Volvo Chief: Technology Driving an Industry in Transition

October 30, 2019 • by Deborah Lockridge

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Martin Lundstedt, president and CEO of the Volvo Group, speaks to HDMA members at NACV. Photo by Deborah Lockridge

Electrification, autonomous trucks, and connectivity are transforming the trucking industry. said Martin Lundstedt, President and CEO of the Volvo Group. He explored these topics addressing a crowd of trucking industry suppliers at the Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association’s lunch briefing during the North American Commercial Vehicle Show in Atlanta Oct. 29.

With 8 billion people projected to be living in an increasingly digital world by 2030, he said, “With that population that means that transportation needs will continue to grow and increase, both goods and people – but it needs to be considerably more sustainable,” in order to leave the world in good shape for future generations.

  • Vehicles are only used about 25 percent of the time over their life cycle, sitting idle and unproductive the rest of the time
  • Only about 40-50% of available load capacity is actually used, meaning more of a vehicle’s length is theoretically available for cargo
  • 5-10% of total fuel consumed is used to move goods
  • Roads reach their peak throughput only 5% of the time, and even then, it is only 10% covered with vehicles
  • Nearly 7% of all U.S. accidents involve a large truck – and about 12% of fatal crashes.

“In Volvo, what we are going for is safety, that should continue to be the main priority,” he said – but at the same time, obviously new technologies offer great potential for more efficiency and productivity.

Lundstedt said the new technologies transforming the transportation system are electrification, autonomous technologies, and connectivity.

“They are interesting, but they must be put in context,” he said. “How do we get out the benefits?”

As a project that covers all three technologies, he highlighted Vera, an electric, connected and autonomous tractor, designed for repetitive assignments in logistics centers, factories and ports, Vera doesn’t even have a cab for a driver. Vera now is being used in its first real-world job – providing autonomous transport between a logistics center and the port terminal in Volvo’s hometown of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Moving to e-mobility, Lundstedt pointed to the Volvo Lights project (Volvo Low Impact Green Heavy Transport Solutions) where it’s conducting real-world tests of battery electric Volvo VNRs at the southern California ports, working with California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District and over a dozen industry partners. Volvo has said it plans to have the EVNRs available for sale by the end of 2020.

Also under the Volvo Group, Mack offers the LR electric for waste/refuse applications.

Autonomous trucks, he said, have a great deal of potential in areas such as safety, energy efficiency, and productivity, and predicted they “will come quickly into our business.” There are many applications the Volvo Group is involved with where autonomous trucks make sense, such as port drayage, mines, and cross dock operations. “This is an area where we are putting a lot of effort.”

Volvo recently announced it is establishing a new business division that will focus the company’s engineering, design and financial efforts to accelerate the development, commercialization and sales of self-driving vehicles. And earlier this year, Volvo Group announced a partnership with Nnvidia to develop advanced AI platform for autonomous trucks.

The third area where there is huge potential, he said, is “growing digitization.”

Today there are 1 million connected Volvo group vehicles. “We are collecting enormous amounts of data. The capability of collection, analysis and action have improved tremendously.”

This connectivity is enabling new levels of customer service and uptime, he said, allowing for more informed and specific advice.

Lundstedt emphasized that a large proportion of its investment in developing new technologies focuses on what he called “well-known technology,” such as powertrains, aerodynamics, and safety systems.

“Yes, we are investing heavily in new technologies, but equality heavily into what was call well known; there’s a lot that can be done in those areas as well.”

EKA Solutions Launches Transformational Next-Gen Enterprise Broker TMS Solution

SALT LAKE CITY, Oct. 29, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — EKA Solutions, Inc., provider of a cloud-based freight integration ecosystem platform, announced today that it has launched its Enterprise Broker Omni-TMS® solution. This transformational new software solution completes the EKA suite of Broker TMS offerings – Core, Professional and Enterprise – to help broker customers of any size digitize their business and thrive in the new supply chain world.

EKA provides a transformational digital freight integration ecosystem platform to manage all the customer’s freight businesses. EKA serves as the system of record across multiple applications and seamlessly ties into other freight solutions (TMS, driver apps, etc.). A single digital end-to-end hub delivers a seamlessly unified, consistent, efficient and effective experience across all freight management systems for customer’s entire business with trusted entities.

