Technology Trends in the Final Mile - What's on the Horizon?

Todd Wiegand, Vice President of Information Technology at TForce And Daniel Barfield Executive Vice President, Datatrac

Todd Wiegand, Vice President of Information Technology at TForce

Data privacy, technologies that help final mile companies work together and real-time delivery status information are three technology trends that will shape the industry over the next 12 months. These predictions came from two CLDA members and industry veterans who shared their knowledge in a recent interview.

They are:

• Todd Wiegand, Vice President of Information Technology at TForce
• Daniel Barfield Executive Vice President, Datatrac

Give us a perspective on your experience in the industry. Tell us about your company and your role there.

Wiegand: TForce is the leading Same-Day final mile transportation solutions provider in North America. With 85 brick-and-mortar locations across the continent and 7,500+ Delivery Professionals, we successfully deliver more than 100 million shipments per year. TForce is a wholly owned subsidiary of TFI International, a North American leader in the transportation and logistics industry, serving customers across the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

My role has responsibility for IT Infrastructure and Software Development across North America. My role is also one of innovation - working towards more efficient use of resources across all departments, staying ahead of customer demand, and imagining new applications for the latest technology.

We have been affiliated with the CLDA and its predecessor organization, the MCAA for over 12 years.


Barfield: Datatrac has been the leading carrier operational system for over 40 years. We help carriers save time and money through technology that promotes efficiency including dispatch, mobile, rating, settlement, invoicing, and accounting.

I am the Executive Vice President at Datatrac, leading our new eTrac division. Datatrac's eTrac products support single integration and data services to shippers and 3PLs who are searching for final mile capacity, allowing all final mile carriers to stay on the system they currently use, and not force them to change operational systems. My role is to grow the usage of final mile carriers by shippers and 3PLs through technology, and develop additional tools that provide users supply chain visibility and efficiency.

We have been involved members of the CLDA and the MCAA since its origination, as we began serving the industry in 1980.

What were the most important technology changes that affected our industry in 2018?

Wiegand: The data scandals with Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, Marriott and others brought privacy issues to the forefront and heightened customer demand for better protected data. We continue to improve our security posture by constantly examining our processes and procedures, training our end-users on how to deal with security threats, and addingappropriate technology at all points of our value chain.

In addition, we saw an opportunity to expand our logistics capabilities in our operational software. We created a state-of-the-art platform to support the 3PL business – covering the entire process from demand creation through delivery and carrier/driver settlement. Carrier partners can now more effectively manage their businesses from demand to stop completion and settlement.

Barfield: Two other trends we saw throughout in 2018 were the availability of affordable optimized dispatch solutions and an increase in open systems approaches that facilitate system interoperability. These included APIs, integration capabilities and micro services architectures.

What do you foresee as the most important trends that will impact our industry in 2019?

Wiegand: Cybersecurity must continue to be top-of-mind for the industry in 2019 as the threat landscape continues to evolve. It takes significant focus to ensure that networks are secured and systems are hardened to protect critical data.

I expect more companies to migrate to the cloudin 2019 as the technology matures – whether this means using simple encrypted data storage and/or backup or developing mission-critical applications to serve the business.

Process automation technologies will mature to the point that even less IT-heavy organizations will benefit.

Barfield: I believe we will see more and more quests for automation that will continue the roll out of optimized dispatch solutions. There will be other areas of automation that will also begin to impact the market including automated appointment confirmation and proactive customer support.

The "open" trend from last year will continue as all companies in the supply chain learn to work together more efficiently. This will provide customers end-to-end visibility across all modes of transportation regardless of the company or technology. All of this will create more opportunities than ever before for providers in the final mile space.

What new forces or trends do you expect to impact the way the logistics industry does business in 2019?

Wiegand: Blockchain will be adopted more fully in the supply chain space – especially in the retail and grocery sectors. The industry will continue to discover new ways to benefit from this technology.

Although I’m not sure it will make major impacts in 2019, I think autonomous vehicles will continue to evolve and get better. Electric trucks will begin to make in-roads in the industry as they become available.

Barfield: The overall logistics industry is trying to shorten the delivery time frames through innovation in their supply chains. This can include moving product closer to consumers (through forward distribution centers, store delivery and more). It will also be about combining traditional modes of transport in non-traditional ways and using data and optimization to automate routing and storing decisions. All these supply chain changes will have a positive impact on final mile opportunities.

What technology do you expect to be abandoned or used much less important in 2019?

Wiegand: I see the hype around drones in the logistics space diminishing in 2019. While I think there will be applications in the future for heavily-populated cities, I see remote areas as the initial application. Societal norms and acceptable flight patterns will need to be refined for this technology to be adopted industry-wide in densely-populated areas.

Barfield: Closed monolithic systems are losing favor due to the diversity of technology in the market. Some smaller companies still see value in having one provider that can give them all the tools. Even smaller companies are starting to realize that the tools are limited compared to what is available in the market. In many cases the limitations from the monolithic systems can hurt a small business much more than the benefit of having one software company to deal with. Larger companies have already adopted multiple technology platforms that can play well together to take advantage of advanced features that allow their businesses to grow.

What else do you foresee for our industry in 2019?

Wiegand: Weather will continue to be an issue in 2019 as it impacts ports, metro areas and major highways. As these events occur, companies will need to be nimble in their operations to support their customers (e.g. sending text messages when delivery windows are impacted, etc.) or they will watch the competition move past them in the market.

Most importantly, finding and retaining quality delivery professionals will continue to be a major challenge in this fragmented marketplace. Finding new ways to attract, pay, and grow these valued resources is mission critical.

Barfield: Our industry is poised for rapid growth. If we can move fast enough and work together during this time of opportunity we can grow the size of our market exponentially. The challenge is to think about ways to make this happen and not get caught up in why we can’t do it. That kind of thinking lets others move into our market and takes what should be golden opportunities away from our industry.

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