that's actually, that's a good segue cause I know one of the things that I was really impressed with about Transflo was that you clearly fought a lot about, you know, becoming a platform. I know platform is one of those, especially if you're in technology, is one of those buzz words. Everyone wants to talk about being a platform. But I guess I was curious, you know, how you really think about Transflo's suite of products as a platform and how thinking about it like that does help you create more value for kind of the various folks in the supply chain.

Doug (09:01):

Yeah. You know, so it all starts with those 140 activities that we talked about, you know, being a platform is about being the mobile application that you know, your users really truly want to use and they want to do the majority of their work or majority of their experience within that platform within the application.

And, you know, that's what we're driving towards. We're driving towards where having Transflo Mobile is a strategic advantage for the fleets that use us because of drivers really enjoy it. They understand how it gets used, it's intuitive to them. And then the open platform allows that fleet to add additional layers of innovation, some of their own, some partners of Transflo to really provide a fully unique experience for that professional driver. And one that's driven around safety first productivity, second and overall compliance third. Yeah.

Steele (09:58):

Yeah. I know I've heard you talk in the past about these 130 or 140 different things. You know, that a driver has to do maybe. Yeah. Maybe do, do you have any other lessons or kind of from, you know, thinking about how to make an app that drivers really do like and love to use and you know, where kind of the biggest opportunities have been as you've, as you've gone about trying to digitize lots of those different tasks?

Doug (10:20):

Yeah, no, I mean, you're the biggest opportunity is going to be about ease of use. So whether you're making enhancements to the new, as simple as the way you scan the document or you're making changes to the way that the driver's going to interact with a fuel stop or ultimately the in customers, you really have to take into account what the driver's experience is. And the fact that no one likes change. So if you're going to change something, it's got to be for the better. And over the last two years, transport has gone through several big changes within the application from our overall look and feel of the mobile application to inserting in new features like, you know, ELD, you know, like Drivewise and co-pilot so that they could do everything within that same application. And as we do that is always extremely important to us to get feedback from the professional driver.

Doug (11:16):

And we do this in two different ways. We do this, of course, in direct connection with that professional driver where we're out there on the road talking to them, or we're holding events, whether on our social platform or through a WebEx engaging drivers and getting feedback. And then secondly, from our customers, our customers have the opportunity to, to talk to their driver base every single day. And as they do that and they find nuggets of information we opened up Avenue for them to submit that back to us that we can then take into account the next time we make a change or potentially even revert the change we just made. If it's not sitting well with the drivers or having to use that on a daily basis.

Steele (12:00):

Yeah. Cause there's a real, there's a like fine balance there between making con constantly making improvements, but not, you're not ever not ever changing it so much that you, you know, break the patterns or, you know, make it less intuitive or whatever it is

Doug (12:13):

Maybe. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, if you think about it, just something as simple as, Hey, let's help the professional drivers not have to deal with paper anymore. It really becomes a user experience activity or process that says, you know, how do you let this professional driver know that when they land on this yard and they're working with this customer, that they have a choice with electronic documents and they don't have to deal with a paper, you know, something as simple as that just in notifying the driver and triggering that behavior that we want to see and understanding their motivation helps us put the behavior we want within an application. And it makes a difference between, are we going to be successful with this install with the driver using these features? Or is this going to be something that does not hit home for them? And therefore they don't use it because no one wants to build technology or build solutions that aren't being used. We have to consider that user experience and drive that behavior that we want on consistently every single day within our application.

Steele (13:17):

I know you've, you've integrated a little bit of the voice command stuff. Do you, do you see that becoming more common over time?

Doug (13:24):

Yeah. Yeah. So there's a couple of different voice [functions], you know, the nice thing is today, when you look at the ecosystem, we deploy on, we deploy on the driver's personal device, whether it's an Apple device or Android device. And then we also deploy on a customer's tablet if they're providing their drivers a tablet, but those solutions frequently have voice enabled within it. So right, right off the bat, the one thing that we see a lot of is this server drivers sitting there texting and response, they're able to use the Siri or Google assist to verbalize their response. It speeds it up you know, in, helps them communicate with their fleet, their broker, their shippers sooner and faster. But also when you think about safety and you think about rolling down the road and having to get that driver important notification we want that driver to be able to be having messages, read to them and reading is just not enough. We want that driver to be able to reply. And this has become a, it becomes a really extremely important piece of our application because freight changes the demands on the driver change traffic head changes. And if that fleet manager needs to get a message out to them in the truck is moving down the road, a voice really enables a quick response without putting that driver in a situation where they have to unnecessarily pull.

