Understand LTL: Industry Investigation Series
Collaborating with and writing about the smartest companies who are building tools to power the future of LTL.
Target: DDC Sync (it’s time to leave these outdated processes in the rearview).
Findings: Use a Truck to Move Physical Freight, and the Internet to Transfer Information
Once upon a time, there was a trucking company that had a big problem. Every time a truck driver picked up a shipment, they had to manually write down and enter all the information from the bill of lading. This was a very time-consuming task and often resulted in mistakes. The trucking company knew they needed to find a better way.
One day, one of the drivers suggested they create a smartphone app that could take a picture of the bill of lading and read the data. The trucking company loved this idea and quickly got to work. They hired a team of programmers to create the app, and soon enough, it was ready to use.
The app was called "Bill of Lading Buddy" and it was very easy to use. All that the truck driver had to do was open the app, take a picture of the bill of lading, and the app would automatically read the data. The app also stored the picture and data, so the trucking company could access it whenever they needed.
The trucking company was thrilled with the new app. It saved them a lot of time and made their job much easier. They also noticed a significant decrease in mistakes because the app automatically read the data. The drivers were also happy because they no longer had to spend so much time writing everything down by hand.
Bill of Lading Buddy became a very popular app among trucking companies. Many other companies started using it and they all had the same experience - it made their job much easier and more efficient.
There you have it. What you just read was a pleasant story about a fictional trucking company, a much-needed technology solution, and to top it off, it was all written 100% by Open AI’s Chat GPT. Not a real person at all.
Not only can AI identify a problem when prompted and put together a thoughtful narrative – but the fact that real life humans with large brains and hearts beating for LTL are solving this very problem should move something within your soul.
There are still two sizeable breaches in visibility during the lifecycle of an LTL shipment. One happens to be more carrier-facing, on quantifying the initial pickup. And the other, tracking exact location during linehaul with dynamic ETA’s based on real-time events, can cause strife on the customer’s end.
On the pickup side of things in LTL, when the driver reaches their stop and loads the freight on the trailer, they’ll verify and sign the paperwork; possibly enter some information about the weight and destination of the shipment; and then carry on to the next stop. By the time the driver, trailer, and freight get back to their terminal for processing – several hours have likely passed. During this time, the office had partial information about the freight being picked up. They could use it to somewhat plan for the evening’s linehaul schedules, but they really didn’t have full visibility and data around the freight picked up until it’s back to the service center and the paperwork has been scanned and processed.
Enter: DDC Sync – DDC FPO’s app that allows for pictures of the BOL taken immediately at pick up to send the entire scope of shipment information back to the terminal and enables the trucking firm to have instant access to full shipment details via DDC Sync’s web portal. The last time we checked – 1’s and 0’s flying along the internet are much faster than a tractor trailer running a local peddle route.
Beyond the photo capture and smart OCR (Optical Character Recognition) that’s loaded right on the device, meaning it works while connected to the internet or not – the DDC Sync app is in fact a small digital community. From gamification of driver results within their company, to resources around truck-friendly stops and eateries, the app is intelligently designed to incentivize future proof behavior while at the same time, leveling up on the speed of BOL and shipment data being transferred within the carrier’s technology.
From a more macro level, the app not only executes on the problem at hand (capturing and absorbing BOL data, quicker), but it also tracks customer, driver, and equipment data as well by offering tracking, GPS tagging, and more. Reporting on that captured data isn’t a problem either. Customization to the specific trucking company and even the terminal level is built into the interface.
With DDC processing 300,000 transactions per day – they’ve likely picked up a thing or two around optimizing this currently very manual process.
This was a super interesting product to dig into – and we are excited to see what it evolves into as DDC gains more momentum with it. This was not a paid deal, but rather a great opportunity to get up to speed on some folks that are building the tech infrastructure around the next generation of LTL freight.