Every day, 3.5 million truck drivers take to the open road. A large portion of these drivers haul loads selected for them by freight brokers based on static information that can be weeks out of date. Truckers often head to pick up a load or travel back home from one with an empty truck, wasting fuel and driving hours amounting to $100 billion a year.
In a world where almost every driver carries a super computer in their pocket, it’s hard to imagine this model surviving long, especially with the truck driver shortage approaching six digits.
“You still had a lot of drivers using a flip phone four years ago when we started this business, but that’s changing quickly,” says Ken Evans, co-founder of Konexial.
Evans and his partner Andy Dishner, both alumni of the logistics and transportation program at the Haslam College of Business, believe so strongly in the digital transformation of transportation that they have donated nearly $3 million worth of software to help prepare Haslam students for the shift.
“New supply chain leaders need to plan to face the driver shortages coming in the next decade, ” Dishner says. “Empty trucks are the biggest waste in transportation and one of the biggest wastes in the supply chain. If we can cut that waste, we don’t need as many drivers.”
Evans and Dishner have donated truck driving simulators, electronic logging devices (ELDs) and the software to use it all so students can understand the complexities of fleet management. ELDs track hours of service requirements for truck drivers, but Konexial’s model also provides information on fuel usage, location and engine diagnostic codes. The software has the capacity to dynamically match shippers and carriers, pushing load opportunities to truck drivers’ phones. With the extensive data available students also can use analytics to predict need and capacity.
“It’s not just about the move that drivers are on,” Evans says. “It’s about the move after the move as well. The system can tell us that John has 45 hours left in his duty cycle and optimize loads for him and for the entire driving network.”
According to Mary Holcomb, Gerald T. Niedert Professor of Supply Chain Management, this technology provides students with an ability to keep up with a rapidly changing field where textbooks often lag behind.
“Having these resources available for our students is invaluable in preparing them for careers where technology is constantly redefining how we do work,” Holcomb says. “This gift will enable us to continue to differentiate our students in the marketplace.”
Between the two of them, Evans and Dishner have three degrees from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and both are involved with the Supply Chain Forum. Evans also serves on the Global Supply Chain Institute’s Advisory Board. They say they feel a responsibility to give back and to connect with students because of the opportunities they received throughout their careers.
“Even when I was in school, it was a progressive program,” Evans says. “It was one of the only schools that focused on end-to-end supply chain integration.”
After graduating, Evans worked at Eastman Chemical for decades before becoming an intrapreneur for Koch Industries, where he started four logistics companies. After four years, he decided to start a company for himself. He hopes his experience will inspire students.
“None of this existed 18 months ago,” Evans says. “We really shouldn’t be where we are, competing against who we are. But we are some people who had a better idea and found a way to do it for a lot less money. I hope seeing that will challenge students to say, ‘We can do it too.’”