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07/03/2017
PROFESSIONAL CARRIERS WANTED

The Freight Exchange

 

Some have a load, but not a truck. Some have a truck but not a load. Some have both, but would like to explore new routes. While others are just searching for a reliable partner to work with. All this is just normal day-to-day business when it comes to road haulage, extemporaneous needs that the global economic crisis has turned into a constant requirement

Nicoletta Ferrini

Some have a load, but not a truck. Some have a truck but not a load. Some have both, but would like to explore new routes. While others are just searching for a reliable partner to work with. All this is just normal day-to-day business when it comes to road haulage, extemporaneous needs that the global economic crisis has turned into a constant requirement. Competitiveness, now more than ever, depends on addressing these issues strategically. The Freight and Truck Exchange may prove to be a very useful tool in this regard. Basically, these are virtual places, telematic platforms where carriers and clients can upload their own offers, making them available to a network of selected professionals.

The benefits of such a system are several: for those with a load, trying to find a suitable transporter, the main advantage is the opportunity to receive, in a short time, a number of different proposals to compare; for those who have a vehicle, the freight exchange can prove rather valuable in finding a load, and prevent the risk of running empty on a return trip, not to mention the opportunity to contact new companies. Freight Exchanges are very useful in solving an extemporaneous need. However, it is only through a constant use of the system that the best opportunities can be seized, developing a network of contacts, strengthening professional relationships, expanding one’s business and increasing business volumes and turnover.

In any case, a profitable experience within the freight platform depends largely on the reliability of its members. Particularly important, therefore, are the guarantees that each exchange network can offer.

 

From “word of mouth” to the web: the secret behind a success story

The history of freight exchanges goes back to just less than thirty years ago. Legend has it that it all started quite randomly when, through casual conversations during their breaks, long distance drivers began comparing their daily activities and some of the common problems they were facing. Among them, especially unpleasant was the issue related to not being always able to find a load or the failure to cover certain routes. And, as it often happens, something that appears by chance soon becomes routine: load and vehicle exchange between carriers, though spontaneous and casual, was soon to become a widespread and well structured system.

The first freight and truck exchange, Teleroute (WoltersKluwer group), sees the light in Brussels, Belgium, in 1985. Four years later, it was the turn of Transpobank, the first Italian company of this type. At the beginning, as described by insiders, operations were managed through simple communication tools, such as the minitel. In the mid-90 's, Internet provided the needed breakthrough. The boom of the World Wide Web facilitated the widespread dissemination of the concept of freight exchange, which, in turn, stimulated the birth of new players. Among the larger ones and still active in Europe, and particularly in Italy, we find Wtransnet, founded in Barcelona in 1996, and TimoCom created in 1997 in Germany.

Conquering Europe

The concept of freight and truck exchange quickly gains momentum throughout the old continent. Nowadays, so many companies regularly use more than one platform. The first to pave the way was Teleroute with over 70,000 registered users, who can choose from more than 200,000 offers, which account for more than 1.2 million tons of goods transported.

Right from the outset, TimoCom, focused on an international approach quickly spreading in 44 countries (and in fact, this platform is available in 25 languages). Currently, there are over 110,000 users in the German Freight Exchange, with more than 36,000 companies from all over Europe – of which 1,350 from Italy - which uploads up to half a million international offers, for a total of over 516 million tons per year.

Transpobank, on the other hand, staked everything on creating an exchange "made in Italy", with more than 8,000 companies of different types using the network (whether forwarders, logistics operator, owner drivers or large fleet managers), all Italian, who can rely on more than 10,000 new daily offers to choose from. Wtransnet, instead can count on approximately 11,000 companies worldwide, 400 of which based in Italy. Among the special features of the Spanish network – which acts as a reference point for southern Europe - is the fact that it is perhaps the only exchange network not to grant any access to customers: all member companies are in fact only trucking companies.

An “exclusive service” for all

The terms of use of the different networks can vary depending not only on their characteristics, but also the type of firms that want to join them and the services they intend to use, ranging from free use of some limited functions to all-inclusive packages that may provide for a cost to consumption option or a "flat rate" solution. The latter, for a monthly fee, guarantees an almost full use of the platform as well as all the many ancillary services offered by the largest freight exchange networks: vehicle and even load tracking systems, non-payment insurance formulas, the opportunity to upload documents so as to make them immediately available to all contacts, advice and offer selection functions available on mobile devices, Instant Messaging chat lines, personalized address books and closed contact networks.

