3 Ways to Rev Up Your Bottom Line with Predictive Load Planning

A hierarchy exists for truckload profitability, and network management is the apex. With so many variables pounding the bottom line — the economy, fuel prices, driver wages, and other top industry concerns — it’s easy to lose sight of this vital profit engine.

Network management is especially critical when freight market conditions leave no margin for load planning errors. Fleets need visibility of loads and capacity that will enter or leave freight markets in the coming days. Without this, planners think and work in reactive mode.

Load planners react to daily network imbalances created by the variability and chaos of truckload operations. On any given day, freight markets will have more loads than equipment and drivers or more capacity than loads.

For example, a fleet might be undersold today in Atlanta with 10 trucks but only five loads needing an outbound dispatch. The same fleet might be oversold in Dallas, needing to move 20 loads, but only 10 trucks are available. A load planner could shift empty trucks (deadhead) from Atlanta to Dallas to rectify the problem at a hefty cost.

To succeed, planners need better visibility of loads and capacity in the coming days to turn expenses into profits by knowing which markets will have excess or insufficient capacity relative to demand. Is this possible? Yes — with the right technology.

This article shares three tech-enabled strategies for truckload fleets to rev their profit engines by improving network management and load planning.

1. Get 5 Days Lead Time

Network planning is a prerequisite to load planning. To avoid costly mistakes, planners must know several days in advance where and when they will be under or oversold. Only then can they avert the expensive mistakes of deadheading trucks or not utilizing assets and drivers.

Knowing network imbalances one day before loads and capacity must move is insufficient. A one-day lead time means decisions will prioritize minimizing losses rather than maximizing revenue and profits. Planners must sit drivers in oversold markets or dispatch them empty to undersold markets. Both scenarios have significant costs.

Network planning tools can accurately forecast where and when loads and capacity will be available. The technology has previously been out of reach for small and mid-size fleets. Not anymore. Modern, web-based offerings can deliver predictive insights that help load planners proactively balance markets.

With predictive insights, a load planner could see which markets will have imbalances up to five days in advance to direct internal resources — sales and customer service reps — to book higher-paying loads to fill the gaps and turn deadhead miles into revenue.

Even with predictive insights, assessing network data can be mentally challenging. Numbers alone do not tell the story. This is where visualization tools come into play. For example, load planners could use interactive maps with powerful search and filter tools to locate available loads and assets for days ahead. 

2. Use Meaningful Metrics

Load planners have a significant role in a company’s success and future viability. Yet no one is immune to mistakes in the daily chaos of truckload operations, where the adage “no plan survives first contact with the enemy” rings true.

By using advanced load planning tools and metrics, fleets can work ahead of schedule to solve tomorrow’s challenges today.The load planning screens of transportation management systems (TMS) have traditionally been filled with data grids. Users must scroll through multiple screens to find relevant load, driver, customer, and driver information. Screen switching causes users to spend too much time on repetitive tasks, limiting resources for higher-priority needs.

Using a modern TMS platform that gives planners easy and intuitive access to all the relevant information they need on one screen will increase efficiency and facilitate better decisions. Some key metrics to use for load planning are:

  • Overbooked/underbooked markets with load, equipment, and driver numbers 
  • Shift miles, hours, and the frequencies of moving drivers from one market to another
  • Revenue per truck per day
  • Layover hours, driver earnings, and productivity
  • Deadhead percentages and costs

Visibility of these and other key metrics through interactive dashboards helps planners instantly assess network health, identify priorities, and evaluate outcomes for continuous improvement.

3. Break Load Planning Boundaries

Many TMS platforms offer limited flexibility to define load planning regions. Incoming loads enter a planning queue based on the state or region where they originate. Similarly, assets and drivers enter the planning queues where loads terminate. Freight flows are never static in the real world, however. Networks evolve constantly. A TMS with rigid planning boundaries restricts visibility, limiting users' ability to match loads with capacity optimally.

With a modern TMS, fleets can quickly redefine operating areas and regions at the state and county levels. They can have planning boundaries spill into neighboring states. Instead of limiting searches for loads and capacity within a planning region, users can easily switch between region and distance-based searches to find resources outside of defined planning areas.

The ability to shift borders and cross boundaries helps users locate and direct capacity to balance networks, thereby minimizing cost and increasing revenue. With this added visibility and flexibility, other departments can help find better backhauls, adjust pricing, arrange load swaps, consolidate pickups/drops, and tap third-party capacity, among different strategies.

With the right technology, fleets can transform network balancing from a cost center into a profit driver. Even minor tweaks have significant results.

Fast Track Load Planning

Truckload fleets are accustomed to reactive network management. With new technology and powerful analytics, they can become proactive and move planning upstream to experience tremendous benefits

Magnus Technologies is developing an AI-powered load planning system that accurately forecasts network balances five days in advance. This forward visibility will give fleets powerful options to make corrections.

Seeing over or undersold markets will enable fleets to proactively solicit and find freight to get drivers to oversold markets and increase operating ratios.

Are you ready to transform load planners from chaos managers into efficiency orchestrators? Magnus is leading the way. Contact us today to learn more about how the Magnus TMS drives the future of load planning.

Posted in: Magnus TMS

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