“The end-to-end cloud-based Enterprise Broker TMS software solution is focused on large customers to transform their logistics and private marketplace business for rapid growth,” said JJ Singh, Founder, Investor and CEO of EKA Solutions, Inc. “With increased pressure to provide superior customer service and the shipper’s need for freight visibility, EKA’s innovative software tools enable large broker customers to make better decisions and faster, at affordable cost and with increased flexibility to manage all their freight businesses including 4PL”.

“EKA created the next-gen Enterprise Broker TMS solution to enable customers to create strategic operational leverage in the new freight economy,” said Mark Walker, Investor, President and Chief Digital Officer for EKA Solutions, Inc. “It’s exciting to see customers agreeing with us by signing-up to run their logistics business on the EKA Enterprise Broker Omni-TMS® platform”.

About EKA

EKA Solutions, Inc., provides the Smart, Unified Platform EKA Omni- TMS® for – Virtually – Everyone. EKA Omni-TMS ® is the cloud-based SaaS freight Eco-System designed to transform the transportation and logistics industry. It empowers small, medium and large size broker, carrier and shipper businesses to operate from quote-to-cash with affordable and best-in-class digital tools, enabling the higher performance demanded in tomorrow’s supply chain. With real-time information, EKA Omni-TMS® enables brokers, carriers and shippers to provide visibility and transparency as they fluidly trade across an expanding and verified network with key, trusted partners. For more information about EKA, visit:

Arune Singh

SOURCE EKA Solutions, Inc.

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The Speed of Technology Just Jumped into Hyperspace

Truck Tech • October 23, 2019 • by Jack Roberts

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Image by Stain_Marylight from Pixabay 

A few short years ago, I used to give a presentation on the wave of disruptive technology that was just beginning to stir up the trucking industry. My Big Finish slide was a shot of the then-new-and-mind-blowing Amazon delivery drone– to make the point that while many fleets were struggling to find drivers, tech companies like Amazon were testing flying robots to see if they could one day deliver packages.

Well, it looks like that one day is here.

A slew of news stories over the past few weeks have made it clear that drones are getting very close to operational deployment in introductory areas. UPS and FedEx have been particularly aggressive in getting their respective drone programs up to speed – which makes sense. They are the two companies that would benefit immediately from drone deliveries.

And while we haven’t heard much from Amazon lately on the drone front, ZF is working on a delivery system of its own, and a company called Alphabet’s Wing claims to have beat everyone else to the punch, launching the first commercial drone delivery service in the U.S. on Oct. 19th.

In the short term, these developments aren’t going to change much for most of us. In fact, I’d guess most of us are still several years away from seeing our first drone delivery in person.

As crazy as flying robots dropping packages off on your doorstep sounds, the real take-away here is much more profound: The fact that we’ve gone from delivery drones being a far-fetched concept used in presentations about technology five or six years ago to reality is a stark confirmation that change is coming with stunning swiftness. And the only thing you can do in the face of these technological onslaught is to accept it and make it work for you.

Related: A Complete Tech Transformation for Trucking

Even more important than that, I think, is the reality that the pace of change has accelerated far beyond what most of us think of as normal. I’m often asked when I think autonomous trucks will become a common sight. And people are shocked when I tell them it could happen in as soon as five years – with 10 years being a more reasonable assumption. Most people I know who cover this industry tend to say 25 to 50 years – if it ever happens at all.

But my personal conviction is that the rate of technological advancement has accelerated to such a point that the trucking industry – perhaps society as a whole – may be significantly transformed in ways we are only just beginning to envision in as little as a decade. And I’m hardly alone in making that assumption. The stark reality now is that things are happening fast. And they’re getting faster at an exponential rate every 12 to 18 months.

Maybe you find this to be depressing. We are, after all, quickly moving into areas with many unknowns. Just this morning, Google announced that its engineers have unlocked the secrets to quantum computing. Moreover, Google believes these unfathomably fast and powerful supercomputers could be in common usage in as little as five years. And that means that the already-frenetic fast pace of disruption and change we’re dealing with will basically jump into hyperspace.

