by Alison Weiss
It takes a fleet of vehicles to move goods around the country. While trucking is the dominant mode of freight transportation in the U.S. (accounting for approximately 69 percent of the freight tonnage in 2013), companies also rely on trains, planes, and ships to get items to their final destinations. And with the total U.S. freight tonnage expected to grow 23.5 percent in the next 10 years, managers need to determine the most efficient ways to ship orders by deploying the most economical fleet resources. Additionally, increasing regulatory oversight (particularly in the U.S.) is adding new complexity to this critical transportation sector.
That means today, moving goods from point A to point B follows anything but a straight line. Within the context of this increasingly complex and expanding industry, Oracle Fleet Management—available as an option within the Oracle Transportation Management logistics platform—provides shippers with complete visibility into the various modes of fulfillment capabilities available to them: private fleet, dedicated carriage, which is a fleet owned by a carrier licensed for use by one or more shippers, or third-party contract carriage. The solution also offers the ability to effectively manage fleet resources, such as drivers and equipment.Focusing on the Fleet
Srini Rajagopal, senior director, Logistics Product Strategy at Oracle, observes that there are a wide variety of fleet options today. Many carrier companies, including long-time Oracle customer Schneider National (featured in a recent Profit cover story), offer long-haul freight services, logistics, and intermodal services (moving a container or trailer loaded with freight using a blend of transportation modes, such as truck and rail). Shippers looking to move goods may use capacity from a supplier such as Schneider for long distances, but their own trucks for loads over shorter distances. Other shippers may elect to move a shipment starting on a truck from their dedicated fleet, then move the shipment using rail transportation, and use a third-party short-haul fleet driver to make the final delivery.
The key to successful fleet management, and overall transportation management, really, is to deploy the right capabilities in the right place. Oracle gives our customers the complete visibility they need to effectively optimize their transportation.”–Srini Rajagopal, Senior Director, Logistics Product Strategy at Oracle
Unlike more limited stand-alone fleet management systems that focus on specific private fleet resources, Oracle Fleet Management gives freight managers comprehensive visibility into all freight being moved company-wide. Without this access to the broader order pool, it’s very challenging to ensure that resources are being deployed in the most effective way possible—leaving a company at risk for overextended fleets or fleets that make too many unnecessary empty return runs.
“The bane of any fleet is what are called empty miles, which is running a truck with nothing on it,“ Rajagopal says. “This happens far too often, with some fleets clocking empty mile percentages as high as 40 to 50 percent. That’s a lot of money wasted.”
Using Oracle Fleet Management, managers have the visibility to manage freight across all modes and geographies in one system. This makes it easy to optimize assignments across private fleets, dedicated fleets, or third-party carriers: ensuring fleet capacity is fully utilized and empty miles minimized. Even if information is contained in an external system, such as a third-party carrier hired to execute a move, Oracle Transportation Management provides capabilities to communicate status and updates back to the home fleet. This integration is particularly important when exceptions occur; if a truck breaks down, with a few clicks Oracle Fleet Management can locate internal or external carrier capacity to resume the delivery.
Another issue plaguing the industry today is a shortage of drivers. While carriers typically address this issue by recruiting and providing incentives to new drivers, Oracle Fleet Management can also assist through driver optimization. Dispatchers and fleet managers can consolidate and plan driver schedules, resulting in fewer empty miles, wait times, and drive times—directly translating into a need to hire fewer drivers.
The percentage of freight tonnage moved by trucks in the U.S. in 2013
As freight zips around the country, the sector itself is moving at an equally rapid pace. For example, new regulatory requirements are adding complexity to the shipping process. In the United States, the Carrier Safety Act and the changes under consideration for hours of service, will add new requirements to monitor the number of hours drivers spend on the road. To comply with this regulation, shippers and carriers in the U.S. with large fleets often equip their trucks with on-board devices. Sensors from the devices automatically feed driver log information back into Oracle Transportation Management to track driver hours and assign appropriate loads to ensure compliance while optimizing driver-load assignments.
To help ensure that transportation resources are being deployed as effectively as possible, fleet managers can communicate directly with a driver, using the on-board device and then use Oracle Fleet Management to send work and receive updates while the driver is on the road. In addition, Oracle Fleet Management offers the capability for fleet managers to use a web app to send information to drivers’ smart phones.
With all the complexities of the transportation industry, logistics service providers are also finding it necessary to streamline the normally manual and disconnected processes of generating a quote for transportation services, moving from a quote to an order, planning and executing orders by selecting the right mix of transportation modes, selecting the providers, and ensuring that the delivery is made on schedule. Oracle Sales, Rating and Operations combines customer relationship management and transportation management capabilities to give carriers, such as Schneider, the ability to manage the quote-to-cash process end-to-end. Once an order is finalized, providers can take advantage of Oracle Fleet Management to manage shipments, drivers, driver-load assignments, and automatically monitor the entire transportation process. Oracle Sales, Rating and Operations also makes it easy to generate accurate invoices and enables automated settlements once a delivery is completed.
Rajagopal believes that logistics providers will appreciate the ability to manage sales, rating, and operations processes through an integrated solution that leads to improved productivity and better customer experiences. As an example, if a delivery is delayed because of traffic or weather issues, Oracle Fleet Management capabilities can be used to select substitute transportation, and then Oracle Sales, Rating and Operations can not only automatically alert customers, but also facilitate documenting the changes to the order so that the final invoice for the delivery is completely accurate.
“The key to successful fleet management, and overall transportation management, really, is to deploy the right capabilities in the right place,” says Rajagopal. “Oracle gives our customers the complete visibility they need to effectively optimize their transportation.”
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