The third parties following you around freight networks: Brokers looking more like carriers with 'data driven' decision-making

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Updated Jul 27, 2023

Along with increasing technological connections to brokerage partners, independents have seen plenty in the way of increasing demands not only for load tracking (or face a rate reduction, often enough) but near-instant proofs of delivery (or face a rate reduction); immediate check calls from drivers at arrival/departure, even with tracking in place (or face a rate reduction); and more.

The title of Karen Levy’s book about the ELD mandate itself and the creep of technology into employer-employee and business-to-business relationships -- Data Driven -- has made its way into marketing material aimed at brokerages looking to streamline carrier setup while also bolstering efforts to root out the fraudulent actors ever more commonplace in freight supply chains.

In some ways, larger brokerages are starting to look like fleets themselves, increasingly utilizing third-party systems that follow carriers around the online freight networks, scoring performance, fraud likelihood and more. It's a kind of surveillance constantly taking place in the background, necessitating independents' attention if the business relies on brokers. 

[Related: Broker intrusions on rise with ubiquitous location tracking]

Truckstop, the longtime provider of load board and other services to carriers and brokers alike, recently announced integration of the Carrier Assure scoring system, a relative newcomer to compliance monitoring and performance scoring, into the long-in-business RMIS carrier compliance monitoring/onboarding system for brokers.

Carrier Assure, Truckstop said in announcing the partnership, is the “first performance scoring software that anticipates how a carrier will transport goods for full truckload interstate shipments. Carrier Assure uses data science, analytics and powerful algorithms to comb through millions of data points daily, analyzing the carrier's performance” and issuing grade-school-like letter scores.

Said Truckstop Chief Product Officer Julia Laurin, “Our partnership with Carrier Assure enhances the depth of broker and shipper insights on RMIS by bringing predictive performance risk factors to bear in our users’ core platform to help identify risk factors for double brokering, cargo theft and other nefarious activities before it’s too late.“

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Longtime Overdrive readers will remember when so-called “predictive analytics” came to trucking about a decade ago via fleets’ analysis of their own drivers’ behavior, enabled by increasingly sophisticated telematics and camera systems -- hard braking events, following distances, speed, hard cornering and more contributing to risk scores for drivers and/or used as coaching tools for improvement. (Those systems have proved valuable for smaller fleets in recent years, too, as John McGee Trucking’s story makes clear.)

Companies like Carrier Assure are doing something similar, mining available data related to a carrier’s history in business, size, inspections/violations and associated equipment data, and more to give brokers and shippers what purports to be a quick-glance way to gauge performance and fraud likelihood.

“We are providing our innovative Carrier Performance Score to brokers and shippers within RMIS,” said Carrier Assure Founder and CEO Cassandra Gaines about the partnership. “This partnership will enable brokers, shippers and their teams to make quicker data driven decisions to protect their businesses.”

[Related: Carriers' crystal ball: Fleets using driver performance data more than ever]

Another relative newcomer providing services in some ways similar to RMIS and Carrier Assure both is Highway, whose “first broker went live with our onboarding product about a year ago,” said Brittany Graft, company COO. That customer hasn't “had any double-brokering instance since then,” she added in early June, an indication to her that their approach to front-end vetting of supply-chain parties is working in one way, at least.

“We do a deep dive into equipment data” publicly available for carriers, in addition to federal registration data and a variety of other sources “and present that capability to the broker,” Graft said. “Are they able to haul [any given load] based on the equipment they have? We’re trying to glean the fullest sense of who the carrier is …. to allow [broker customers] to find the best carrier to haul the load.” 

And though the Highway product is “geared to and sold to brokers,” Graft added, “a big facet of the product is keeping the carriers’ identity and profile secure. … We want to protect their account for them” to prevent their identity from being stolen. “We have protocol around user authentication and authorization [to] make sure the user has the authority to act of behalf of the carrier account before they start” any onboarding process with a broker.  

Highway’s in use by more than 250 brokerages today in the short time since launch, Graft noted. And like other compliance monitoring/onboarding services has built “profiles for every carrier in the nation.” Graft and company like to refer to “onboarding” with a different terminology -- connecting with a broker. “It’s a relationship. I’m connecting with a new partner. I’m not onboarding as a vendor.”

When a carrier connects with its first broker through Highway, “what they’re doing … is claiming their profile” in the company’s system, Graft said. Identify verification and authorization steps occur then, on the front end, to determine the validity of that claim. Though individual brokers’ processes may vary within the system, she notes subsequent connections can be solidified in 30 seconds or less once a carrier’s profile is claimed and verified. In 2023, “it doesn’t make sense to fill out the same onboarding packet over and over with different brokers,” a benefit of front-end verification Highway is doing, she believes.

If they function to serve as a gatekeeper to make things harder on the fraudsters who are penetrating the carrier-broker relationship with regularity these days to skim profits out of loads double brokering them or make off with payment entirely, that’s obviously another benefit.

The cost for carriers? These kinds of systems are yet more for carriers to manage for data accuracy.

[Related: Hey brokers, Holland Logistics is in fact an authorized carrier]

This past May, small fleet GMH Transportation noticed something strange was going on with some of the brokers it utilized. As many as 30 or 40, said Senior Vice President of Operations Keith Brown, seemed to have put GMH on their equivalent of a “Do Not Use” list.

