Digital Freight Matching: A Comprehensive Guide
Industries around the world are undergoing digital transformations, as businesses begin to adopt more technologically advanced ways to improve processes and operations. Ever since the introduction of digital technology, there have been massive changes in the supply chain industry.
The case is the same for the logistics industry, technology has made freight hauling and management substantially simplified. In the past, human interaction was necessary for transactions and building business relationships.
However, with the introduction of digital integration, business deals can easily take place online or on the phone with advanced payment methods and various software supporting supply chain operations.
In recent years, freight matching technology has evolved and is more prominent in the industry. In this article, we will be discussing a detailed overview of digital freight matching, how it works, how it compares against freight brokers and load boards, and take a closer look at some of the most popular freight matching platforms.
What Is Digital Freight Matching?
Digital Freight Matching (DFM) is a relatively new technology available on a web- or mobile-based platform that connects brokers, shippers, and carriers in real-time. The technology is offered by companies that help shippers share and advertise their loads while assisting carriers to match them according to their needs conveniently and efficiently.
Contrary to more traditional methods, DFM handles most of the challenging manual processes when it comes to booking and posting loads, such as managing paperwork, making calls for confirmation, and similar tasks.
This technology is becoming increasingly popular in the logistics industry as it can be integrated with Transport Management Systems (TMS) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, making scheduling and administrative work effortless.
Digital Freight Matching platforms offer real-time solutions to shippers, brokers, and carriers. Moreover, it directly increases operational efficiency, scales up processes without much overhead, simplifies processes, and provides resiliency against market volatility.
With DFM, the industry is moving towards automation with the help of machine learning algorithms and AI technology.
How Does Digital Freight Matching Work?
Digital Freight Matching companies develop their technology with the help of machine learning algorithms, predictive analytics, and artificial intelligence. Through driving innovation and adopting new technology, they ensure that their platform can serve various types of clients (shippers, brokers, and carriers).
Shippers, carriers, and brokers must initially sign up on this DFM platform to post and find available loads. Brokers and shippers can share features and parameters of the load to help the DFM platform process and push the information of specific loads to carriers that are best suited for the job.
They can specify the lane, pick-up and drop-off times, weight, type of cargo, size, rates, and more for their loads. This helps them connect to carriers who match the load and shipper’s requirements.
Carriers can share their load preferences, equipment type, and other details on the platform to get in touch with relevant shippers or brokers. The algorithm for the platform is programmed to match or suggest the best load to carriers and the most appropriate trucking services to shippers.
Benefits of Digital Freight Matching
Since the software utilizes machine learning, it is continually improving with every selection the user makes and takes into account their preferences, location via GPS, past reviews, and available type of equipment.
This way, shippers, carriers, and brokers can find relevant matches for their load and capacity significantly faster than other methods. While some DFM applications have posted rates by the shippers that are non-negotiable, some platforms allow different carriers to bid on rates.
Since a DFM takes all factors into account while suggesting a load, it might even suggest carriers a backhaul load after their confirmation, depending on their preference or load availability.
In cases where the carrier accepts Less-Than-Truckload freight, the DFM may suggest loose cargo loads along the route that can help them make the most out of their trip. Aside from providing a platform to connect with relevant shippers, brokers, and carriers, DFM companies also offer easy in-app payment options, which make transactions quicker and more efficient.
Overall, Digital Freight Matching platforms are the future of the road freight industry and can be called a modern one-stop solution for carriers, brokers, and shippers.
What Is the Difference Between Digital Freight Matching and Traditional Freight Brokers?
The main difference between Digital Freight Matching platforms and freight brokers is that freight brokers focus on building business relationships, while DFM focuses more on technology and connecting shippers and carriers effectively.
Essentially, the objective of the service that freight brokers and DFM offer is the same, which is to connect shippers with carriers. However, with Digital Freight Matching, shippers and carriers can connect with each other and close deals quicker than by using a traditional freight broker.
Just like how emails revolutionized the pace of global communication and replaced most of the work done by conventional snail mail, DFM platforms can perform the job in a fraction of the time and offer more relevant options to users due to machine learning.
However, it would be incorrect to assume that freight brokers and DFM platforms are mutually exclusive. In recent years, freight brokers have started incorporating digital technology into their business to the extent that they may even be classified as DFM companies.
DFM companies generally hire fewer employees than traditional freight brokerages since most of the work is done by the algorithm of the system. However, these companies need tech-savvy employees that can manage software-related problems, assist with bugs, and improve systems for smoother operations.
All things considered, some businesses prefer to conduct business face-to-face rather than through an app or web platform, but not all DFM companies offer this service to their users.
What Is the Difference Between Digital Freight Matching and Load Boards?
The fundamental concept and objective of digital freight matching platforms and load boards are the same. They are both meant to be online platforms where shippers and brokers can advertise loads, and carriers can pick and book loads that are most relevant to their requirements.
While both load boards and DFM systems are a part of digital logistics technology, DFM offers a variety of features that far exceed what load boards offer to users. To use load boards, shippers and brokers must post their loads on the platform and wait for interested carriers to pick them up.
After they identify an interested carrier, they must negotiate with each other regarding rates before finally confirming a booking. Afterward, the shipper or broker will have to remove the post about the specific load from the load board and proceed with the transaction off the platform.
From selection to transaction, most of the process of posting and finding loads on load boards is manual, much less trip planning. On the other hand, DFM platforms automate the entire process and use AI technology paired with machine learning algorithms for smooth and quick execution.
