Big data has finally landed on the freight world. Promises of all the “good things” that come to shippers, 3PLS and truckers are being posted, published and discussed. For the record, UROUTE believes “all the good things” are real. Shippers will certainly be able to tighten their supply chains, 3PLS will absolutely have deeper visibility, trucking companies will now be able to virtually manage their drivers and technology companies will profit from making it all happen. But with all the good, comes some data privacy risk and for some unknown reason, there is very little discussion with regards to the risk. So, even though I am just skimming the surface, I think it is important to start the conversation.
Risk to the carrier
Everyday carriers are asked to open themselves up and provide better more accurate visibility of their trucks. Accurate and timely status updates are legitimate requests from shippers and 3PLs. How to provide accurate, secure, and non-intrusive status updates is the tough question for carriers to answer. There are predominately four ways to provide status updates: 1.) ELD API 2.) EDI 3.) Mobile Tracking Apps 4.) Web Portals. Each of these formats come with degrees of monetary costs, privacy risk, accuracy, and labor expenses for carriers.
ELD API Connectivity – This can happen two ways. First, carriers knowingly or unknowingly authorize their ELD provider to interface with third party visibility companies. This is commonly referred to as an Open API. When this access is granted, there are no restrictions on the data these third-party companies can retrieve or the frequency at which they can retrieve it. Think about all the data that is stored inside your ELD provider.
- Driver personal information
- HOS Data
- Vehicle information (VINS)
- IFTA reporting
- GPS data on every truck – all the time
- Much more
In an open API environment, visibility company’s self-police through their own terms and privacy conditions. Access to all this sensitive information is especially tempting to dig into if they are looking to profit from load matching opportunities. There is absolutely no way to provide accurate “optimized load matching” without knowing both GPS location and HOS (Hours of Service) data. Be cautious of company’s claiming to only track individual shipments but also claim to offer “optimized load matching.” Multiple data elements need to be brought together to actually achieve this promise.
EDI – EDI is still an easy way to supply automated status update information, but it is still dependent of the carrier’s staff inputting timely updates into their own systems and timely EDI transmissions. Too often EDI transmissions lag and do not supply near real time data.
Mobile Tracking Apps– What carrier truly wants to download another tracking app? None. First, a driver instinctively does not want to be tracked. Second, app fatigue is real. Drivers have huge responsibilities, with most of the regulation burden falling directly on their shoulders. The last thing drivers want to do is take the time to download and learn another app. Most truckers will find one or two apps that provide real value, but most apps get ignored or push aside. That is why app participation rates from drivers is so low. Plus, drivers are afraid that apps track their locations after shipments are completed. Do they need to log out of the app? Is the app designed to trace their movements even when app is turned off? A lot of times this can be adjusted in device settings, but good luck finding that quickly.
Web Portals – Web portals are great, dispatchers can login in a provide status updates for their drivers. Some portals also allow document uploads and electronic invoicing for quick payments. However, many portals require carriers to perform double entry, once in their ownTMS and a second time into the portal. There is very little data privacy risk here, but more redundant time-consuming work.
Which of these options is best depends on your customer make-up and what is important to your customers? My guess is that we are in the early innings of freight systems security. Some companies will be exposed, other will tighten their security practices and some will design systems to protect sensitive information. One thing is for sure, all participants need to learn and be careful of how and where their data is being used.