 

A closed network with a focus on trust and professionalism

In a vast and varied sector, such as freight exchange platforms, trust and confidence are distinctive cards played by the largest networks. Joining the likes of Teleroute, TimoCom, Transpobank or Wansnet, means passing a thorough screening phase, during which companies are asked to submit a series of documents that certify the identity of the company, its financial soundness, the absence of pending legal proceedings as well as legal and safety standards compliance and the possession of all necessary licenses and so on.

"Our controls are very strict. Besides requiring a long list of documents, we make our own investigations: before accepting a company, our sales staff – all of whom have a deep knowledge of the territory – will personally pay them a visit to verify that everything is in accordance with what is stated", explains Alessandro Bassi, Transpobank marketing manager. "To safeguard our customers' data and identity, we pay particular attention to data security – says Tommaso Magistrali, Country Manager Italia of TimoCom. To use our platform, a software must be downloaded and a profile must be created with specific login credentials.

Use in mobile mode needs to be further authorized. Only after a series of careful checks do we assign an additional pin for this feature". Focusing on the quality of the network is also the stated goal of Wtransnet: "Our admission selection is quite tough and in fact, not a few companies have been left out of our network", said Nicolò Calabrese, Sales Manager of Wtransnet Italy. "We're not interested in being the largest network: we would rather be recognized as the most reliable".

Access to any of these freight exchanges is limited to passing all stringent checks. Once inside, however, it is just as important not to betray expectations in terms of professionalism, reliability and solvency. The penalty: peremptory exclusion from the network. Stringent requirements have been essential in creating a “safe habitat" where companies looking for reliability, professionalism and quality may engage in their business with the utmost confidence.

What about Italy?

The Fright and Truck exchange formula is now attracting even some of the most skeptical Italian companies as shown by Transpobank’s success. In its 28-year history, the network transformed its “national” identity in a distinctive element. This decision seems to have been, so far, quite successful: in addition to a large number of subscribers (78% of whom are in contact each day), the Italian Freight  Exchange can also boast an outstanding rate of unpaid debts close to zero.

A number of foreign freight Exchange networks, though, are also looking with increasing interest to the Italian market. In TimoCom’s headquarters, in Erkrath, Germany, there is a team of 10 Italian native speakers who deal exclusively with the Italian market. The "turn over" is quite low as the aim is to create a familiar relationship with customers in this market. Wtransnet, on the other hand, even established a sales office in Italy back in 2015. The Spanish network is investing heavily in our Country, where they hope to replicate the success achieved in their domestic market.

The growth potential in our Country is there for anyone to see, both for Freight and Truck exchange networks and their clients. And to crown it all, that is why the different networks are offering their customers an assistance program which often borders on consultancy, supporting them in practical and strategic use of their platforms to promote and increase their competitiveness. Thanks to these Freight exchange networks, transport and logistics companies can grow, making their professionalism a recognized as well as recognizable value in the future.

 

BOX – Transpobank

  • Founding year: 1989
  • Subscribers: +8.000
  • Clientele: Transport companies and customers
  • Additional services: satellite tracking systems for vehicles, monitored loads (via Tracker.it - 22,000 trucks connected across Europe), Transpobank mobile App, Caricamion (freight exchange via smartphone reserved for owner-operators).
  • Website: www.transpobank.it

 

BOX – TimoCom

  • Founding year: 1997
  • Subscribers: +36.000
  • Clientele: Transport companies and customers
  • Additional services: vehicle tracking system, tendering and supplier research platform, messenger/IM chat linked to individual bids, route planners, TC profile (corporate directory with upload/download feature for documents relating to member companies), storage exchange facilities (up to 30,000 warehouses and logistics areas in 44 countries).
  • Website: www.timocom.it

 

BOX – Wtransnet

  • Founding year: 1996
  • Subscribers: +11.000
  • Clientele: Transport companies
  • Additional services: vehicle tracking, credit insurance, CargoPlus (private App that can automatically finds the best carrier and is able to create a list of contacts), Doc&Data (Improves the checking process of your transport suppliers’ documentation and its expiry date).
  • Website: www.wtransnet.com/it

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