Steele (14:46):

Yeah, I was curious to know whether it was more common or not the use case mix, makes total sense. 

Doug (14:57):

Hopefully a lot more common and something that we continue to invest in and we have a lot of drive from our customers pushing us to take it even further. And there's one thing that we've always done and that's listened to our customers.

Steele (15:12):

Yeah. It's recommended for sure. Absolutely. so Big data is a term you hear often. And I know the Transflo system has kind of billions of dollars of freight transactions flowing through it each year. Just curious how you're thinking about using that data to accelerate or improve the customer experience and, you know, the thoughts and kind of have around putting that data to, to work.

Doug (15:42):

Yeah. And big data comes in a lot of different frameworks, right? If you look at ELD and the amount of information, billions of pieces of data coming off your trucks on a yearly basis, there's huge opportunities to take that data and move it into action and have the action return, a true ROI to fleet. So we're seeing a lot of interest with this, specifically the ELD data, how they maximize hours of service for the drivers. And then also around the maintenance of the truck. You know, we continue to work on partnerships with people like uptake that bring preventative maintenance at next level where it's truly predictive. And they're helping greatly reduce the cost of maintaining that truck by having them not have to redo or do preventative maintenance before it's really do or needed. You know, when you bring it back into our application and what we do, we provide insights to our broker clients.

Doug (16:42):

They're able to use it to track their freight to project ETA from a carrier standpoint, I think one of the biggest things that if I was being asked to improve turnover within a fleet that I would be doing that you can do through the transformed mobile ecosystem is survey your drivers. Get that qualitative information back to your fleet that lets, you know, if your initiatives are working or not working and we've partnered with people element in order to do that. We have a full survey platform embedded within the mobile application that any of our customers can enable and use to drive turnover in the right direction.

Steele (17:25):

Maybe kind of on that front of the new technologies that are on the horizon, but maybe aren't quite ready yet or haven't quite been implemented to their fullest extent what are some of the technologies maybe you're really excited about? And I was curious in particular your thoughts on of course you're still hear a lot about artificial and blockchain being the other one that, you know, comes and comes and goes. But those two in particular, I was curious to know what your thoughts were.

Doug (17:57):

Yeah. You know, so there's a lot of buzz words out there and you know, frequently people talk about AI or about blockchain and you say what's really going to impact our company? What's really going to bring us forward?

Artificial intelligence. It depends on where you are with it. I know there's been a lot around the automation of a truck and what that looks like. The technology around that truck as well, has been really, really interesting to see, you know, how the truck's going to progress, how we move off of the reliability of diesel fuel or if we do and move to electric vehicles. I think the stuff that makes the most amount of sense to me though are the things that, that make simple and easy decisions, right? So give you an example you know, Microdea and Transflo have, you know, great synergies when it looks at how you process your back office and what you do with the information in your back office automate.

Doug (19:02):

And you know, I can bring up one use case with Crete Carriers in which just taking a practical approach with artificial intelligence, with OCR technology, eh, and setting that off to the side with some manual validation at the very end to drive to a 99% accuracy rate with reading invalidating that information. It has allowed them to automate their back office reduce headcount allocated to the back office by 71% and take those core assets the talent within your organization and push it back to your core value add, which is moving freight up and down the road safely. And being able to do more of it with what better safety, better service. And that's just one example of, of practical uses of the newer technology. But you know, we, we talk about it on a daily basis.

Doug (20:02):

I think blockchain makes a lot of sense, especially for some applications makes a lot of sense, but for example, how do you take a photograph that's coming off of the truck that shows no damage of that truck or that trailer on the dispatch. And then, you know, marry that up to the point on the backside, where there is damage to, to show where that, you know, accidentally did happen and where it procured on the same thing with the data that's coming off of your documents? Is it truly trusted? Can blockchain make it more trusted or is just having it within a central repository, like Transflo drive trust within the supply chain that you can now use that data across multiple different personas and drive that automation that we're talking about.

Steele (20:57):

Interesting. Yeah. So you see, you see there, there, there really are some, some practical use cases for sure. And see both as, as becoming, you know, in some, some way shape or form becoming more common in the used in the supply chain.

