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 A freight broker at Trident Transport, one of McLeod’s customers. ( Photo: FreightWaves / Lexi Alvidrez )

A freight broker at Trident Transport, one of McLeod’s customers. (Photo: FreightWaves / Lexi Alvidrez)

On Monday morning, McLeod Software hosted a session at its User Conference 2018 to review updates to PowerBroker, the company’s freight brokerage operations management system. Nita Wallace, the PowerBroker product manager, led the presentation explaining all of the tweaks to the most recent release version of PowerBroker and then offered a preview of new capabilities being added to the fall release.

Some of the updates were comparatively minor, like enhancing the brokerage planning screen by letting users customize their dashboards and resize or collapse panels. Most of the user interface updates seemed centered around not forcing PowerBroker users to switch screens for mundane processes and automation. EDI transactions can now contain images. Enhancements were made to carrier call-ins, including improved scripts to help make sure new brokers gather all of the information they need when they call drivers who are moving loads for them. Additionally, there were a number of new capabilities added to PowerBroker that promise to move the needle for users.

In our view, Wallace’s introduction of Capacity Creator, waterfall tendering, and calculating max buys based on near-time market rates were the most exciting segments of the PowerBroker presentation. Each of these features automates tedious, time-consuming manual processes and frees up brokers’ time to cover more loads and bring in more revenue. 

Indeed, one of McLeod’s customers, Rob Hooper, CEO of Jacksonville, Florida-based Atlantic Logistics, spoke to FreightWaves about how McLeod’s technology has made brokers more efficient—Hooper observed that ten years ago, it would have been difficult for a good broker to cover as many loads as today’s average broker is routinely expected to do every day. Hooper said he was particularly excited about FlowLogix, a new scripting feature that can automate virtually process performed on the McLeod platform.

Capacity Creator is a tool that relies on machine learning algorithms to automatically process and categorize inbound emails from carriers announcing available tractors. Parade collaborated with McLeod on Capacity Creator, which takes emails in all different formats, whether it’s text or attached files, and turns them into available tractor records, injects them into PowerBroker so they can be matched with available loads. Capacity Creator immediately recognizes if there’s a match to an available load, and users can even automate the offer email.

Transactional waterfall tendering is another automated process that saves brokers time. Brokers rank carriers in order of preference and then start the waterfall, which automatically sends offers to carriers. Once the movement is locked, the offer is sent to the first carrier, and if it doesn’t respond in a certain amount of time, the offer expires and a new offer is sent to the second carrier. PowerBroker works its way down the list automatically, but brokers can monitor its activity in a variety of ways through the management screen. A broker can see what’s going on with the waterfall, how far along it is, add or delete carriers, cancel it, or restart it with a new pay mount.

“Buy low, sell high” is a well-worn investing adage, but freight brokers do it in reverse order, selling capacity before they’ve bought it. When a broker knows how much money they have in a load, and has established the desired margin, the broker can then calculate a ‘max buy’ number that represents the maximum amount of money the broker is willing to pay the carrier to move the freight. McLeod customer William Kerr, President of Edge Logistics, said that calculating max buys is extremely labor-intensive, and Edge has someone who is essentially dedicated to that task full time. 

Now, PowerBroker will be able to automate calculating max buys by ingesting market rate information from DAT, truckstop.com, or McLeod’s own freight exchanges. A broker can set a target buy amount as a percentage of the market rate (say, 95%) and a max buy (115%, for example) and let PowerBroker calculate the offer automatically. Automating max buys with market rate data not only saves time and labor, but also de-risks the process, ensuring that brokers are in line with the market and not making mistakes based on limited visibility into the current rate environment. 

We think that in aggregate, the three major PowerBroker enhancements lined up for the fall release will make a substantial improvement in broker productivity, margins, and carrier relations.