Unlike Less-Than-Truckload (LTL) or other over-the-road (OTR) transportation modes, dealing with numerous new Carriers on a daily basis and incorporating them into your network every week can create a higher risk of fraud in your Truckload (TL) shipping operations. This is where keeping an eye on the location and progress of shipments becomes crucial; utilizing real-time freight tracking on their location and condition helps to paint a complete picture and put the brakes on fraud.
In episode 14 of Banyan Technology's Tire Tracks™ podcast, Patrick Escolas sits down with Trucker Tools CEO Kary Jablonski to learn more about the innovative ways this company is harnessing technology to combat everything fraud in the world of freight. Based on a spirit of transparency and trust, Kary explains how the company is revolutionizing freight tracking and visibility to tackle fraud head-on, through a suite of mobile and web-based applications designed to enhance efficiency, communication, and visibility within trucking and logistics. From Transportation Management System (TMS) tracking to digital freight matching, Kary unpacks the various use cases of the Trucker Tools app that empower drivers, Shippers, and Carriers alike.
Hear about the vulnerabilities of road and freight transport to fraud, the possibility of AI in the industry, and the benefits of going digital. Kary also provides a sneak peek of upcoming additions to the Trucker Tools product line, such as their new ELD tracking system, and shares her experience as a woman navigating a male-dominated industry.
Key Points From This Episode:
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:
Kary Jablonski on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kary-jablonski-94966162/
Trucker Tools: https://www.truckertools.com/
Patrick Escolas: https://www.linkedin.com/in/patrick-escolas-700137122/
Banyan Technology: https://www.banyantechnology.com
Banyan Technology on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/banyan-technology
Banyan Technology on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/banyantechnology
Banyan Technology on X: https://twitter.com/BanyanTech
Listen to Tire Tracks on Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/tire-tracks-driving-the-logistics-industry/id1651038809
Listen to Tire Tracks on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/3Aiya6qVXFsi
Hey, everybody. It's Patrick Escolas for another episode of Banyan Technology’s Tire Tracks Podcast. Today, I have with me a special guest, Kary Jablonski, the Trucker Tools CEO. Kary, thank you very much for being here.
Thank you so much for having me on. I'm very glad to be here.
Yeah. I've been working with Trucker Tools for about a year with some of my clients. But before we get into that, what I always like to do is start off with, I'm not special here, but you are, and I want to know who you are, where you came from, and how you got into logistics.
Great question. Well, I think you're special for what it's worth.
Well, it's different kind of special. But we won't go into that.
My name is Kary Jablonski, as you mentioned. Currently, I am physically located in Chicago, where I live.
Have you been there forever? Like, Jordan Bulls fan or –
I have not, unfortunately. I'm enough of a Jordan fan and I root for the Bulls. But originally, I'm from Boston. I'm from the East Coast.
Yeah, I've moved around quite a bit since leaving home for college. Lived in DC for a while.
Got sent down in Mexico City for about a year and a half or so.
Your Spanish is okay?
That's all. Yeah. All right. Good.
Don't ask me anymore. No, it was good when I was there. I mean, it's easier to lose it kind of –
It's hard when you don't talk it. Yeah. I did some Costa Rica time. Yup.
Yeah. My comprehension is okay. I was watching Home Run Derby last night. It's really cool. It was the first time I'd seen an announcer live translating. He was interviewing players in Spanish, and then player would respond in Spanish and then –
And you got to test yourself. You were like, “I got part of that.”
Exactly, exactly. It was the first time I'd ever seen that, which was, I just have to imagine, that's going to become more and more of an in-demand skill set for journalists. That was cool. Anyway, so eventually came to Chicago. I've been here for about four years at this point. Moved here originally. I went to grad school at Northwestern University –
- and ended up – that's eventually what brought me. I met the owners of my business, Trucker Tools, while I was at Northwestern. Series of events happened. Basically, I ended up joining the business and Chicago made a lot of sense for me to base myself out of, because it is the –
It’s the heart of logistics everywhere. Yeah.
No, that's awesome. Then, so, you said you met the Trucker Tools people that you're working with when you were at Northwestern. Were you with Uber before?
Yeah. I can give you just quick career background. I was a consultant initially out of college and realized pretty quickly I wanted to work in the business, or in a business, rather than advising a business. Was a really interested in mobility, transportation. Joined Uber during the hyper-growth phase of the mid-2010s, which was a phenomenal experience. Started in the DC office, working on media operational problems, like how do we balance marketplaces with incentives? How do we off-way our drivers? Those questions.
