The trucking industry is famous for its steady focus on reducing costs and, to a lesser extent, perhaps for its remarkable management of remote assets. Increasing revenues, however, is a subject that just doesn’t get as much public discussion, although that is what everything else drives to—a better bottom line.

TransCore’s DAT Services posts some 68 million loads and trucks every year on its load boards, 45 million of those are posted to DAT first or nowhere else, according to the company. The resulting data set is enormous, current, and now very valuable as a source of information about opportunities for carriers to maximize revenues.

The business began in 1978 with the first load board, and freight matching continues to be the core company function, but analyzing all that data to help carriers make better decisions about pricing and positioning assets is a growing part of the business.

“We have a number of analytical offerings now,” says David Schrader, senior vice president of TransCore. “For example, we provide what we call ‘hot market maps’ to help carriers see where the freight is so they can properly position assets to take advantage of where freight is by type of truck and by season.”

Using Data

We also help carriers understand pricing dynamics,” says Michele Greene. “Prices don’t go up and down uniformly everywhere at the same time. Our Truckload Rate Index shows the going rate on a particular lane. It can help carriers see how they are competing.” (The company has identified 18,000 lanes in the U.S.)

Using sophisticated analytics to help carriers understand the workings of the spot market is what business is now all about. “It used to be that only the larger fleets could do this,” notes Schrader. “We reach the 5- to 50- truck fleets. Technology is a great equalizer. Today, we are more of a publisher/educator. We produce white papers, webinars and other training materials to help fleets,” he says.

“Our mission is putting the data out there,” says Mark Montague, pricing analyst, TransCore. “What we believe is that even companies with a small number of trucks can use our analytic tools to benchmark themselves against their competition to help maximize revenue.” (The data is available at at no charge.)

Access to better data-driven business intelligence appears to be moving the spot market needle. According to the 2011 TransCore survey of more than 600 for-hire trucking companies, owner-operators, and broker-carriers, carriers derived 11% less freight from contracts and repeat business while securing a 20% larger portion of loads on the spot market compared to the prior year’s survey. Spot market rates also rose steadily in the first half of 2011.

For trucking operations of all sizes in every market, the new questions of the hour are increasingly: What data do we have? What business intelligence can we derive from analyzing that data? What can we do now with what we know?

As it turns out, the answers to all these questions are the same: “More than ever imagined.”