So, on the one hand, I’m feeling pretty good about my five-to-ten-year prediction for autonomous trucks. But, on the other hand, some experts are saying that quantum computers could pose the single greatest existential threat to mankind in history – worse than nuclear weapons, even. And that is, you know, kind of a buzz kill.

But one thing is for certain – we’re not going to put the technological toothpaste back into the proverbial tube any time soon. A whole new world is coming at us fast. And opting out of it is simply not going to be an option

Intermodal freight continues shift to East Coast, benefiting trucking

John Paul Hampstead, Associate Editor  

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(Photo: Norfolk Southern)

Container volume growth on the East Coast of North America continues to outpace growth on the West Coast, despite longer ocean transit times and higher prices from Asia. 

But the eastern railroads are not necessarily the beneficiaries here. CSX (NASDAQ: CSX) has cut many intermodal lanes, reducing intermodal volumes by 8% year-to-date, which followed a similar drop the prior year – the largest drop of any Class 1 railroad. Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NSC), on the other hand, moves the most intermodal freight as a percentage of total carloadings (55%), but has struggled to deliver operating ratio improvements as average intermodal rates fell from $1.78/mile to $1.47/mile this year (INTRM.USA). 

First, price action in the spot markets for 40-foot containers from Asia to North America has responded to volume growth on the East Coast. Over the course of September, rates to West Coast ports (FBXD.CNAW) fell while they were flat or up to the East Coast ports (FBXD.CNAE), widening the ‘Panama spread’ (FBXD.PANA), or the difference between the rates.

(Chart: FreightWaves SONAR)

A widening Panama spread has the effect of making West Coast ports relatively more attractive. U.S. Customs imported shipments to Savannah (CSTM.SAV) are at one of the highest levels they’ve been at in two years, while the same data for Los Angeles (CSTM.LAX) was higher for most of that period than it is today.

(Chart: FreightWaves SONAR)

But the railroads that have pursued intermodal the most aggressively have underperformed against their main competitors, especially in the case of the eastern rails, CSX and Norfolk Southern. After CSX chief executive officer Hunter Harrison’s death in December 2017, Jim Foote took over, and described in earnings calls how the railroad’s intermodal network was almost a separate franchise that had been left nearly untouched by Harrison’s reorganization of the rest of CSX’s operations.

Foote removed about 7% of CSX’s intermodal volumes as he ‘rationalized’ the network to focus on high-density lanes where he saw an opportunity to improve service and yield by reducing the number of touches involved in CSX’s handling of the freight. The railroad was able to gets its operating ratio (OR), or the percentage of revenue consumed by operating expenses, down to 57.4% in the second quarter of 2019.

Norfolk Southern, on the other hand, is more committed to its intermodal business. NSC’s intermodal volumes are down only 2.4% year-to-date, compared to CSX’s 8%, the smallest drop of any U.S. railroad. But weak trucking spot prices (DATVF.VNU), down 16.4% year-to-date, have pulled intermodal rates down with them. Norfolk Southern was one of the last railroads to embrace the cost-cutting and efficiency initiatives of precision scheduled railroading (PSR), but so far has not seen the dramatic early-stage benefits that typically come with it.

“While the recent network changeover occurred without major incident, we are nonetheless puzzled by the seeming divergence in how the margin improvement story is unfolding at NSC versus prior PSR iterations (including what we have seen so far from UNP),” wrote Credit Suisse equities analyst Allison Landry in a July note on Norfolk Southern. “Typically, the step-function change in the OR occurs swiftly and in the magnitude of several hundred basis points of improvement within the first 12-18 months of implementation.”

Norfolk Southern’s large intermodal business, generally understood to be lower-margin than other commodity types, may be part of the problem. The other issue is that many railroad analysts think that intermodal is less competitive on the East Coast, that it doesn’t make as much economic sense to shippers, because average lengths of haul are shorter. If a shipper is moving freight from Los Angeles to Chicago, a distance of 2,000 miles, the shipper can save far more money by using intermodal instead of truck that it can on a lane like Savannah to Chicago, which is only about 970 miles. 