The issue, Brown said, stemmed from the carrier’s profile in the RMIS system. GMH was flagged as being associated with an IP address that had been used by a fraudulent actor in the past. That flag stemmed from an incident in February, when the crook had briefly stolen GMH’s identity in RMIS by convincing a large brokerage rep that the crook was a legitimate GMH rep. By doing so, the crook got an invitation from the broker to onboard through RMIS.

With that invite, the crook had everything he/she needed to then change contact information within RMIS to him-/herself and use the profile to peddle a double brokering scheme as GMH, Brown said. That time period in February, he added, was before RMIS beefed up its password-security features for carrier logins in March, but not before Brown and GMH discovered -- and corrected -- the issue with their profile there.

Yet the crook’s activity in their profile stayed as a part of what brokers who might use GMH to haul loads would be able to see. Having been flagged previously by RMIS for fraud activity, the IP address this particular crook used was now a stain on the fleet’s business, Brown said.

A couple of months went by before the company realized it had a problem there. “I’m not sure what changed in the system, if anything,” said GMH VP Brown, but by mid-May the company was running into problems with brokers who refused to contract with them over the fraud flag on their profile.

Brown said GMH first reached out about the problem to RMIS May 19, and it took a week to finalize a resolution. “That’s a week in a soft freight market where you can’t work with 30 to 40 different brokers,” he said, speculating on what the week’s worth of work might have cost the fleet. 

GMH lettering and striping on side of owner-operator Phillip Rindelhardt's KWGMH hauls with around 50 owner-operators leased on, including Philip Rindelhardt's KW shown here at MATS this year, and around 30 pieces of company equipment.

RMIS owner Truckstop wouldn’t discuss details of Brown’s experience. Corporate Communications Director Juli Burda said “it’s important to note that we have worked with and will continue to work with carriers and brokers to ensure smooth and secure operations.” Burda emphasized Truckstop’s 25-year history in the business as “one of the chief lines of defense against double brokering, cargo theft and other bad behavior in the industry.”

Burda did confirm the recent addition of two-step verification for carrier logins to the RMIS system, as well as “automated fraud alerts and advanced functionality that will allow customers to block carriers based on their insurance or factoring provider. This makes it much easier for customers to control their risk tolerance and identify carriers for additional screening.”

[Related: Another quick-glance broker-lookup tool, and more ways to fight fraud, double brokering]

All the monitoring systems mentioned in this story have contacts and processes for resolving disputes. Highway’s central [email protected] email address is theirs. Carrier Assure’s [email protected] is listed on that company’s website as the carrier contact for disputes, particularly important there given, like some longer-established sites where brokers are invited to review their experience with carriers, Assure encourages broker reporting of things like double brokering, hostage loads, and other so-called “SuspectCarrier” reports.

Mirroring older services that allow that sort of thing, Assure also sends notification emails to individual carrier entities anytime such a report is lodged. “We will try to assist carriers with any disputes when possible,” notes the FAQ on the company’s website, offering the above-mentioned email contact. “Due to staffing shortages, we cannot discuss the reports over the phone.”

At RMIS, support needs flow directly through the Truckstop RMIS support team, said Burda, at 888-643-8174 or by e-mail at [email protected].

To one degree or another, all parties are challenged by the explosion of identity fraud, double brokering and other schemes. Truckstop recently launched a weekly “Fraud Prevention Friday” series of resources/tips updates with utility for both brokers and carriers, accessible via the Truckstop blog. 

Highway COO Brittany Graft admits, too, that the company hasn’t “done a good job of reaching out to carriers and trying to explain and show how we are trying to prevent fraud for them, and protect their accounts and their profiles, preventing unauthorized users acting on behalf of them.” That’s why the company requires any small fleet or independent owner-operator going through that initial process to “jump through these hoops” to verify identity before claiming the carrier profile Highway’s built for all carriers nationwide.

For all the crime in the freight networks today, she emphasized, the primary “victims are the valid carriers. … That was a lot of the impetus for starting Highway. … 

“We’re geared toward keeping the fraudulent actors out and allowing the valid carriers to proceed very quickly” after initial set-up.

Brown has a little experience with them, too. On something of a crusade at GMH Transportation to root out carrier and broker authorities engaged in organized double broker networks by getting them kicked off of the public load boards, he said, “we’ve made a lot of enemies.” GMH’s profile at Highway got tagged with a note from a broker about someone attempting to impersonate GMH -- Highway “was the most responsive” of any such system he’s had to deal with, he said, resolving the issue within 10 minutes.

All the features in Trucking's State of Surveillance

Podcast -- Truckers 'canaries' in the tech mine: Inside story around 'Data Driven' book on ELD mandate, rise of 'new workplace surveillance'
Video monitoring, in two parts: 
**Can AI transform the prying eyes of in-cab cameras for the better?
**In-cab and out, camera options expand amid push-pull of privacy concern, regulatory attention
ELDs/smartphones and location tracking -- Broker intrusions on the rise with ubiquitous location tracking capability
Truck and trailer telematics -- Telematics beyond ELD systems: Promise, redundancy and real expense/uptime benefits 
Data mining -- The third parties following you around freight networks: Brokers looking more like carriers with 'data driven' decision-making
Smartphones/GPS -- Counterpoint to some truckers' tech reticence: 'If you use a smartphone, you embrace it' 
Roadside inspections -- 'Nothing to hide, nothing to fear,' right? Get ready for Level 8, automated inspections
Podcast -- FMCSA offering 'kinder, gentler' approach to safety scoring? Not if automated inspections go live