October 31, 2018

FourKites says platform taps unused capacity by building shared trucking networks

FourKites says platform taps unused capacity by building shared trucking networks

Firm hires UberFreight exec to run "Zero Deadhead" unit.

By Ben Ames

Logistics software provider FourKites Inc. today unveiled new product features designed to minimize "deadhead" trucking miles by sharing unused capacity across private networks of like-minded shippers and carriers, and said it had hired an UberFreight executive to run the new unit.

Calling the launch its next "big bet,"Chicago-based FourKites said its "Zero Deadhead" initiative will dynamically match shipments with capacity, allowing users to reduce costs by running its Predictive Capacity Management (PCM) platform on top of their own transportation management system (TMS) software.

To support that approach, the company said it has hired UberFreight executive Kristopher Glotzbach to be vice president and general manager of a new business division, FourKites founder and CEO Matt Elenjickal said in an interview.

By running as an optimization engine on top of users' current TMS systems, the FourKites software will allow shippers to create their own private networks of complementary fleets, such as groups of tier-one automotive suppliers, grocery wholesalers, or soft drink retailers and bottlers, Elenjickal  said. The system will identify unused capacity by aligning those shippers' geographies, appointment times, pickup and delivery locations, and other variables, then applying "guard rails" to exclude inappropriate matches, such as competing retailers or products with contrasting environmental needs.

"What we're all about is eliminating waste for carriers, third parties, and shippers," Glotzbach said in an interview. "Right now, the average driver is actually moving freight just seven hours out of his 11-hour work day—because he's deadheading, driving a couple hundred miles to pick up another load, or is detained at a facility—so we want to make that more productive and more utilized."

FourKites launches the product at a time when trucking capacity shortages are driving up freight costs for shippers, even though nearly 40 percent of trucks on the road are empty at any given time, the firm says. The firm says its new capability can reduce 15 to 20 percent of overall shipping costs by allowing shippers and carriers to access that unused truck capacity via private networks and share the wasted capacity.

Elenjickal acknowledges that freight matching applications are a hot sector for tech startups and investors—with companies such as Convoy, UberFreight, and Transfix attracting millions in venture capital funding and new firms frequently launching additional products into that crowded niche. However, FourKites argues that its platform is not a digital freight brokerage, so it does not compete with platforms scrapping for that slice of the market. Rather, the FourKites platform will tap into the large number of shippers and third party logistics (3PL) providers already using the firm's freight shipment visibility portal, he said.

"This is the next big opportunity in supply chain and logistics," Elenjickal said in a statement. "At a time when trucking capacity is at a record low, the search for carriers that make a good fit on certain lanes is increasingly intense. We're enabling shippers to get products to market more quickly at lower overall operating costs."

FourKites PCM is currently focused on sharing truck capacity across truckload shipments, while the broader FourKites platform operates across all transportation modes, including truckload and LTL, ocean, rail, intermodal, last mile and parcel.

About the Author

Ben Ames
Senior Editor
Ben Ames has spent 20 years as a journalist since starting out as a daily newspaper reporter in Pennsylvania in 1995. From 1999 forward, he has focused on business and technology reporting for a number of trade journals, beginning when he joined Design News and Modern Materials Handling magazines. Ames is author of the trail guide "Hiking Massachusetts" and is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism.

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