Shippers who choose intermodal over truck are normally trading service for price, but for some customers, the trade-off is only worth it on long-haul lanes that produce bigger cost savings. The chart below shows relative year-to-date growth in long-haul trucking tender volumes for Savannah, Los Angeles, Elizabeth, New Jersey, and Houston.

(Chart: FreightWaves SONAR)

Savannah’s long-haul trucking volumes have grown the fastest by far, nearly twice as fast as those of Los Angeles. 

Part of the railroads’ struggle with intermodal this year – across the Class 1s, intermodal volumes are down 4.1% year-to-date – is caused by relatively soft freight demand and relatively loose trucking capacity. The rails have taken advantage of thinner volumes to reduce dwell times and run their trains faster, but those service metrics could deteriorate if volumes came back in a big way, for example if a resolution to trade disputes came earlier than expected, and re-accelerating economic growth sparked a surge in consumption.

In that scenario, railroad terminals could become snarled, trains might be delayed, and healthy margins might prove to be elusive as time-sensitive shippers prefer to pay premium prices to trucking carriers instead of the rails. 

“Rails remain hotly debated,” observed Deutsche Bank equities analyst Amit Mehrotra in an October 3 investor note. “Investor bias is positive, but the magnitude of the volume decline is concerning, and as a result, third quarter results will be critical to the near/midterm outlook for Rail shares. In this sense, near-term conviction is significantly shaken, but long-term thesis still holds.”

Efficiency differences between port operators, the environmental regulation of drayage providers in Southern California, persistent labor disputes, and competitive container rates are all driving intermodal volumes to the East Coast. At present, it appears that CSX is largely uninterested in capturing that freight, Norfolk Southern may have more of it than it actually wants – NSC guided for flat intermodal volume growth for the full year – and that trucking carriers could stand to benefit the most.

Why Trucking Companies Need to Plan Now for a Cyber Attack

October 6, 2019 • by Deborah Lockridge 

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Harold Sumerford, CEO of J&M Tank Lines, talks about his fleet’s experience with a cyber attack.Photo by Deborah Lockridge

When Harold Sumerford’s phone rang at 2:30 a.m. on April 2, he knew the news couldn’t be good. But he figured it was probably the safety department – not the CFO telling him the company’s entire computer system was down from a ransomware attack.

The CEO of J&M Tank Lines, Sumerford shared the headaches and lessons learned from that experience as part of a panel discussion on cybersecurity on Oct. 6 during the American Trucking Associations’ Management Conference and Exhibition in San Diego.

Although the company was able to get the email and phone systems back up in a few hours, it took four days to get functional again. Although they had backups, he said, in layman’s terms, the computer system “could see the data but didn’t know what it meant.” It was a painstaking process to go through all the lines of code and make it interpretable by the computer system. And during those four days, they weren’t able to bill any customers or enter anything into the system. Drivers got their paychecks only because J&M simply paid them the exact same amount they received the previous week.J&M was just one example of a rapidly growing problem with cybersecurity in the trucking industry. Transportation and logistics companies are now among the top-targeted industries by computer hackers, according to the panel. In fact, a recent article on ZDNet reported that “hackers are deploying previously unknown tools in a cyberattack campaign targeting shipping and transport organizations with custom trojan malware.”

Sharon Reynolds, chief information security officer, Omnitracs, said normally she would put up a montage of recent cyber security headines – but there have been so many lately, you might as well just put "your company name here."
 - Photo by Deborah Lockridge
Photo by Deborah Lockridge

Trucking’s Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities

Sharon Reynolds, chief information security officer for Omnitracs, explained that the “attack surface” vulnerable to hackers in the trucking industry is ever-expanding and includes:

  • CAN bus exploits on vehicles
  • Connectivity via satellite, wireless, cellular and Bluetooth
  • Internet-facing networks and platforms

Trucks, laptops, mobile phones, etc., connect to web services. Then there are web-based platforms we use such as GoToMeeting or SalesForce that are also points of connection. “So when you talk about the attack surface, think about the whole ecosystem,” she said. “These are all points of ingress and egress.”