Oh, yeah. That's a big question with Uber that I don't think I have thought till right now.
Yeah. They've certainly hard back and pricing has evolved a lot there. When I was there, and when I was working on that marketplace, balance problem in particular, we literally had a pool of money every week that we got to spend on both rider and driver incentives. We had to figure out, how do we create the most successful trips possible using –
Which one actually brought people into it, versus just having happy drivers.
Exactly. Exactly. I spent a while doing that and then I'd always wanted to work abroad. It had been a dream of mine for a while, and had the opportunity with Uber to go international. I was actually briefly in Indonesia and then lived in Mexico City for about a year and a half, working on the Uber Eats, largely – Uber Eats, largely. A little bit of ride sharing as well, but implementing strategy and planning team. I never actually worked in Uber Freight, which I think most people assume I have.
Just putting that out there for the world.
Yeah. Don't come to you for questions on that.
Don’t come to me with questions about Uber Freight. Honestly, at that point, I think still in this day, they are pretty siloed within the business, where some guys talk to each other a lot more. I was always interested to buy it. I left Uber shortly after the company went public and a lot of folks who I knew and respected went on to work, or start trucking logistics, transportation, freight, what have you startups. It was a space I was really interested in. There was a ton of opportunity. It was something I was thinking about. Eventually, moved back to the US to get my MBA. While I was in business school, I was thinking about, how do I want to make my mark?
How do you use this thing that you're spending a lot of money and time getting?
Yes. Exactly. Exactly. I was really interested in general management programs. I wanted to work at a growth stage business and I wanted to get the biggest opportunity possible put in front of me. I met the owner of Trucker Tools, Alpine Investors, which is a middle market private equity firm based out in San Francisco. They buy, great founder led, largely bootstrapped businesses. They have a real focus on vertical SaaS, and they just bought this company, Trucker Tools.
Went through this convoluted matching phase. Not convoluted, but this matching process with the private equity firm. Through there, one of the talent programs they run came to this realization that this would be a great fit for me to join the Trucker Tools team right at the beginning of the hold period by Alpine Investors. Joined the business, and a couple of months after acquisition and have been here ever since. It's been a little over two years now.
That's awesome. There was a matching period, not a gladiatorial debut by the business.
No, no. I like to think it was pretty compostatic. Obviously, you have to ask my team for the behind the scenes. Yeah, it's been a fantastic ride so far.
No, and that's awesome. I appreciate you giving some context and just where you came from and how you got here. It's an interesting question, because here I am in logistics and here you are. What made you interested? Obviously, you had it for the Uber side of it. Then, why the jump to this large freight on the truck side?
Yeah. Yeah. A couple of thoughts. One is just the size of the opportunity. It is –
Fair point. Yeah.
I think, transportation, what is it? 6% of GED or something.
You drive anywhere on the highway and how many trucks you see in a 5-minutes span?
Exactly. A lot of them on I-90 in Chicago. I’m like, “Oh, there's a customer. There's a customer. There's a customer.”
It's hard not to do that. You go, “I work with that carrier. Yeah. Yeah.”
Exactly. I think everyone does it. I think, just when I was thinking about where do I want to be, I certainly wanted to work in a really big opportunity. Healthcare, government, both larger, but beyond that, transportation is around as large as it gets. I thought it was a great opportunity. Also, I severely under-digitized, under-invested in from a technology perspective.
That's something I never knew before getting in, because I came into a technology company first. One of the first things is calling on people and be like, “Doesn't everybody have something like this?” It was like, eyes open, peel back and it's like, “No, we're still using Excel spread sheets, or calling somebody once a day.” Yeah.
Exactly. The combination of those two things really made me realize there's a massive opportunity here. Then something that really motivated me at Uber was how we thought about drivers driving on the Uber platform was really a way to create earning opportunities for themselves and for their families. It was a gateway for them to achieve the life, or realize opportunities they wouldn't have had without the platform. That, I think about in somewhat of a similar way in trucking and big freight, and that, of course, you have the behemoth, large brokerages and some really large carriers. By and large, this is an industry of tons and tons and tons and thousands of small businesses working to scale and grow. I really was motivated.
Big similarities between just, and again, you say and it’s like, duh, hits me in the face that it's very similar and that you've got this app that can really help you manage your business and put it together in a network, but just on a completely different scale of the industry there.
Exactly. If that can help you grow your own earning opportunities, your ability to run an effective business, your ability to win business from your partners, that is deeply motivating to me.
