Digging into Truckstop.com’s chat negotiations feature

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The screenshot above shows the dashboard with a load selected within the relatively new iteration (introduced earlier this year) of the Truckstop.com load board — specifically its Pro version, the full version of its load matching service. It includes quite a number of features not available through a standard account. (This linked grid on the company’s site compares Standard, Advanced and Pro features and price points in full.)

I’d also like to point to the input boxes at the top of the frame, which represent a feature the company rolled out at the Mid-America Trucking Show this year — online/chat negotiations. It’s one I talked about with company mobile manager Thayne Boren prior to MATS in detail while researching the April issue “Uberization of trucking”/On-demand load matching feature about new ways tech companies like Truckstop.com are utilizing technology to bring parties in the freight transaction closer. The feature was introduced at MATS this year and the above shot shows it in the Truckstop.com Pro dashboard rolled out over the summer.

When Roxanne Bullard gave me a demo of it several weeks back now, she noted that she sees “a bit of hesitance” from Truckstop.com customers who might otherwise utilize the feature. “Some people think it’s like eBay,” a sort of public auction where bids are posted for all to see. “We want to put that fear to rest.”

After identifying a “load I’m interested in” through search, the fields at the top of the dashboard are utilized “to make that online offer. I put in an amount in the box at the top of the page, with a message optional,” Bullard says, which the broker only will then see on his/her side of the transaction. There, you can ask questions, too  – “Do I need special insurance, does the load require a tarp?” Bullard offers as examples.

Online negotiations in progress then show up in the negotiations grid, Bullard notes, and the back and forth between you and the broker “works much like a text message. You can have multiple postings out there at once, with multiple counter-offers coming in.”Online negotiations in progress then show up in the negotiations grid, Bullard notes, and the back and forth between you and the broker “works much like a text message. You can have multiple postings out there at once, with multiple counter-offers coming in.”

Brokers “can receive offers on loads that they’ve posted and make offers on trucks that are out there,” Bullard adds, noting that “it goes both ways on both sides. Also, when you do have a new offer come in, if you have multiple windows open, new messages appear at the top of the list.”

uDrove/ITS Dispatch integration
Also relatively new from Truckstop.com is the announced integration of its web-based ITS Dispatch back-office software with broad accounting functionality and the uDrove smartphone app, electronic logging device and desktop platform for hours of service and business management more broadly.  The integration will automatically input data from uDrove’s smartphone app and on-road devices into the ITS Dispatch software. Fleet owners will also enjoy better analytics with truck and fuel reports, and can easily review data from an entire fleet or individual trucks.“We’re particularly excited about the effect this integration has on the IFTA process,” noted Boren, also uDrove general manager. “Users can produce and submit IFTA forms in mere minutes, which eliminates a lot of the usual hassle.”
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The new organization in Pro offers easy search capability back through your own history as a board user if you’re uncertain as to whether you’ve worked with a particular broker or not, likewise clear information in the CreditStop pane on any individual broker’s days-to-pay/rating in the system.

“After you’re done with a negotiation,” Bullard says, moving it into your history can give you an easy reference back into past experiences with a particular broker — a little easier than remembering the particulars of a phone conversation.

Once negotiations are completed and the load is assigned, the system messages all the carriers who either notified the broker of interest or had made an offer that the load is closed, and it is removed from all search grids. As it stands now, the exchange of insurance information still occurs over the phone, but “eventually all of that will be able to happen all right within the program” in a secure environment, she says.

This is not a final agreement, in other words, within the online negotiation tool. Bullard says you might think of it as the initial negotiation before the rate confirmation as it stands now.

Truckstop.com is, however, “capturing that final agreed-upon rate, which will help us populate our rate tool – to give users a better understanding of what the rates in the market are right now.”

If you’ve used the online/chat negotiations feature, what do you think of it?

General chat is also possible through the board now, minus load negotiation. “You can reach out to anyone with a handle on Truckstop.com,” says Bullard, “including someone within your own company – you can chat with anybody in there.”

Many of these features are available not only with the Pro version of the board, which also includes real-time automatic refreshing and other advanced website-design features, but also within the old “ITS 2” version of board as well, Bullard says.

No doubt deep dives into effectively using these tools, among other subjects, will be discussed at Truckstop.com’s first user conference, being held early next week in Dallas. If any of you are planning on attending, let me know. I’ll be there reporting and it’d be great to meet.