Sometimes the point of vulnerability isn’t technology-based at all, but human-based. Moderator Ken Craig, vice president of special projects for McLeod Software, later shared with HDT a story of a “white-hat” test probing a company’s defenses where the “hacker,” unable to find a weakness via computer, called the company’s main phone line and went down the company directory until he found someone whose outgoing voice mail said they were on vacation for the next two weeks – then mimicked that employee’s voice to call the company’s IT help desk, saying she was having trouble logging in remotely, and got the access information needed.

“A high number of people do not survive these attacks financially,” Sumerford said. “This has to be a strategic priority.”

6 Things to do to Protect Your Company from Hackers

The panel offered a number of strategies to help prevent cyberattacks and mitigate their consequences:

1. Conduct an assessment.

Joseph Saunders, CEO of RunSafe Security, said there are many assessments available that you can use as a framework to evaluate the vulnerabilities in your organization. Generally, he said, there are about 100 questions to ask yourself. You can do it internally or hire an outside party to help (but don’t pay more than $15,000, he said.) It’s a good idea to do a new assessment once a year.

2. Conduct a penetration test

In a penetration test, an outside party, a “white hat hacker,” tests and probes your systems looking for vulnerabilities. Don’t tell your team you’re doing it, or they will become more vigilant and skew the results. This is a separate assessment from the self-assessment, and the results may be similar, or the white hat may find something that you did not uncover previously. Like the assessment, don’t just do it once. Repeat every year or two.As an example of a penetration test, Reynolds cited the Cyber Truck Challenge held in Detroit annually. “We bring our equpment, and college students and professional white-hat hackers hack our devices in an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) environment, and we get that feedback and can go back and say you to developers, you missed this.”

Joseph Saunders, CEO, RunSafe Security, talks about how to prioritize cyber security weaknesses at your company.
 - Photo by Deborah Lockridge

Joseph Saunders, CEO, RunSafe Security, talks about how to prioritize cyber security weaknesses at your company. Photo by Deborah Lockridge

3. Prioritize the risks

You can apply a simple risk management framework, Saunders said. On one axis, plot the weaknesses you uncover based on the likelihood of an attack. On the other axis, plot them based on the significance of their impact. The items in the upper-right-hand quadrant that are both most likely and can do the most damage are the ones you want to address first.

“You only have a finite number of resources you can throw at this,” Reynolds added. “So identify the most critical things — but have your containment and mitigation plan in place for those critical systems.”

4. Apply software patches

Saunders compared software patches to washing your hands – it’s something that can prevent viruses, but only if you do it consistently. Yes, it’s a pain, but make it a regular part of operations and maintenance. Talk to your suppliers – they’re regularly coming up with fixes for weaknesses they find in their offerings, and you need to come up with operations that install them consistently.

5. Consider insurance

One of the things J&M Tank Lines did after its attack was purchase a cyber insurance plan. “Cyber insurance is becoming really critical,” said Omnitracs’ Reynolds. “Like any other business risk we insure for, it’s important to view it as a business risk.” However, companies will generally require you to put a robust cyber security program in place as part of the deal. “You have to have good cyber hygiene or they won’t pay.” Sumerford said J&M just renewed its insurance; “We have a pretty in-depth cyber security plan of action.” Which leads us to…

6. Create an incident response plan

Don’t wait until you get that phone call at 2:30 a.m. to figure out what you’re going to do if and when your company is the victim of a cyber-attack, Saunders said. “Knowing what to do when you get that phone call in the middle of the night is key.” Questions to ask yourself include:

  • Who is in charge?
  • Who gets notified?
  • Who is the response team?
  • Who is your forensics team? The panel emphasized that it’s important to build the relationship with that forensics company before you have the attack. It’s not exactly a good time to be trying to set up a purchase order with your computers down. Set up a retainer arrangement, Reynolds suggested. “This way, you can call and say, ‘It’s happened, boots on the ground.’”
  • Who is your FBI or DHS contact? Again, the time to meet your FBI or Department of Homeland Security contact is not when you’re in the middle of a cyber attack situation. “You don’t want to cold-call the FBI,” Craig said.
  • Will you pay the ransom?

Long-term solutions

Saunders said while these are good things to do in the short term, in the long term, the industry needs to find better ways to “disrupt hacker economics.”

“Often times if they can find a vulnerability in one place, they’re going to do it again and again,” he said. In fact, automated exploits are used in nearly 70 percent of cyber-attacks. “This is an underground business as sophisticated as the ones you operate. The idea is to disrupt hacker economics.”