That's awesome. I know that obviously, with Trucker Tools, I've talked up to my clients as we have our partnership. One of the big ones that makes you guys so viable is that all it takes is the phone, right?
Yeah. I mean, that's been huge. One of the other things that's a big part that always goes into is the fraud prevention, which seems to be a really big piece. I know the one I hear all the time is double brokering. What is Trucker Tools? Because obviously, as we talked about onboarding for drivers before, even on the Uber side, what are you doing on the Trucker Tools side to take a part out of the fraud within the Trucker Tools application?
Yeah. There's really just a number of things that we're doing. If you think about our business, we've got two core products; load tracking for brokerages and digital freight matching for brokerages. On the carrier side, we've got our mobile app. On the load tracking side, there's a number of use cases that help prevent fraudulent activity. One is just actually knowing where your freight is. It sounds so simple and intuitive, but you would be shocked and maybe you're not, because you talk to brokers all the time, but how many brokerages aren't concerned about tracking all of their freight, because shippers don't require it, or for whatever reason. Actually, tracking all of that freight is critical to preventing fraud, because then you can actually understand what's going wrong when.
That gets into some of the more tactical features we have on our load tracking product that help prevent fraud, things like, there's one link for one phone number. Meaning if when we start a load track, there's one phone number that that is good for. If that load track is attempted to be started by a different phone number, it does not work, because something nefarious is going on. We've got a document scanning tool in the mobile app that is geotagged and time stamped. Meaning that a broker can require, take a picture of this POD, upload it through our platform, rather than just sending a text message, or sending something over email, you can actually see on a map where that photo was taken, when it was taking, and there's no way to actually doctor that from the carrier side.
There's your proof of life, in today's newspaper right there.
Exactly. Exactly. Yeah, exactly.
No. It makes to say, it's interesting that just by putting a light on the tracking piece, which is already something that a lot of customers are going to want, just by having that, you're really making it harder to do those fraudulent activities inherently.
Yup. Exactly. We've got some other tools. Custom geofencing. We're going to be able to give you predictive off-route alerts, so that if you have a track and you're moving a load, you've got geofences built and it goes outside of one of those, you're going to get an alert like, “Hey, just checking on this.” That's really to go with our tracking products is to continue to make it more and more of a predictive tool to help you manage exceptions proactively, as opposed to retroactively.
Then on the digital booking side, we've got a number of tools, too. Our digital freight matching marketplace is a little bit different than what you might think of as a traditional load board, and that we are fully integrated with TMSs, like Banyan, for example. What that means is brokers can send us all of their loads, and they're going to be real live loads tied one-to-one with their status in the TMS. If they're uncovered, they will be visible to the set of carriers they want it to be visible to. If it's covered, it is taken off, so that you don't have carriers calling on that. You can't just go on there and post a load.
What that means is we're creating a really secure, real-time trusted marketplace. We've got a number of features already live that help. Really, the spirit behind the product is based on trust and transparency and visibility. I think those all inherently help prevent fraud. Then we've also got some new features coming down the pipe. We've got a carrier validation tool coming out in a couple of months that we're really excited about. We've got a ton of stuff, because fraud is a very, very hot topic right now.
Within that, why is truckload more susceptible to fraud? Why is it such a question there, versus parcel, or LTL? Or maybe it's in those, but the conversation is always generally on the truckload side when it comes up.
My take on that is that the barriers to entry and truckload are significantly lower. It's easier for bad actors to get in. It is such a large market, and it's such a fragmented market, like we just talked about. When you think about LTL, for example, there's what? 20, 30 carriers of real size in that space.
Right. It’s a fair point.
There's just going to be a lot more – You're not going to be working with a new carrier every single day. Whereas, an FTL brokerage, very normal to be working with dozens of new carriers every single day, adding hundreds to your network every single week. Therein lies just a much larger chance that one of those new actors is actually bad. That's my take on it.
No, and that sounds right to me. Plus, there's probably, when you're doing those deals, you've got that one lump sum costs of the money to be made versus the one shipment, which is always, what my thought was. I have a lot of point to just, you're going to be working with a lot more carriers within the truckload space. It makes sense.
Something we talk about all the time is the real way to prevent fraud is by having great relationships with your carriers. When you're working with, again, thousands of carriers, it is going to be that much more difficult to develop really strong trusting relationships with all of them. I think that plays in as well.
