Q&A with Kingsgate’s Tom Curee

December 02 2019

Tom Curee is the Vice President of Strategic Development for Kingsgate Logistics. A nearly 20-year veteran of the transportation and logistics industry, he sat down recently with Trucker Tools to share his thoughts on the industry, technology and why constructive disruption is good.

What’s been the biggest challenge in transforming Kingsgate and moving the company forward to compete in today’s market?

The freight brokerage market is changing rapidly. We had to determine what digital freight brokerage looked like for our company. We kicked the tires on a lot of tech providers in the space. A key question for us was how does a tech partner fit into our culture and support the level of service we need to provide, both for current as well as future clients that we want to build long-term? We found a lot of digital freight platforms are solely transactional. That’s a commodity and our customers don’t want that. They want solutions to supply chain problems, which are necessarily more consultative and collaborative in nature. When you just do a transaction, you don’t really solve problems.

So, we wanted to find a digital brokerage solution without losing the heart of who we are as a company, staying true to our culture and philosophy, and without diminishing the value of relationships and our expert knowledge. We wanted a strategic technology partner to join us in the journey, support what we do and make us faster and better at it.

What did you want to accomplish as you developed your technology strategy and chose which platforms to adopt?

We’ve done a couple of different things. First, we did a thorough vetting process. We looked at the marketplace, what was available and even considered building our own digital freight portal. The problem with that approach was, first, it would take too long to build a basic solution ourselves, and second, we needed more in terms of technology functionality, innovation and capability.

We also wanted to extend beyond the normal reach of our current network. Even from a load availability standpoint, we have thousands of loads a month. We wanted to find a platform that we could quickly deploy, would give us access to more carriers and would give us effective new tools to match our available loads with carriers faster.

I recently attended an owner-operator conference; they are the backbone of truckload capacity. The big theme from them was “I wish I could just go to one app.” They showed me all the different load board and tracking apps they had. Virtually all of them were on the Trucker Tools mobile driver app. Feedback from them was they liked it because it did more than just simply find loads and automate tracking. It gave them useful tools, like real-time, enroute intelligence on the nearest parking and rest stops, route optimization, where the cheapest fuel was, the ability to scan and send documents, among other features. 

Leveraging Trucker Tools opened us up to a vast new pool of capacity – these owner-operators were already on it so bringing them into our network was simple. It’s our go-to app for carriers. We also saw value in being part of that trucker’s community of brokers, other brokers who are like-minded with us in how to serve clients and engage with carriers. We could partner up to bring load availability across tens of thousands of loads to these small carriers and provide them with a better experience in dealing with us.

What really cemented our decision was Trucker Tools’ focus on the user experience. At the end of the day, the carrier is a customer. They have app fatigue. With Trucker Tools, they’re using an app they are familiar with. We’re not asking them to download something new. From a process standpoint, the carrier can use the “Book it Now” feature to book a load on the spot in an automated fashion. That really serves their needs and ours.

In all, we are providing our shipper customer with more real time information and access to more available trucks. Load tracking compliance is improved. We get more opportunity to meet more of our customers’ needs.

How did you go about evaluating technology providers; what were the key attributes you looked for?

The biggest things I look for right out of the gate are what is their vision, what is their product roadmap and how well does that align with my needs and those of my customers.

Technology changes so fast that, for me, it is close-minded to look at what the tech vendor offers today and focus only on that. You need to have a really good feel for and understanding of the vision and the road map. 

The other thing is the team. Do they believe, do they understand the vision and live it? If they do, then we know they are heading in the right direction – and they are someone we can work with. If we don’t see the opportunity to collaborate with and leverage that partnership into the future, then it’s easier to say there is not a fit.

What were the foremost operational benefits you wanted to achieve as you implemented Trucker Tools?

We had one of our largest food clients come to us and talk about wanting to get into the digital broker space. As we heard that, we saw opportunities to also fill that gap for some of our other existing clients. 

The keys were quicker access to capacity, compressing the search-to-book process (finding a carrier and matching that carrier to the right load at the right price) and real-time visibility to that carrier and progress delivering the load.

When it comes time to secure a truck for a shipment, there is a lot of internal process work, calling carrier sales reps, posting on load boards, phone calls and emails, just a lot of manual work – and a lot of waste. The customer does not get to experience the security and reliability they prefer. We know that typically, in terms of covering a load, it can take anywhere from, depending on how difficult the load is,  30 minutes to two hours. 

The Trucker Tools matching software and algorithms automate and compress most of that process, reducing that variable cost by more than half. That significantly reduces the number of times our customer has a capacity issue – and the amount of time our brokers spend on the phone chasing a truck.

As we’ve launched the “Book it Now” feature, our clients are equally excited. They see the value of expanding our reach. “Book it Now” allows us to extend beyond our current network and identify potential carriers who want to be part of this type of program and are a fit with our network on a historic basis. Some of the other digital freight solutions, while good, are limited to only those carriers set up in their network.

A bigger piece is how it helps our carriers. They want more automaton. Drivers and carriers have asked for it. They can conduct the whole booking process online (over a mobile phone or tablet) and complete the transaction without talking to someone, unless they want to. It’s completely and fully automated. When they accept a shipment, the rate confirmation is fired over to them, they can execute it from their phone, then automatically start tracking, get confirmation numbers, full details on the load, execute the shipment and then focus on other things that need their time.  

Partnering with Trucker Tools is giving our carriers the technology and service experience they want, making us a preferred broker to work with.

How is the adoption of Trucker Tools helping you strengthen relationships with carriers?

It helps carriers because we have one solution. Our carriers don’t want to work from multiple tools. It makes training very easy and efficient. They can easily adapt. In many cases, we find that carriers on our network already are familiar with the Trucker Tools app.

It also has opened our carriers to other useful resources in the Trucker Tools app. We want to help them build a profitable business. We become more of an engaged partner in the journey of their business. We do that by putting useful tools at their fingertips and making it easy to consume them. It’s also opened communication in ways we didn’t expect in terms of helping them be more efficient and productive, and making us a better partner.

What competitive advantage is it providing you with your customers?

Our customers want a digital freight solution, but also want to make sure that we are using a network of carriers that are trusted. Not just any carrier, those that are fully vetted against criteria they hold us accountable to. With the Trucker Tools app’s six-year track record and 750,000 truckers having downloaded it, that’s a much wider pool of capacity, offered on a reliable platform, that we can draw from to find the right truck for the right load at the right time. When the customer isn’t waiting for capacity, they gain a level of confidence and comfort that we’re on top of our game and are handling things properly on their behalf.

Digital freight brokerage is only possible when you have a good experience from the carrier perspective. If the carrier has to call, text, email or otherwise expend extra effort, they won’t be interested. Trucker Tools is known for building an app for drivers first. Their focus on the carrier and driver experience is what will allow brokers and 3PLs to become effective players in the digital space.

As the industry continues to evolve, tech providers and brokers that focus on the carrier keeping them happy and giving them functional, enabling tools that increase their revenue and profit opportunity – that’s ultimately what will make all of us successful.

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