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How Retailers Can Be King Of The Road

Telematics is the new gold standard in supply chain logistics.

As consumers increasingly desire fast and free shipping, there is perhaps no greater pressure for retailers than the race to get packages delivered to people’s doorsteps.

For retailers with a single truck or a fleet, improving trailer utilization, reducing theft, and the derailment of deliveries due to bad weather are just a few of the problems that must be addressed if they are to meet consumers increasingly high expectations for fast and efficient deliveries. Deploying an intelligent trailer tracking product is one way retailers can solve all three issues.

Improved fleet efficiency: For decades, fleet managers contracted by retailers used spreadsheets, pen and paper, or even thumbtacks on a map to track their assets and make decisions based on sheer gut intuition. In recent years however, IoT tools for collecting and analyzing data have dramatically changed the distribution and supply-chain side of the retail business. Smart telematics-based solutions now allow businesses to track and monitor their assets on everything from vehicle location, route, and mileage data to trailer/container temperature, humidity, door status, and cargo load state.

Indeed, precise, real-time tracking of freight is the new gold standard in supply-chain logistics for retailers. Operations managers, load planners and dispatchers can use the data provided by trailer telematics technologies to determine where their trailers and shipping containers are located, and how they’re being used to boost operational efficiencies and to ensure they are maximizing revenue from every asset in the field.

For instance, with the recently passed ELD mandate, drivers, as well as their dispatchers, don’t want to spend time looking for a trailer in a large lot, as it contributes to the number of hours they are effectively on the road.

Previously, drivers would have had to wander around those lots, looking for their trailer like it was a needle in a haystack. Now, dispatchers can send a link directly to a driver, which guides them via map to the specific trailer that needs to be picked up. This efficiency can save the driver 15-20 minutes in locating a trailer that they now can re-invest in actual driving time.

Reduced cargo theft: Helping fleets strengthen their cargo theft defenses is another area where telematics-based solutions are proving their value to retailers. With instant alerts providing real-time information about fleet location and whether a cargo door has been opened or closed, fleet owners can give customers the assurance they need that their cargo is safe and secure.

Moreover, the combination of location tracking and door information can help fleet managers respond quickly to theft events and can be used to build custom alerting to help support incident detection. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF) and the University of Florida, U.S. retailers lost $48.9 billion in 2016 due to shrinkage. For retailers looking to be more vigilant about loss prevention, trailer telematics is a good place to start.

Braving the weather: Severe weather is another volatile factor retailers have to contend with as part of their complex supply chains. From Hurricane Harvey hitting the central coast of Texas last summer to January’s “bomb cyclone” causing havoc across the Northeast, freight shipments are routinely disrupted, leaving behind a logistical nightmare for carriers and their retail customers.

This has resulted in retailers having an increasingly difficult time finding carriers with capacity. The employment of trailer telematics is one way shippers and their retailer customers can identify and locate underutilized and available assets to help make up for the sudden shortage in trailers, flatbeds and other mobile equipment that may be caught in the next snowstorm of the century.

While the factors described above are never entirely within the control of retailers, there is a clear need for companies to become more proactive and adopt new ways of gaining efficiencies within their operations —something that is all the more important in an industry where the only constant is change and every advantage helps.

Philip Poulidis is senior VP/GM for BlackBerry Radar, an intelligent, secure and easy-to-use trailer tracking and monitoring solution.

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