The military has learned this lesson with drones. “If you think about a fleet of drones… each one is functionally identical, they have the same software, so if there’s a vulnerability on one, it exists in all. The military figured out if you could make it functionally identical but logically unique, so each one is different from an attacker’s perspective, then they have to spend a lot of time to work on each drone. This disrupts the hacker economy.”

Transflo Engage Lets Fleets Measure Driver Satisfaction

October 7, 2019 • Transflo

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Photo: Transflo

Transflo has introduced Transflo Engage, giving fleets the ability to measure driver satisfaction from within the Transflo Mobile+ app using the People Element employee engagement platform.

People Element’s platform allows fleet managers and HR professionals to create, automate and delivery custom surveys to drivers through their mobile devices. It can be used to measure driver engagement, commitment to the organization and intent to stay, while helping employers take a proactive approach to turnover.

“When you combine our world-class survey platform and data coaches with the ability to reach drivers directly and easily through the Transflo Mobile+ app, you maximize your opportunity to increase driver engagement and retention like never before,” said Chris Coberly, president and CEO of People Element.

Traditional survey methods such as email or phone calls can be more easily ignored. Transflo Engage leverages the People Element platform and Transflo Mobile+ to provide a simple and convenient survey experience since the driver is responding to questions within the mobile app he or she uses as part of an everyday workflow.

With custom surveys and instant feedback, managers and HR professionals can make fast, strategic, data-driven decisions about how to manage driver satisfaction while maintaining a high level of engagement.

“Imagine if you could reach out to any one of your drivers at any time and ask how happy they are, or for their opinion about company policies or procedures,” said Doug Schrier, vice president of product and innovation at Transflo. “Now you can, with Transflo Engage on the Transflo Mobile+ platform. Drivers will feel more engaged and respected, which leads to improved morale, lower turnover, and a better bottom line.”

EKA Solutions Licenses Trimble’s Mapping Web APIs to Deliver Enhanced ETA and Visibility Solutions

Trimble MAPS Development Platform Web APIs Enables EKA to Provide Real-Time Trip Management and Precise ETAs as Part of its Cloud-Based TMS Offerings

SUNNYVALE, Calif., Sept. 12, 2019—Trimble (NASDAQ: TRMB) announced today that EKA Solutions, Inc., a provider of cloud-based transportation management system (TMS) solutions, has licensed web APIs from the Trimble MAPS development platform to deliver intelligent automated dispatch and real-time visibility solutions with interactive trip management tools for brokers, carriers and shippers. 

Consisting of mapping, routing, navigation and location APIs, the Trimble MAPS development platform is specifically designed for solution providers and fleets looking to build or enhance commercial applications.

“EKA is excited to work with Trimble. The collaboration between Trimble and EKA will deliver transformative and affordable solutions to small- and medium-size broker, carrier and shipper businesses. It will empower them to provide a better experience for customers and drivers, while reducing the time, expense and effort of managing the business basics,” said JJ Singh, founder, investor & CEO of EKA Solutions, Inc. 

EKA has integrated trip management web APIs from the Trimble MAPS development platform to enhance its TMS Cloud. Through the Trimble MAPS stateful web services, trip data is stored on the server and used to continually monitor and manage the entire trip lifecycle, from planning through execution and analysis, resulting in highly accurate ETAs and the ability to visualize real-time trip progress. 

“Creating a relationship with a solution provider who, similar to Trimble, is focused on enabling carriers, shippers and drivers to achieve operational success is extremely important to us,” said Bill Maddox, business development for Trimble MAPS Division. “With increased carrier pressure to provide superior customer service and the shipper’s need for freight visibility, we provide innovative tools to create or enhance applications that benefit the entire transportation workflow.”

EKA’s TMS solutions using the Trimble MAPS development platform are expected to be introduced and commercialized beginning as early as the third quarter of 2019. 

