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How Does a Fleet Choose a Transportation Technology Partner?

July 1, 2016 By: John Simms, HNI Tags: Blogs, Fleet Management, Technology

Does your trucking operation want to become an early adopter, or to go with the established player?

When it comes to choosing a technology partner, this question looms large for many transportation companies. Should we invest in big box technology that has dominated the marketplace for years, or should we take a chance on an up-and-comer whose platform is mobile and poised for future enhancements?

As a kid, we were excited when my father announced that our family was going to pick out a new color television. That meant hopping into the station wagon and heading down to the store to choose between the only three choices available.

In those days the “Big Three” dominated the technology marketplace. The notion of even considering a foreign brand never crossed my dad’s mind.

The salesman on the floor proudly boasted to my dad that we couldn’t go wrong with any of the three choices since these giants will dominate the industry for decades. Once the choice was made and my parents were filling out the paperwork I walked over to the transistor radio section and looked at the choices available. I was intrigued by one brand in particular: Sony. The salesman quickly assured me that I shouldn’t waste my time with them. They won’t catch on here in the good ol’ US of A, he said.

Fast forward many years, and trucking company executives are facing a similar decision that will have a profound effect on their company for years to come. Many jumped into the E-Log marketplace early and invested millions in high-tech equipment.

Now that the FMCSA has put forth the long-awaited ELD mandate, which takes effect in Dec. 2017, the marketplace has exploded with choices.

Do we move forward with the big boys whose product offering is time tested and that many drivers have experienced? Or do we think outside the box and listen to the upstarts who claim the world is changing and those platforms are not sustainable?

They use terms like open platform, APIs, system integration and platform unification. All this, plus it works on your android or iOS device. Then they mention their pricing and how easy it is to use. And executives sit up in their chairs.

Mobile apps in business are not new. Many companies use apps for recruitment, paperwork, policies, family connections and driver lifestyles. Many run their own telematics platform or outsource the data to a third party to provide productive analysis back to them for a very low cost.

Industry analysis predicts that by the year 2020 there will be anywhere from 25 billion to 40 billion or more mobile devices of various kinds in the market globally. Mobile devices are now tracking people, which is the next phase of protecting trucking’s most valuable asset — the driver. Companies today are looking to make things simpler for drivers as well as back-end managers, providing a single sign-on and system integration.

So the question remains for many trucking company owners to ponder. Should we invest in big box technology that has dominated the marketplace for years (like Zenith and RCA) or do we take a chance on an up-and-comer whose platform is mobile and poised for future enhancements (Sony)?

Then again, which is the riskier option…?

About the Author: John Simms is vice president at HNI, a non-traditional insurance and business advisory firm that specializes in the transportation industry. John has a wealth of experience in helping transportation companies manage their total cost of risk. Read more of his posts on HNI’s blog: hni.com/blog/choosing-a-technology-partner-in-transportation.

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