May 8 2008 09:38 AM

Advancements in mobile technology are helping close the competitive gap between regional and national players. While staples such as FedEx and UPS are still powerful entities in the express and overnight delivery marketplace, new and existing regional and specialized delivery companies are effectively carving out their own niche.


This shift in the marketplace can be partly attributed to the emergence of powerful software solutions that automate critical aspects of the shipping process such as pre/post truck inspection, route management, load reconciliation and proof-of-delivery. Not only do these new software applications impact how regional carriers handle operations, they also facilitate new ways to improve the customer experience for the companies that contract with the carriers to deliver their products and parcels.


Up until a few years ago, delivery companies had two basic options: they could rely on a cell-phone and paper-based system to process and complete deliveries, or opt for an expensive custom-coded solution. The problem with cell-phones, even advanced ones, is that they often lack features such as bar code scanning and signature-capture capabilities that delivery companies need, while paper-based models are riddled with inefficiencies and cant provide timely feedback on delivery status.


Custom-coded solutions also have drawbacks. A major issue is the steep price tag that makes them unattainable for mid-sized carrierswhich previously worked to widen the gap between national and regional providers. Fortunately, the emergence of pre-packaged mobile application is leveling the playing field.


Pre-built yet comprehensive mobile intelligent solutions are opening up new possibilities for regional or specialized carriers by giving them access to next-generation mobile technology at a fraction of the cost of custom-coded solutions. This enables delivery companies that were once less competitive middle players to compete more aggressively with larger delivery companies in their market or regionand offer their customers, the large volume parcel shippers, better service for less money.


New Technology Levels the Playing Field

One of the key enabling technologies for this new level of service is mobility software, which offers ready-to-deploy solutions that bridge the gap between ever-changing mobile devices and customers demands for timely and precise service. By properly automating key delivery processes, a pre-packaged mobile application can address the intricate needs of different delivery companies while having the flexibility to grow and change with technology, and thereby offer a more compelling value proposition to the companies relying on the carriers shipping service.


A handful of software companies now offer cost-effective, pre-packaged solutions that are as robust as custom deployments and provide additional features and functionality centered on scalability and emerging technology. One regional carrier that has had much success using this turnkey approach is OnTrac (formerly California Overnight), which offers service to California, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.


No stranger to mobile solutions, OnTrac knew firsthand the operational and financial heartaches associated with custom-code solution deployments. Therefore, when it came time to refresh their system, they chose a pre-packaged solution that could optimize operations and meet their top prioritygive their customers real-time access to track the status of their parcels via the OnTrac customer portal.


With this new system, our customers can get real-time status on deliveries over the Web within 90 seconds of delivery, says Tim Elder, Director of Information Technology for the Next Generation Driver Delivery Project at OnTrac. It is also very efficient and robust, which gives us a competitive advantage by providing superior service to our customers.


Unforeseeable circumstances, like traffic delays and road hazards, do arise and not only do they impact the carrier but their customers as well. To mitigate the impact, OnTrac also offers system alerts that notify customers if there is a problem with their delivery. This real-time, visibility enables customers to react to the situation immediately and take necessary steps to address the delivery delay.


A focus on good customer service by initiating a more streamlined delivery process helps OnTrac reduce the cost for their delivery service compared to major carriers by as much as 40 percent. According to OnTracs 2008 Rate Comparison Chart, a 10-pound package delivered by OnTrac costs $24.75, with the same package costing $59.30 to deliver via FedEx. As if that savings isnt compelling enough, OnTrac does not affix the multitude of delivery fees that the big carriers such as UPS, FedEx and DHL charge.


Mobile Applications Deliver Greater Customer Value

Large volume parcel shippers and retailers are taking notice of next-generation technologies and how they are shaping the parcel and product delivery landscape. The fact that regional carriers are implementing advanced mobile architectures, functionality and features needed to optimize operations and eliminate inefficiencies; they can control costs and pass on the cost-savings to customers.


If we use OnTracs rate comparison figure cited earlier, customers can save $34.55 on one package. Now, multiply that figure by the hundreds of packages large volume parcel shippers and retailers handle on a daily basis and the expected savings skyrockets. Technology facilitates these types of scenarios and gives customers more choices and opportunities to negotiate carrier contracts, manage parcel shipments and control shipping expenses.


Customer service and savings opportunities generated through intelligent mobile solutions can increase the opportunities regional carriers have to more effectively build their business and client base. By streamlining their delivery process with a sustainable mobile approach, regional carriers can establish a competitive edge that will positively impact their business, improve customer relations and help them more effectively compete in todays marketplace.


Tom Smith is President and CEO of Countermind, a mobile business solutions provider offering advanced mobile delivery, inspection, and service applications. To learn more about Countermind, please visit or call (720) 407-0200.



Why Choose a Regional Carrier?

Regional carriers cannot compete with national carriers based on size. However, by integrating next-generation technologies, they not only close any perceived service gaps, but in many ways offer large volume parcel shippers a medley of customer benefits and advantages that the larger carriers have trouble providing, which include:


  • End-to-end, real-time parcel tracking
  • Built-in system alerts for greater shipping status control
  • Affordable pricing structure
  • Customer-centric service model