How does app-based tracking compare to more complex methods?

Shippers and third-party data aggregators are pressuring brokers to step up their tracking game as economic uncertainty continues. Over the last few years, shipment tracking has shifted from a perk to an expectation. Now, subpar consistency and poor compliance are enough to cost a brokerage its profitability and, ultimately, the company’s life. 

Brokers can tap into a few tried and true methods to improve their consistency and compliance numbers – namely electronic logging device (ELD) access, electronic data interchange (EDI) feeds and app-based solutions. When partnering with all but the largest carriers, app-based solutions typically offer the best balance between accuracy and affordability. 

Brokers can use app-based solutions – including driver favorite Trucker Tools – to improve consistency by requesting updates at predetermined intervals. These automated updates can be personalized to a shipper’s needs. For example, updates can be configured to fire every 15 minutes to an hour during a shipment’s journey. Some shippers also ask for alerts to fire when the truck is 50 to 60 miles from its destination. 

“Consistency comes in the form of transit location updates. Shippers might ask for an hourly ping, or they may want to get a ping every 50 miles,” Trucker Tools CEO Prasad Gollapalli said. “The accuracy of the pings is just as important as the consistency. A single ping may be off the track, but it should fix itself with the next ping. If not, brokers can call drivers and find out why they’re off-route.”

Compliance is concerned with the percentage of carriers that are actually sending complete and reliable location tracking updates to the broker. Achieving strong compliance requires reliable carrier participation. 

Prior to adopting an app-based system like the Trucker Tools visibility solution, a broker may be getting 30% compliance – meaning only 30% of carriers are reliably sending tracking data. Once a broker adopts the Trucker Tools solution, it is not uncommon for brokers to see compliance rise to 80%. 

Across the Trucker Tools platform, brokers are averaging 70% compliance, according to Gollapalli.

While ELD tracking solutions work in theory, carriers have been slow to adopt these solutions due to privacy concerns. This is especially true of small carriers and owner-operators, who make up the backbone of the trucking industry. 

“ELD solutions are not well-suited for tracking. Only a small number of carriers are sharing tracking data from their ELDs,” according to Gollapalli. “Medium-sized and small carriers are sharing tracking from ELDs in the low single digits. Getting carriers’ permission is not straightforward, and ELDs are not necessarily compliant with what you want for consistency.”

In addition to poor compliance, ELD-based solutions can also lead to lagging consistency. Since ELDs were created to track hours of service – not precise location – the quality of data pulled from these systems may be insufficient.

Application programming interfaces (APIs) and EDIs are also effective in theory but pose significant hurdles when it comes to integration. These high-tech solutions can work well for large carriers, but the small carriers and owner-operators most brokers work with are unlikely to have the infrastructure in place to support these systems. 

“The most prevalent and accepted solution is the app-based solution. This works by putting tracking in an all-in-one app that the driver has already adopted,” Gollapalli said, noting that the Trucker Tools platform has over 950,000 truckers on it. “The Trucker Tools app-based solution allows brokers to control consistency and compliance, creating a path to achieving the standards that shippers require.”

Ultimately, the most effective tracking solution is one that carriers are willing to use. That is why all-in-one apps that also provide driver resources like parking information and fuel prices are such an important tool in every broker’s toolkit.