I always like that as part of Trucker Tools is that one part, even with the load board, you're trying to make sure you get your load moved at the price you want, but eventually a truckload guy likes getting your, your shipments, because you pay on time, or they do those lanes and eventually, a true relationship, business relationship forms from what was almost an anonymous just, “Hey, I need this from point A to point B and I don't care.”
I always liked that growth and relationship. I'm the account manager and through relationships, so I sell at the time. It just makes sense. Yeah. Then you were talking about, excited about some things coming up. I know you've got this text to track solution. Is that something that's coming up, or something you guys have in play right now?
Yeah. We are launching. It is getting officially released this week. We launched it two weeks ago at freight waves in Cleveland. Actually, it was my first time in Cleveland and I loved it. I was very impressed.
Well, we've got a lot of palm trees and beaches.
Well, it was beautiful. I mean, I live right near Lake Michigan, so I love the great lake. The views of Lake Erie are phenomenal. I was very impressed by downtown Cleveland for somebody who'd never been there before.
Well, thank you. I've been here most of my life and yeah, the great lakes have the advantage of no jellyfish. That's always a big plus. No. Chicago and Cleveland, it's funny, because, yeah, Chicago is definitely the much bigger brother. But, yeah, you get to see some similarities when you get downtown there. But, yeah, so you guys launched it. What was it a response to? Why did it come about? Tell me a little bit about process of thinking you needed it and what it's going to be doing once it's out here.
Or, I should say, now that it's here.
Yeah. The way we think about tracking is as a waterfall. Over the last several years, since the ELD mandate, ELD tracking has become more and more of a preference, a table stake for brokers and for many carriers. Brokers want to track the ELD, because it is you set and forget it, each of the integration one time. You have access to the entire fleet, not just a single driver. It is often higher fidelity, because you're not going to go through a dead spot for an ELD, since you're using GPS, rather than a mobile cellphone.
That said, there are plenty of carriers who don't want to use their ELD to track, who might not be following the purview of the mandate. There are brokerages that prefer to use mobile tracking for a number of reasons. Double tracking, something that we've been involved in for over a decade now is also a great way to track. We've really focused on building those ELD networks for brokers to carriers. If that's not possible, or not of preference, we then move to mobile tracking. We realized that while effective, there was still a large pool of carriers who we were unable to track through either of these two methods, because they didn't want to download tracking apps, because their phone wasn't equipped to be doing it. Battery life. There's a million considerations. Our app is quite lightweight, so it's usually not an issue of space.
You can just be curmudgeonly like me and just don't want another app, because you're like, “I got enough.”
It's very possible. It’s very possible. We also, we're really focused on cross border freight right now. We're certainly live in Mexico and we have our Spanish app live in the Mexican app store.
There you go.
We realized, there was a big opportunity to capture a lot of freight on the Mexican side of the border if we launched a single instance tracking product through WhatsApp, which is the primary way that –
- Mexican truck drivers communicate. All of those ideas, we talk through them and we realized there's an opportunity to add a really, it's actually the fourth tracking modality for us, versus API where we’re building integrations for large fleets and for core fleets for carriers. ELD is really becoming the lead preference for certainly brokers and honestly, plenty of carriers as well. Mobile tracking, which has always been really the core of our business. Then there's an opportunity to catch that tail of carriers, or drivers who could not track through any of those methods, or did not want to through a text to track option. And it would allow us to build out a really snazzy WhatsApp feature as well.
That's how the product came to life. It was something we heard about from a number of customers. We saw hacks happening in brokerages already when things weren't working through a mobile side solution. There would be texting, so we figured, why don't we make this easy and tie it into our topnotch TMS integrations already to make it totally automated, so that we don't need brokers sending text manually anymore. It's all automatically run through the platform.
I like that. Especially, like A, you're listening to your customer base and B, which is always a good one. You're like, “Hey, how did you do that? That sounds a cool idea. Tell us more about that. We should integrate that into our actual value ad there.”
That's what we do here at Banyan, and it's one of those things that you almost take for granted, until you're looking at other products and you're going, “Well, who would use something like that?” Then you're like, “No, we already know these people want it.” They told us and they said, we need an answer to that. Now, that's awesome. Excited for you guys on that. Yeah, tracking across the board is the number one thing that anyone's asked about all the time. It's nice that truckload is finally getting some of the visibility in a very dark space that it has been in the past.
Speaking of where we're going with things, obviously, AI is everywhere and we're on the software side. Do you see AI having – obviously, there's, I think green screens is out there, and then there's probably two or three others that just I don't know their names yet. This is a little future side of things. Where do you see stuff like AI coming into the truckload space? Is Trucker Tools starting to work with it all? Where are you guys at with that? What did your head think of that?
