Logistics import export background of Container Cargo ship in seaport on blue sky, Freight Transportation

FourKites data shows no drop in trucks entering California after clean air laws

Amid the continuing congestion at ports in California, the importance of supply chain visibility data has come even more into focus. The number of ships waiting to doc, dwell times and other key stats are not only useful when it comes to working out the current state of play, but also where individual bottlenecks and supply chain hiccups appear. In light of this, we got in touch with FourKites' Marc Bolieau to find out about how this tech is developing and what the visibility provider knows about truck and freight movements stateside.

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In our short Q&A, Bolieau revealed what FourKites’ data says about the impact of California’s law 2020 law on air quality, as well as to what extent freight movements are shifting to ports outside California.

The President of Sales and Carrier Operations for the EMEA region also answered our questions on the development of ocean ETAs, what real world benefits can be yielded from yard visibility, and how far away we are from seeing supply chain visibility platforms provide prescriptive solutions to unforeseen problems.

Thanks for talking to us Marc. It has been said that part of the reason for container congestion at LA and Long Beach is a lack of trucks to collect containers, which in itself has been caused by 2020 regulations that exclude some older, more polluting vehicles from entering the state. Does any FourKites data indicate that there has been less trucks entering the state since the measures were introduced?

According to FourKites data, the regulations prohibiting some older vehicles from entering California have not impacted shipment volume. Since January 2021, the number of trucks entering California – as well as overall export volume – has remained consistent.

It should be noted, however, that if the older trucks were allowed to enter California to pick up containers at the ports we would likely see an increase in truck capacity, and potentially a slightly quicker clearing of the backlog. These types of regulations are not new; California has had a clean idle regulation since 2008. Adding more trucks is not the silver bullet to fixing congestion at the ports, since there would still be labour constraints, warehousing constraints and more.

Despite there being much talk of ships docking at alternative ports to avoid the queue at LA Long Beach, it appears that the amount of shippers taking this option has been limited. To what extent has your data shown any movement to other ports both on the West and East coast?

At this point, companies know that shipping containers will be sitting off the coast of California for a while waiting to be unloaded. For goods desperately needed in the US, companies are going to fly the products in or use alternative ports that will cost more money.

FourKites saw a 7% decrease in shipment volume to the ports of L.A. and Long Beach from July 2021 to the end of January 2022. Meanwhile, we saw shipment volume increases at the ports of Tacoma (4%), Baltimore (2%), Jacksonville (3%) and New York City (8%) over the same period. Additionally, FourKites saw changes in average distance of full truckloads originating from U.S. ports during this time period, indicating a possible change in shipper behaviour due to port backups.

At the Ports of L.A. & Long Beach, FourKites saw an ~11% decrease in average trip distance from July 2021 to February 2022, while East Coast ports saw a ~9% increase in average trip distance over the same time period. This change may be due to shippers rerouting loads to East Coast ports to avoid delays at the Ports of LA & Long Beach.

Delbert Cope,Chief Technology Officer at FourKites, recently talked about how more improvement in data standards and a further creation of interconnected networks is necessary to offer prescriptive solutions to logistics companies (e.g. alternative routes in the event of an accident). How far away are we from those prescription solutions becoming the norm? Is the amount of work required on the part of carriers and others to get connected still significant? 

While it’s difficult to predict the future, the foundation required for prescriptive solutions – comprehensive, quality data and state-of-the-art artificial intelligence – is nearly in place. In recent years, we’ve seen partners and even competitors become more willing to securely share select data and collaborate. Drivers have come to see visibility as a good thing, which is the key to driving future success. At present, they benefit by being distracted by fewer check calls, and in the future they will benefit by drastic reduction of empty miles.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 and other disruptions have accelerated awareness and adoption of real-time visibility platforms. If these trends continue, we will achieve the promise of automated, efficient end-to-end supply chain management, powered by real-time visibility data. Carrier connectivity into these solutions will get easier and easier, but adoption across supply chains will vary. As prescriptive tools drive real savings or opportunities for increased revenue, speed of adoption will increase.

FourKites also provides a Dynamic Yard solution for warehouses – a tool that claims to boost employee efficiency at a time when the industry is facing labour shortages. What kind of conclusions and subsequent solutions have been derived from the data in the system? 

As the need for warehouse associates increases in the wake of one of history’s strongest supply chain demand environments, businesses are able to maintain productivity with fewer workers by using Dynamic Yard. This application tracks the actions and outputs of each employee alongside contextual information from the core visibility platform, prescribing more accurate job tasks across the yard.

If a load is running late, Dynamic Yard tells teams not to prep for a delivery, enabling them to reassign workers to another task. This reduces worker idle time, avoids wasted efforts and ensures a continual stream of productivity from each associate resulting in 25-30% greater productivity each day.

On a deeper level, warehouses are struggling with labour retention. Visibility tools improve employee satisfaction by investing in their productivity. Since Dynamic Yard keeps an eye on the truck’s schedule on behalf of the warehouse workers, employees can be confident that the tasks they perform won’t require a reset or the potential for overtime.

Visibility into the daily functions of a dock help managers determine appropriate staffing levels, as well. If they notice specific days where it takes employees longer to perform certain activities, they may shift labour from less busy times of the day to help make up productivity. Or, by using Appointment Manager, our streamlined scheduling platform for facilities, shippers and carriers, sites can meter inbound and outbound appointments to not overwhelm their leaner crews.

Last autumn, FourKites stated that its ocean ETAs are 20%-40% more accurate than those from carriers. Ocean ETAs are of course influenced by a variety of factors entirely different from those involved in land transportation. What kind of factors does your technology take into account here given we are living in almost unprecedented times of supply chain disruption?

The FourKites platform identifies when a container will be late 2.5X quicker than industry averages thanks to its patented artificial intelligence, which leverages over 5 terabytes of historical automatic identification system (AIS) vessel data covering 6 million port-to-port trips across 100,000 lanes. FourKites’ ocean ETAs become more powerful by seamlessly connecting to the other legs of the shipment on a single platform, providing users with global end-to-end visibility across every mode.

In addition to real-time visibility with predictive ETAs, FourKites offers valuable insight into factors like accumulating demurrage and detention fees and delays due to port congestion via carrier integrations, vessel partnerships and port terminal integrations. The paperwork required for international shipping can also be unnecessarily complex and time-intensive. In response, FourKites is the only visibility provider to offer international document management for ocean shippers, which helps prevent delays from missing and incorrect documents, reducing any disruption to anticipated ETAs.