About EKA

EKA Solutions, Inc., provides the Smart, Unified Platform EKA Omni- TMS® for – Virtually – Everyone. EKA Omni-TMS® is the cloud-based SaaS freight Eco-System designed to transform the transportation and logistics industry. It empowers small- and medium-size broker, carrier and shipper businesses to operate from quote-to-cash with affordable and best-in-class digital tools, enabling the higher performance demanded in tomorrow’s supply chain. With real-time information, EKA Omni-TMS® enables brokers, carriers and shippers to provide visibility and appropriate transparency as they fluidly trade across an expanding and verified network with key, trusted partners. For more information about EKA, visit:

About Trimble MAPS

Trimble MAPS provides global map-centric technology dedicated to transforming journeys through innovative routing, scheduling, visualization and navigation solutions. Built on map data and a routing engine designed specifically for commercial vehicles, its development platform and trusted products are made for a broad range of industries, workforces and fleets of all sizes. The Trimble MAPS brands including PC*MILER, CoPilot and Appian are the foundation for safe and efficient journeys worldwide—one driver, one vehicle, one fleet at a time. Trimble MAPS is a Division of Trimble:

About Trimble 

Trimble is transforming the way the world works by delivering products and services that connect the physical and digital worlds. Core technologies in positioning, modeling, connectivity and data analytics enable customers to improve productivity, quality, safety and sustainability. From purpose built products to enterprise lifecycle solutions, Trimble software, hardware and services are transforming industries such as agriculture, construction, geospatial and transportation and logistics. For more information about Trimble (NASDAQ:TRMB), visit:

EKA’s iLoop Offered to Fleets Using Owner-Operators

September 5, 2019 • by HDT Staff 

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 - Photo:

Recently EKA Solutions launched its EKA MPlace platform, which lets shippers and brokers create private freight marketplaces where they can trade with their trusted providers in a precise, automated and real-time way.

Now EKA is offering some of the capabilities of its cloud-based Software-as-a-Service freight ecosystem to large motor carriers that use owner-operators. EKA iLoop Solution can help carriers that want to mitigate worker classification liability risks when they contract with lease or independent operators.

“The EKA iLoop platform enables carriers to manage their leased or independent operator relationships without interfering into their independent execution,” explained JJ Singh, founder and CEO of EKA Solutions, in a press release. EKA gives carriers a driver-facing app that enables load tendering, interactive communication with dispatcher and real-time information access to improve life on the road for these owner-operators.

“By providing leased-on owner-operators the ability to select freight, determine routes and schedules, monitor settlements and manage operational accounting in their own systems, carriers can improve owner-operator relationships while mitigating work classification liability risks,” said Mark Walker, EKA president.

EKA iLoop provides real-time visibility of load movement and ETA updates (LiveETA) that factor in driver unplanned events, hours-of-service compliance, and actual traffic and weather conditions.

EKA launches cloud-based private freight marketplace solution

Clarissa Hawes 07/23/2019

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EKA Solutions recently launched MPlace, which allows larger shippers and brokers to create private marketplaces where they can trade with “trusted providers in a more precise, automated and real-time manner,” the company said in a release.

“We provide technology solutions that are very efficient and at a lower cost,” JJ Singh, founder and chief executive of EKA, told FreightWaves. “We already focus on small and medium-sized brokers, shippers and carriers, so we thought larger brokers and shippers could benefit from our solutions.”

The company launched its unified, cloud-based Omni-TMS (transportation management system) platform for small and medium-sized brokers, carriers and shippers in 2018. Its is now offering some of the capabilities of its software platform to larger shippers, brokers and carriers “in a way that can complement their existing TMS platforms and help them meet today’s more dynamic logistics environment,” the company said. 

For example, if a large shipper needs a load hauled in a new freight lane, one of its employees can go onto MPlace and find partners in its own private space and not have to go out to the spot market or load boards,” Singh said.

“Utilizing the EKA MPlace, customers reduce direct labor, transportation spend and contracting risk while providing end-to-end visibility, audit and analysis,” Singh said.

Why 2019 has been the worst year for trucking operators

Zach Strickland, FW Market Expert & Market Analyst

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Operating ratios for dry-van company fleets. Source: TCA’s Truckload Indexes Program

Chart of the Week: Operating Ratio — Dry Van Carriers Company Fleet

Like travelers walking through the desert that found an oasis, carriers found a wellspring of freight in 2017 and 2018 and expanded their operations. Unfortunately for the carriers, the pool has dried, leaving many dying of thirst. 2019 has been a lesson in how trucking markets can overheat just like the economy, leading to an uncomfortable period of contraction. Operating ratios (ORs) for dry van carriers in the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) Truckload Indexes program have averaged over 100% since the start of the year as a result of this contracting growth. 

