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Three months ago, when Convoy launched its
Automated Reloads
program, it was an extension of what is a core value of
the company, “to love problems, not solutions.” Ziad Ismail, chief product
officer, emphasized that to FreightWaves when talking about the success that
the program has had on reducing empty miles and with that, cutting carbon
emissions.

“The problem, in this case, has been around for decades –
how do you enable carriers to spend more time driving fully loaded, helping
them to earn more while reducing waste from empty miles,” he said. “Machine
learning is uniquely suited to solve these types of large-scale data problems
by analyzing large complex patterns of carrier and shipper data and predicting
the most optimal combination of multiple loads, taking into account the lanes
on which that carrier prefers to run.”

Launched in June, Automated Reloads has slashed carbon
emissions by 45% in top markets (including Los Angeles, California; Atlanta,
Georgia; and St. Louis, Missouri), and reduced empty miles for customers in
those markets to 19%, according to Ismail, who said Convoy estimates that
overall, 35% of total mileage is run empty in full truckload van and reefer
applications.  

In some lanes, Automated Reloads has resulted in a greater
than 50% of all loads being part of the bundled package option available to
carriers and owner-operators.

Automated Reloads
presents drivers with a collection of loads
that take into consideration
criteria such as the carriers’ lane preferences, driver hours of service
availability, driver locations and facility wait times.

The idea is to provide carriers with multiple options so
they don’t have to spend time looking for backhauls. A “package” of loads is
presented with a single price for all the loads, rather than individual prices
for each load. Carriers/drivers always have the option to bid their rates on
the combinations or simply accept the package. The majority of loads are
currently being accepted by carriers, but Ismail said some owner-operators in
the Convoy network have benefited.

“For example, we recently spoke to an owner-operator who
appreciated the ability to haul multiple drop-and-hook round-trips by bidding
on a single job spanning a week and a half. He was able to earn more and get
home to rest on his preferred schedule, guaranteeing that he spent less time looking
for work or driving empty,” he said.

Angie Slaughter, vice president of sustainability
procurement for Anheuser-Busch, said Automated Reloads is fast becoming a part
of the beer giant’s efforts to cut its carbon footprint.

“By partnering with Convoy, we have used the benefits of its
digital freight network to strategically batch our loads with the most relevant
carriers to reduce the empty miles within our routes,” she said. “By reducing
these miles, we improve the sustainability of our fleet – taking another step
towards our ambitious sustainability goal of reducing carbon emissions by 25%
by 2025 – and continue to lead the way towards greater efficiency in the
transport market and within our own supply chain.”

Convoy noted that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data
shows that medium- and heavy-duty trucks account for 436 million metric tons of
CO2 per year, with Convoy estimating that half of these emissions come from
trucks in the full truckload sector.

While Automated Reloads was designed to make it easier for
carriers and truckers to book multiple loads as a single job, its environmental
benefits in reducing empty miles as trucks reposition for the next load is
something the company believes deserves equal attention.

“For decades, the miles that trucks run empty have been a
seemingly intractable source of waste in the freight industry, unnecessarily
emitting millions of metric tons of carbon dioxide,” Aaron Terrazas, Convoy’s
director of economic research, said. “More efficient route and schedule
planning is the future of freight and has the potential to meaningfully reduce
the industry’s carbon footprint.”

Ismail said Convoy is looking at ways to further improve
Automated Reloads.

“While we’re excited by how quickly Automated Reloads is
being adopted, we are continuously working to grow and improve the program,” he
said. “As Convoy’s business grows and more shipments are added to our digital
freight network, our machine learning algorithms can identify more shipments to
group together and automatically create the most efficient route for carriers.”

That is already happening, Ismail said, noting that
initially the system was producing two loads at a time, but the company is
seeing more cases where four or more loads are being bundled.