Doug (21:12):

Yeah. I, I feel much safer automating somebody's back office, right. And how they process their payments to their drivers and invoices to their shippers than I would ever automating their trucks to move down the road. And that's where I think that you start to see this really growth of practical technology within the supply chain and focusing on the things that are incremental improvements while also not forgetting that there will brewery big breakthroughs to transportation tech in the coming years.

Steele (21:49):

I know. Yeah. I know, I know that's kind of been, been promised for quite some time now, so everyone's always wondering when the next few years, you know that big breakthrough would really come, but from all I've read, it seems like it might still be pretty far off or at least like on the autonomous vehicles.

Doug (22:05):

No, I mean, you know, the, the, the greatest thing though, is, you know, in, I participate within the technology committee at ATA and you're seeing this evolution from several years ago, we're, we're talking class one level one automation where it's just simply controlling speed or controlling some aspect of safely moving down the road to where we're starting to see level three level four automation, make it out from a safety standpoint out to the, these trucks. So the trucks are now able to govern their speed, right. And with smart cruise they're able to detect a collision, automatically apply the brakes. They're able to maintain lane in all of those things are a huge safety benefits for the fleets. The other thing that I think is great technology is in the cameras where we're beginning to do facial scanning and retina scanning to determine fatigue and, you know, making sure that the driver understands because it's frequently, they're the last ones to know that they're in this state of fatigue, that they probably shouldn't be driving down the road. And that's that true application of, of, you know, visual technology machine learning to determine your risk and reduce your risk from a fleet perspective.

Steele (23:29):

That's fair. Yeah. The definitely the, the practical use cases and yeah, to your point about, you know, all the practical ways that it's improving safety incrementally that yeah, that, that makes a ton of sense. I've heard a lot of good things about the, the video technology in particular, for sure. Especially the, with the soaring insurance rate situation. Yeah. Everyone's eager to figure out how to make, how to make the fleet safer. So that makes a lot of sense. Kind of the last question I got for you is around, you know, having worked on both the carrier side and now, you know, for our technology vendor, maybe what are some of your pieces of wisdom you can share with trucking companies who are looking to get the most out of both their like technology investment and especially kind of out of the relationships with vendors that they have?

Doug (24:10):

It's always an interesting thing. And, you know, you can look at your vendors as vendors, or you can look at them as partners. And you're always going to get more, if you walk into a deal as a partnership, right. If you look at it from both sides and say, okay, what, what does a technology provider want to get out of this? What do we want to get out of this? And how do we collectively work together to achieve that goal?  And you know, that's the first thing like relationship management of your vendors is it should be key and it should be upfront. Because frequently they'll have things that you may not even know about. And, you know, from a vendor side is about getting that information to the customer and helping them enable those solutions from the customer side, it's understanding what's causing me issues to see those solutions fit. And the best way to do that is to have frequent contact, to treat it like a partnership to stay educated on what they're doing, their approach, their strategy and making sure that we're bringing value on both sides of that partnership, both from the buyer perspective and from the seller for space.

Steele (25:19):

Definitely hear a lot about trying, trying to be part yeah. Trying to be a partner. Yeah.

Doug (25:23):

Yeah. It sometimes can be a challenge. You know, but that's our goal. Like, you know, we want to be at a trusted technology provider and transportation. We want to help you solve your problems. And the best way for that to, to happen is for us to partner together. And for us to come on site, to see what's going on to, to see how we can help you. And, and that's one of the, I say most fun parts of my job is being able to walk in to a new operation, see what their approaches are see where their paradigms are, see what we can do from a technology provider to shift those paradigms and to create some sustainable value.

Steele (26:06):

That makes, that makes a lot of sense. And yeah, I could, I could sit here and ask you follow-up questions all day, actually. I, yeah, I am tremendously excited about about the partnership that we have here now.

Doug (26:19):

Yeah, no, it's a great opportunity. And, you know, we, we continue to look for those new opportunities to partner and drive more value for our customer base

Steele (26:27):

Looking forward to yeah. To, to a few more of these talks. So, yeah. Thanks again for joining us today. And thank you to everyone out there for tuning into another episode of TTT, be sure to click, subscribe, to hear about future episodes. And if you'd like to learn more about Microdea or Transflo, you can always check us out at our websites microdea.com or transflo.com.

Thanks again, Doug.

Doug (26:49):

All right. Thank you guys. Have a blessed day.

Microdea

Founded in 1995 and headquartered in Markham, Ontario, Microdea is a fast growing document management and automation software company serving hundreds of customers in the transportation and logistics industry, including truckload and LTL carriers, private fleets, brokers and 3PLs.

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