Before the pandemic changed our lives, I was doing some work with Epicenter, a business start-up accelerator program based in Memphis. Founded to encourage and support entrepreneurship, its expressed purpose is to “ensure that entrepreneurs have equitable access to the networks, ideas, people, capital, and customers they need to launch and thrive.” Through my association with Epicenter, I had the pleasure of working with Truckish, a startup company developing innovative technical tools for the trucking industry. Founded in 2018, Truckish has developed state of the art technology that will aid fleet operators in managing capacity, administrative details, and driver and equipment utilization. Fortunately, Truckish has been able to continue work on its algorithms during this awkward time and is preparing to introduce its products to the marketplace. Early tests and pilot programs with carriers have been quite successful, and have demonstrated that the products can make an important contribution to both cost reductions and improved efficiency.
At this time, they have developed three different product offerings. The Fleet Manager program combines tools and information into one system. This system, anchored by a device on the truck engine and a driver app, integrates ELD compliance, GPS, tracking, dispatch, diagnostics, fuel tax reporting, invoicing, payroll, and other accounting needs into a single software tool. The Truckish fleet manager, because of its reasonable cost and efficiencies will be particularly attractive to, and effective for the small fleet operator. As most of our readers will know, the majority of U.S. trucking companies are small and simply cannot afford elaborate and expensive systems. Administrative and governmental demands on the industry are numerous and time consuming, and this product should be especially attractive to those carriers operating 20-30 units, or less.
The Fleet Optimizer offering provides both large and small carriers, as well as brokers with a system that aids in planning movements, available backhauls, and capacity. One of the major fleet management issues is keeping the fleet operating at maximum capacity. Obviously, a system that aids in achieving that can be cost effective for any carrier.
The product that intrigues me most is the Truckish Relay System. The shortage of drivers and hours of service restrictions are well known in the industry, and continue to be underlying issues for motor carriers. While in the last few years, steps have been taken to improve driver pay, life style concerns continue. Finding a driver that is willing to spend days, weeks, or more on the road, eating less than healthy foods, getting no exercise, and fighting the country’s deteriorating highways is even more problematic today, even with higher wages. One method some carriers have used to help alleviate these concerns is “slip seating”. Suppose you have a haul to a distant destination that will take the entire eleven hours a driver is allowed behind the wheel to deliver. This will require at least two days away from home, and possibly more, depending on the driver’s subsequent haul. Using slip seating, when the carrier has two loads over the same route, moving in opposite directions, the drivers switch places at the half-way mark, with each returning home before his/her available hours elapse. Slip seating is not popular with drivers, however. Most prefer to have an assigned tractor enabling them to be sure the rig is well kept, in a safe condition, with all systems working properly. An over the road driver in particular, will have personal property and equipment that he/she wants to keep in his/her possession. Changing tractors mid-way obviously complicates that. During the pandemic, this problem is exacerbated in that the drivers want to be sure they are operating in a safe, sterile environment. Staying with one assigned tractor is much safer and much more reassuring.
With the Truckish system, the answer is obvious and easy to execute – just exchange trailers. They have developed software that will in real time, plan when and where the trailers are interchanged most efficiently. Equipment usage is maximized, hours of service rules are complied with, customers are pleased with on-time deliveries, and a happy driver stays with the same tractor, arriving back home by evening.
This system obviously works better with one carrier, regardless of size; but Truckish is working on a program that will involve a network of carriers using their software. Right now, there could be some liability questions on inter-carrier moves, but they are developing an insurance solution that will resolve these. In my opinion, this small company with its state-of-the-art technology, can make a valuable contribution to the industry.
As Charles Dickens said, “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times………….” In spite of its tragic consequences, the pandemic has forced many of us to find new ways of doing things and to question the wisdom of some of our current practices. The result just might be a more efficient and less costly supply chain. Small start-ups usually have a long, hard road ahead; and most never reach the destination. But some do and offer to the industry the new ideas that will help us through these trying times and into the future. If you are a carrier, large or small, a private fleet operator, or a shipper that keeps up with new industry developments, take a look at Truckish and see what it can accomplish. For more information, visit www.Truckish.com.