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:  https://www.go-eka.com

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:  maps.trimble.com

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:  www.trimble.com.


EKA’s iLoop Offered to Fleets Using Owner-Operators

September 5, 2019 • by HDT Staff 

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 - Photo: Gettyimages.com/shotbydave

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.   

How Artificial Intelligence Can Help Solve Real-World Trucking Challenges

August 27, 2019 • by Deborah Lockridge

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Tom Curee says artificial intelligence can help transportation companies deal with the "analysis paralysis" of overwhelming data.
 - Photo by Deborah Lockridge

Tom Curee says artificial intelligence can help transportation companies deal with the “analysis paralysis” of overwhelming data.

Photo by Deborah Lockridge

If the words “artificial intelligence” conjure up an image of Skynet in the Terminator movies, it’s time to think again. There are real-world transportation companies using AI to do their work better, faster, and more effectively – and they could be your competition.

Artificial intelligence is not building computers in such a way to wipe out the human race, said Tom Curee, vice president of strategic development at Kingsgate Logistics, during a session on using AI to solve problems held during McLeod Software’s 2019 user conference in Denver.

“Really, it’s just the development of systems to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence,” he explained. In fact, AI is a concept that’s been around since the 1950s. It only has gained steam in the last few years with the availability of big data, he said.

“I’m getting data from so many sources, I can’t keep up with them. What has brought AI back to the forefront is that you can train it and teach it and code it to evaluate the data for you and make decisions.”

There are subsets of artificial intelligence called machine learning and deep learning. In machine learning, algorithms and software can automatically learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed. Deep learning goes beyond that and gets into artificial neural networks, algorithms inspired by the human brain, that learn from large amounts of data.

Matching trucks and loads is a major way artificial intelligence can be used in transportation and logistics.
 - Photo by Deborah Lockridge

Matching trucks and loads is a major way artificial intelligence can be used in transportation and logistics.

Photo by Deborah Lockridge

Curee cited as an example how AI can be used by brokers or shippers what want to find the best truck to move a particular shipment. The computer can be taught to make a prediction for which carrier is the best match, based on factors such as location, type of equipment, profitability, driver hours of service remaining, driver preferences, and so on. With machine learning, the algorithm also learns over time and adjusts its recommendations based on which carrier or driver you chose.

“Over the years, we’ve made so many decisions off of our gut, and now we have data that may tell us something different,” Curee said.

Real-World Examples of AI in Transportation

Kingsgate Logistics is a non-asset-based freight broker, working with both truckload and less-than-truckload carriers. Curee notes, however, that he actually first got interested in AI when trying to address a serious driver turnover problem for a refrigerated carrier.

Kingsgate, which has 90 people in its brokerage business, has in the past year made a serious investment in leveraging technology. In April, Curee said, the technology team consisted of three people. Today, it’s 14, “because we see the need of what we’re trying to do with technology to keep up.”

The company is already using AI in six areas and has three more it has identified to work on. Curee shared examples of some of the ways Kingsgate is using artificial intelligence and machine learning, many of which would apply to asset-based trucking fleets as well as to brokerage operations.

Recruiting: It’s not just truck drivers who are hard to recruit. With the tight labor market, all types of positions are a challenge to fill – and sifting through hundreds of applications or resumes is time consuming. In fact, by the time you find someone who looks like the perfect fit, he or she may already have taken a job elsewhere. With AI, you can tell it what parameters you’re looking for, such as the types of previous job titles, skills, experience, etc.

Think about how this could work: Look at the people who have been most successful in your organization, who worked best with the team, at their skillsets and backgrounds, and teach it what you’re looking for. In addition, you also give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down to the recommendations it comes up with to help it learn further.

Sales: One of the ways Kingsgate is leveraging AI in sales is simply by figuring out the best time of day to call a prospect. It pulls data such as social media activity, when the prospect opened an email from McLeod, when they have visited the website, etc.

Ai is similarly being leveraged to identify new customer prospects that are a good match for Kinggate. And it’s being used to create a prediction score on how likely customers are to be a fit for the company. “How much value would you have if you could stop your sales reps two months earlier on an account that just isn’t ever going to be a fit?” Curee said.

Kingsgate is also using AI to analyze recorded calls that have been transcribed via a speech-to-text program. They are analyzing what the company’s most successful sales reps do and coaching less-successful reps in these areas. For instance, it’s finding that the most successful reps spend less time on small talk and more time talking about market insights. 

Social Media: In its marketing efforts, Kingsgate uses the technology to choose the best times to publish its social media posts based on the audience it is trying to reach.

Personalized Websites: Still in the early stages is dynamic personalization of its website. When people come to the website, technology tracks their IP addresses and can often cross-reference to the company’s CRM (customer relationship management) data to identify what industry they’re in. So a flatbed carrier would get shown a different version of the website than a refrigerated carrier, each optimized to appeal to that specific market.

IT Support: Although it started as an internal function, Kingsgate is in the process of making this customer-facing as well. The AI can process tech support requests and make a suggested answer based on the company’s knowledge base as well as on previous similar tech requests. Right now it still takes a human in the support department to OK that answer and send it to the person needing help, but in the future, Curee said, it will handle some of these questions automatically.

The Future is Now

“There’s virtually no major industry that modern AI hasn’t already affected,” Curee said. “We have so much data flowing at us now, and everyone is asking, ‘How do I mobilize this data, how do I make decisions from it? AI makes your data actionable. It’s not always making a decision for you; it’s helping you be able to make the decisions you need to make.”

In fact, he said, your company’s ability to adopt and adapt to this technology will be crucial to your success in the next five to 10 years.

