"Over the last year COVID has brought a mix of fortunes for road transport operators. Some sectors have thrived while others have fluctuated."
Over the last year COVID has brought a mix of fortunes for road transport operators. Some sectors have thrived while others have fluctuated.
RHA had produced a survey in 2020, that revealed 73% of haulage providers’ cashflow had significantly decreased in the first national lockdown. A startling 13% had no cashflow at all. A further 83% said their volume of work had significantly reduced, with 22% reporting no work.
Food-related sectors such as refrigerated and ambient distribution experienced a surge in demand for delivery services, operating at a sustained ‘Christmas-peak’ level. A steep rise in home shopping resulted in a boom for online retailers and home delivery sectors. Other sectors such as events, manufacturing, and construction have faced the stop-start chaos of multiple lockdowns.
Finding and winning new work and reacting to an ever-changing, uncertain market environment during this time has made being a haulage operator tougher than ever.
To keep wheels turning, hauliers have had to adapt quickly and flexibly to protect their workforce, keep cash flowing and win new work. Firms such as Tapfreight have implemented contactless PODs using Manifest app technology to avoid handling customers’ paperwork. Others like Brit-Pol have invested in new technology, while BJS Haulage has seen the opportunity to diversify into new markets.
While the COVID situation has undoubtedly improved since mid-2020 and we’re starting to see the green shoots of confidence return, we’re still in a period of flux. Whether it’s COVID, Brexit, or changing regulations, continued disruption has put hauliers’ staff and systems to the test and operators are relying on technology now more than ever to keep wheels turning and win new work.
Today, tech-savvy shippers are demanding greater value and transparency and the haulage sector is more competitive than ever.
How can hauliers continue to adapt to achieve what is required of them? The answer may lie in digital. Here, we look at how adopting digital initiatives can help you win work and drive customer satisfaction to keep your business ahead of the competition.
Giving shippers what they need
Shippers demand cost-effective, punctual delivery services with convenient ordering, safe and environmentally friendly transportation, up-to-the-minute visibility of delivery progress, confirmation of delivery and accurate billing.
How do you provide all of these things and be more competitive when your manual paper-based processes or ageing legacy systems aren’t up to the task?
Transport management systems are designed to support hauliers and their customers, simplify key processes, and make managing your operations easier. Digitising processes can help you deliver a seamless customer experience and win more business by meeting your customers’ need with less effort.
You can make it easier for shippers to place bookings with you by automatically transferring jobs from their system to your own. This reduces duplication and preserves data accuracy. Then, as jobs are underway, customers can view progress online and download ePODs relating to their jobs without having to contact you for updates. They can also receive notifications as deliveries are made. Even KPI reports can be produced and emailed to your customers automatically to demonstrate how you’re meeting your agreed service-level targets.
It’s important to note that transport management technology is not just available to operators running large fleets. There is a choice of transport management solutions available to suit all sizes of fleet and budget. Technology makes it possible to meet the demands of your business and customers, whichever sector of the industry you operate in.
Manage order to invoice in one system
One reason many businesses struggle to keep up with increasing demands is an inability to manage their fleet and driver availability using paper-based processes.
As a result, planning and effectively using your resources is difficult and error-prone. If your business is relying on paper or spreadsheet-based job management, it’s difficult to get a real-time view of your capacity. This makes it hard to plan additional jobs or to adapt quickly to changing situations throughout the day.
Implementing transport planning software will bring all of your siloed data together, giving you an essential level of real-time visibility. You’ll have one view of your business and a standardised way of working, wherever and whenever you work.
You’ll not only be able to see your customers’ information and driver and vehicle schedules, but also deliveries in progress. By bringing all this data together, you’ll have a bird’s-eye view of your completed and forthcoming jobs. Therefore, you’ll gain an understanding of how and where you can fit new work in and, importantly, if your delivery plans are realistic. With transport management technology such as Mandata, you can validate plans before your wheels start turning to give yourself the best chance of arriving safely on time and meeting your customer expectations.
Provide live visibility to staff and customers
It’s all well and good bringing together information about your past and upcoming deliveries, but what about the ones that are in progress right now? Are they on time or at risk of missing a timed delivery? Can you provide customers with an up-to-date ETA online, or are they constantly calling you for updates?
Track and trace was once the domain of home delivery firms, but now it’s more accessible to haulage firms. Consumer demand has driven a requirement for real-time information and a seamless experience as standard. Mandata transport management solutions come with the flexibility of integrated vehicle or smartphone tracking. This not only gives you visibility of your in-progress deliveries, but you can also share this information with your customers via your online customer portal and keep them informed.
Work in collaboration, not isolation
Managing sub-contractors is a real challenge for hauliers. Getting real-time job updates from subbies so you can manage customer expectations is near impossible and receiving timely PODs so you can get paid is an ongoing struggle.
There are systems that support the seamless and paperless exchange of information between haulage operators. The Subbie Portal provided by Mandata is a web application that enables the prime haulier’s system to send jobs to a sub-contractor electronically whilst maintaining visibility of jobs and receiving completed ePODs. This means sub-contractors can be a seamless extension of the prime haulier’s network.
Complete your order-to-cash cycle faster
The order-to-cash cycle is notoriously slow in the road transport sector and getting paid promptly is key to your operation. The two processes which slow this down the most are proof of delivery and invoicing. Proof of delivery is critical to your invoicing, but paper PODs are at risk of getting lost, misplaced, or returned with missing information. This impacts your ability to invoice quickly and accurately, and even when you get round to that, it can be a time-consuming manual process. Matching up and scanning paperwork adds time to the process.
The Mandata TMS and accompanying app, Manifest, come with an electronic proof of delivery function which feeds digital signatures or photos of paperwork back in real-time. This eliminates the risks associated with paper PODs. What’s more, once this is recorded on the app, invoices can be produced and PDF versions of the POD attached to the customer’s invoice and emailed to your customer. One haulier saved over 30 hours per week by invoicing through Mandata.
Ready to find out more?
Many market-leading businesses have turned to Mandata to streamline their processes. Transport management technology helps businesses to adapt to ever-changing customer demands and gain a competitive edge in a crowded market. For Derry Refrigerated Transport, the solution provided the platform for the business’ recent and future growth, with the client agreeing its workload would have been unmanageable without the solution.
Equally, at a time of increased expectations, your thin margins may be further decreased. Read about how Brit-Pol saw instant savings of 25% in invoicing and processing after implementing Mandata TMS.