Shippers and brokers post their loads on the DFM platform, which prompts suitable interested truckers to get in touch. After an acceptance is established between the shipper or broker and the carrier, the system lets shippers know the location of the truck and displays the best route planned for the carriers.
With a DFM system, truckers can find backhaul loads based on their routes with ease along with many other beneficial features.
Aside from easy communication between carriers and shippers or brokers, what sets DFM platforms apart from load boards are post-booking features such as shipment status updates, payment facilities and management, documentation management, and even integration in Transport Management Systems (TMS).
Lastly, the key difference and advantage of using DFM platforms are that they operate in real-time. This means that if the system is used correctly, it can offer significantly better turnaround time than load boards for all parties.
Best Digital Freight Matching Platforms & Apps
There is a wide variety of digital freight matching platforms, that offer an array of features for shippers, brokers, and carriers. Each of these companies has its own unique selling proposition and offers several benefits to each type of user.
We’ve featured the 5 most popular digital freight matching platforms that are suitable for shippers, carriers, and brokers alike.
Convoy is a company that allows truckers to find and book truckloads for their routes effortlessly. They are recognized as one of the best load boards on the market and also offer various digital freight matching capabilities, ensuring to cut out empty miles by combining shipments into batches and optimizing scheduling.
Moreover, Convoy offers brokers and shippers unique analytics and insights that can be used to improve and streamline operations. With more than 400,000 trucks on Convoy, shippers can find flexible carriers who match their requirements and are verified for compliance and safety.
Some of the key features that Convoy offers are 24/7 dedicated customer support, transparent pricing, shipment tracking & visibility, Transport Management System integration, and guaranteed tender acceptance.
They also offer dynamic backup on rejected tenders, accurate insights and data analytics, automated payment, digital documentation, and more. There’s also a drop-and-hook service to users where a carrier can deliver freight at a facility and hook onto another pre-loaded trailer at the same facility for the trip ahead.
Uber Freight is part of the ride-hailing company Uber and one of the world’s largest transportation and logistics networks. It allows digitally-enabled carriers to connect with shippers within a moment’s notice.
It offers users a variety of load-booking and management tools that put them in control and improve transparency.
The best features Uber Freight offers users are shipment tracking and visibility, truck maintenance discounts, fuel discounts, smart load suggestions, pricing transparency, insights about the facility, easy and quick payment options, and more.
Trucker Tools is a convenient platform for carriers where they can select and schedule loads, plan routes for freight, and find the lowest fuel pricing and truck stops.
It also provides truckers information regarding rest areas, weighing scales, truck washes, traffic, weather, and DOT locations. They also offer key features such as smart capacity and load tracking.
Truckers can also get the best diesel prices within their proximity without requiring GPS installation on their trucks. They also send email reminders for different notifications, which helps users stay organized and up-to-date.
Descartes was founded in 1981 in Ontario, Canada, and offers an agile transportation solution to freight shippers and carriers. The digital freight management system they use to connect both parties is called MacroPoint.
Descartes prides itself on its exceptional security practices, excellent carrier compliance across its global network, and dedication to productivity and outstanding performance.
The key features offered by Descartes are a real-time visibility platform, capacity sourcing, advanced ocean visibility, workflow automation, smart analytics and intelligence, temp tracking, dock appointment scheduling, tender automation, and more.
Doft allows carriers to select, bid, and haul loads according to their needs. With Doft, carriers can find truckloads from almost 150,000 loads posted daily on the platform. Shippers on Doft can choose and request any type of equipment that suits their needs.
Although Doft states itself as a load board, many of its services overlap with digital freight matching functions.
The key features of Doft are upfront pricing for prepaid loads, instant load booking on prepaid loads, in-app proof of delivery (POD) submission, fuel surcharge calculator, load searching for backhaul trips, freight rate calculator, and average market rate forecast.
How to Choose the Right Digital Freight Matching Platform
With the digital logistics market growing and developing rapidly, there are various FDM platforms to choose from. Before making a choice, it is crucial to factor in the following.
- Dedicated Support – The DFM platform you choose should offer 24/7 customer support to users. When you have support from technical experts and logistics specialists, only then can you take advantage of the complete range of features of the DFM platform without the hassle of waiting for support if an issue arises.
- User-Friendly – Whether you are a trucker, freight broker, or shipper, the DFM platform you select should be easy and convenient to use. User-friendliness ensures you can find or post loads effectively and find interested partners efficiently.
- Vast Network – It is essential for a user to choose a DFM platform that offers a range of different equipment, regular new and varied loads, or an extensive network of shippers so they can get the best rates. A vast network allows shippers and brokers to find fair rates, and carriers to maximize their earnings on a trip by picking up loads on the backhaul trip.
- System Integration – If a DFM platform offers TMS integration, you should consider it for your application. It not only keeps your business managed properly but can also future-proof your business with new innovations, special features, and trend predictions.
- Additional Features – While you may not utilize some features of a DFM system currently, this may not be the case when your company expands in the future. Therefore, it is best to choose a digital freight matching platform while keeping your present and future needs in mind. Look for additional features that offer the potential for growth and easier management, such as TMS integration, drop-and-hook service, data and analytics tools, etc.
Co-Founder & Writer
About the Author
Andrew is a multi-business owner with over 10 years of experience in the fields of logistics, manufacturing, operations, training, and education.
Being the co-founder of freightcourse has given him the ability to pursue his desire of educating others on manufacturing and supply chain topics.