A big part of that is going to be “reskilling” your workforce, he said. “It’s not good enough that the tech team can implement it.” Front-line workers don’t need to know how to program it, any more than they need to be able to build a computer in order to use it, but they do need to understand what artificial intelligence is and how to use it to improve their day-to-day experience.

What Happens When Autonomous Technology Goes Wrong?

August 22, 2019 • by Staff 

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Each driver was placed in a car simulator capable of handling both human and autonomous driving.
 - Photo courtesy of MTI.

Each driver was placed in a car simulator capable of handling both human and autonomous driving.

Photo courtesy of MTI.

As autonomous vehicles become more commonplace and automakers invest millions into the development of such technologies, consumers and researchers alike are left to ponder the implications of such technology failing during operation.

The Mineta Transportation Institute published a new report, Analysis of Disengagements in Semi-Autonomous Vehicles: Drivers’ Takeover Performance and Operational Implications, which explores this case scenario.

The study looks at how humans interact with AV’s if it loses control while on the road. It measured how quickly and deliberately the car alerted drivers and how efficiently the driver could effectively react and take control.

The study tested 40 individuals starting at 18 years old to 55 years plus. Each driver was placed in a car simulator capable of handling both human and autonomous driving. The test measured response times and vehicle drift from a centerline under several different scenarios.

The report takes into consideration how AVs can affect roadways and drivers.
 - Photo courtesy of MTI. 

The report takes into consideration how AVs can affect roadways and drivers.

Photo courtesy of MTI. 

Key results showed that between two different speed settings (high speed of 65 mph and a low speed of 55 mph), the lower speed yielded better performance. Out of all the three different age groups tested, the older participants performed better in overall driving and driving after autonomous technology failure.

Researchers also found that individuals tended to increase their speed and steer after taking control of the vehicles, as opposed to braking. About half of the drivers also reported not seeing the visual warning on the central console but did hear the auditory warnings.

The report takes into consideration how AVs can affect roadways and drivers. It gives suggestions on what mobility and infrastructure changes may need to be implemented to ensure safety while operating autonomous technologies

Increased Detention Times Blamed Mainly on Shippers/Receivers

September 4, 2019 • by HDT Staff 

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Delays experienced by truck drivers at customer facilities have increased in both frequency and time over the past four years and fleets increasingly feel that shippers and receivers don't care enough about the problem to fix it.
 - Photo via U.S. DOT

Photo via U.S. DOT

Delays experienced by truck drivers at customer facilities have increased in both frequency and time over the past four years costing fleets and drivers time and productivity, according to recent analysis by the American Transportation Research Institute.

The ATRI analysis was based on over 1,900 truck driver and carrier surveys conducted between 2014 and 2018.

Responses indicate the detention problem is only getting worse and more frustrating with fleets and drivers feeling that shippers and receivers are either not aware of the impact the delays are causing or are simply unwilling to address it. Also, with the transition from paper logs to electronic logging devices now mandated, drivers are feeling extra pressure to remain productive despite the delays.

The delays were also found to have a cascading effect, impacting subsequent pickups and deliveries, according to ATRI.

Over the course of ATRI’s four-year study, drivers reported a 27.4% increase in delays lasting six or more hours. Likewise, delays of 2 to 4 hours and 4 to 6 hours increased from 2014 to 2018.

In terms of frequency, drivers reported an increasing percentage of deliveries that included an excessive delay, which ATRI defines as any detention time over 2 hours.

While some delays could not be blamed on customers, such as those due to traffic, weather or accidents, ATRI found that customer inefficiencies were a major contributing factor to detention, such as facilities not increasing labor and dock capacity to match increased freight movement and truck activity.

Anecdotally, surveyed fleets and drivers described dock workers as some facilities as lazy, slow, apathetic or taking too many breaks in addition to facilities being chronically understaffed. One in five drivers said that preloaded trucks weren’t ready by the time of their appointment or that products weren’t ready or were still being manufactured. Delays were also attributed to shippers and receivers that overbooked appointments, booked more trucks than they had space to accommodate or simply didn’t have enough equipment to load and unload trucks.

These reasons remained consistent from 2014 to 2018, which ATRI said indicates that customers’ facilities haven’t made any real improvements to address these issues.

Some fleets and drivers told ATRI that shippers and receivers may not care about HOS constraints on drivers or don’t understand them and are not held accountable for their delays, which further exacerbates the problem of detention.

When asked about potential solutions, survey respondents said that customers who were well organized, used technology, maintained and adhered to scheduled and appointments or had as-needed extended business hours, greatly reduced delays.

The impact that detention have on driver’s available on-duty hours was a key point of examination for ATRI in its study. Facility delays were the top factor identified by carriers as impacting driver’s ability to comply with hours of service regulations. The majority of drivers reported to ATRI that they had run out of available hours while being delayed at a customer facility.

Digging into demographics, women were found to be 83.3% more likely to be delayed by six or more hours than men and were 7.7% more likely to be delayed any length of time. When searching for possible reasons for the disparity, ATRI reached out to female drivers for answers.

Most of the women ATRI interviewed were surprised that there was any difference at all and told ATRI that they didn’t believe the difference was the result of a preference toward male drivers. Some offered that women were perhaps less likely than men to express their discontentment over delays.

Another possible determinant was that women were more likely to drive refrigerated loads than men, 36.5% compared to 23.6% .Refrigerated trailers were far and away the most likely segment to experience delays of over 4 hours compared to bulk, tanker, dry van or flatbeds.

To combat this issue a majority of fleets surveyed reported they are charging shippers and receivers some sort of detention fee for excessive delays over two hours with a portion of the collected fees being paid out to drivers. Detention fees ranged from $10 to $100 per hour, averaging out to $63.71. This is still below what ATRI estimates is the $66.65 average marginal hourly cost for fleets to operate.