In recent weeks there has been a lot of dispute in the media and over Twitter about the state of the trucking market. We’ve described the market as getting “bloody” earlier this year, while others have talked about how “strong” the trucking business is. Recently, we developed a view that the market was about to turn for the better, based on volume data we have seen in the market. 

Regardless of the words you use, it is important to inform these views with data. The TCA benchmarking program is the first and only program in the history of truckload that provides monthly benchmarking of hundreds of competitive truckload carriers, ranging from mid-size to enterprise (smallest fleet 75 trucks, largest is 7000). In total, 73,000 trucks are counted in the data sample, representing 8% of the total truck count of medium and large trucking fleets operating in the entire U.S. 

The fleets submit monthly financial data into a benchmarking software program that compiles aggregated financial reports for the industry, sliced by a number of variables. While the truckload carriers submit 500+ points of data, only 31 are published in an aggregated basis inside of SONAR. With this data we can use data and not bias to determine how the industry as a whole are doing. Prior to the data being offered on an aggregated basis, the only data points non-insiders would get about the state of the market is through the public truckload carrier earnings reports that would come out quarterly and offer up 8-10 operational KPIs. Now we have over 30 and they come up out monthly from over 200 different fleet profiles. 

Operating ratios are a measure of operational efficiency. The formula is operating costs/operating revenue. A 100 OR indicates that for every dollar made in revenue, 100% of it goes to funding the cost of doing business, leaving nothing for debt or investment. In trucking operating costs are things like driver wages, back office support, and maintenance costs. Debt and interest payments are not included in these costs. 

Most carriers carry some amount of debt in order to fund some of their growth as many trucking companies are low on cash. Purchasing equipment and buildings are some of the more commonly financed items. In general, many carriers consider making five to ten cents on the dollar a success, or a 90 to 95 OR. 

The issue for carriers in 2019 has been more about the oversupply than the lack of demand, although both are present. As carriers saw margins expand in 2018, they decided to invest in growing their fleets as was demonstrated by the record number of class 8 truck orders last year. About the time that most of the orders were being placed the market started to cool. Daily truckload volumes have averaged roughly 3% under 2018 from March through July, but the most brutal hit came in May and June when they were over 4% under previous year volumes. 

So far in 2019 over 600 trucking companies have reportedly failed with two larger carriers closing this week.  The first carrier, HVH transportation, was owned by a private equity firm and had over 300 trucks. The second was a smaller 100 power unit operation in Georgia. 

The trucking industry is extremely competitive with relatively low barriers to entry. All it takes is a commercial driver’s license (CDL), a truck, and a willingness to drive to start a trucking company. Many drivers will quit larger operations to start their own venture after a time. FreightWaves has studied the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) data and found that smaller fleets are still growing when the lager fleets (100+ trucks) have contracted over the past several months. 

Many of these drivers have developed relationships with shippers over the years, making them a reliable option. Smaller carriers have lower overhead costs and can drop rates under the larger carriers whose costs are filled with building leases and back office costs. The influx of smaller carriers has a deflationary impact to both spot and contract rates. 

In 2017, carrier ORs averaged 99%. Many of the contracted rates were made based on 2016 activity, which was the last freight recession. Seeing as most freight contracts are made on an annual cycle, these rates were in place throughout most of 2017 and early 2018, which kept profit margins low. 

Late in 2017 into early 2018, carriers started falling out of their contracted obligations to service higher paying spot market freight. Demand grew so fast that spot rates were well above contract. Carriers, at times, could get more than double the price of hauling for their contracted shippers. The spread between spot and contract was too much to ignore. 

Recently, volumes have recovered but have not had significant impact to rates. This should provide relief for some carriers and extend their life for a time, but winter is coming when freight volumes typically plummet. Carriers normally build reserves in the summer to keep them afloat during the slower months. The true test of carrier resolve has yet to come.