Yeah. Something I mentioned earlier was that the truckload space is very – it's still early on its curve of digital transformation, digital adoption. I think ChatGPT, mass adoption and understanding of what LLMs are. That all happened in the last year. I think it's gotten a lot of folks very excited about AI and the ability for it to transform our space, which I do not –
Do everything for us, no.
Yeah, exactly. We are a long, long, long way if ever from that happening, I think.
It seems like this happens every few years when something launches, like the broker is going away and the broker is still here. I think then pace of adoption being frankly pretty slow, in this space, at least from my experience –
Why do you notice, or sorry if I get – why do you think, and I have asked this to some of my other speakers, why do you think logistics, maybe in truckload itself, why it's so apt to be behind within the technology game, or what about it puts it in that position?
One, I think it's a very relationship-driven industry and relationships can be moats, honestly. When you have a real relationship with a business or an entity, or whatever –
You know they'll be there every day, or you know their phone number by heart. Yup. So there's no need to put anything into place. Okay.
Exactly. That's my – and two, it's so fragmented. There are so many different systems. It is so hard to solve for that fragmentation. I think, AI absolutely will impact – of course, it's going to impact the industry. Folks are already using it. I think from our perspective at Trucker Tools, the way we're thinking about it is how, like I mentioned, a predictive exception management. How can we use tools that are emerging right now to get more accurate in the way we predict what's happening out on the open road.
When you're thinking about projecting, okay, we know, we lost signal at this point. That's because it's likely there's bad self and reception based on what we know about previous loads that have been hauled to the same area. Therefore, what we can project is that signal is going to return at this time and that means this will be happening.
We'll ping from then, and then you can expect an update five minutes from that point. Yeah.
Like, hey, not like, it's dark. Good luck. You got nothing.
Then when I think it comes to broker efficiency, when you think about the ultimate metric for carrier sales teams, or credit carrier brokerages is loads booked per day per rep. The more that you can use the tools that are out there today to extract important information from the massive amount of emails that folks get and distill it into really actionable, or prioritize how folks should be running through those, that is the way I see AI impacting this space first.
That makes a lot of sense, especially from, you're talking about the brokerage on the emails and I just immediately thought of every time I Google a recipe and it gives you somebody's life story about how grandma used to make something and you're like, “No, I need the three sentences at the end.” I can imagine some broker email catching this 10-page and there's some snippet this small, that's the only relevant data in there. That is interesting. I think that that, you're probably spot on with how that could be used there. That's not even where I was thinking about it. This is why I like talking to smart people. I appreciate that.
More to not just being a smart person and within the logistics industry, you're a woman and within the logistics industry, in the past, very male dominated. I don't want to put a year on it, but growing number of women in logistics. I know, I follow literally the women in logistics page and that's how I learned about logistics as a whole through some of the education pieces they have in there. What's it like for you coming into the industry that's historically male-driven, and what impact have women being more involved in the space had on the industry? Big question. I know, right?
Yeah. I see it as an opportunity. When you think about my personal motivators coming into a male dominated industry, I want to make a name for myself. I want to –
Got that chip on your shoulder. You’re like, “Yeah.”
Yeah. Yeah. I want to create space for other women. I'm really proud. My executive team is now over 50% female, which is honestly, I think you’d be hard pressed to find another business in this space that has that. I think, the more I can be the change I want to see in the world and creating space for female leaders, I see it as an opportunity. I grew up. I'm the middle of two brothers, so I'm very used to being in male dominated environment.
They pushed you for it the whole life. Yeah.
Yeah. It's an environment I'm comfortable in and it's motivating to me, because I've had some amazing female mentors in my life who have created so much space for me. I've been in largely female environments that have been so nurturing, and so powerful and I would love to create that space for other women in the industry. Really, I just see it as an opportunity and something that motivates me every single day when I show up and lead.
That's awesome. As I tell my wife and my mother, I know damn well who the superior gender is in my world. I shut up when they tell me what to do. No, it's just one of those things that clearly you have a very holistic mindset to what you're doing, not only within the space with Trucker Tools, but even going from, hey, you wanted to be within this space, even starting with Uber and then where you are now.
As somebody who proudly jumped majors a bunch, jumped jobs a bunch, I am blown away by that. Making a decision, having a path and really getting after it like you seem to have, and just hats off to you for what you've done and where Trucker Tools is now and how big of a name and player they are in the space in a short period of time, truly.
Well, thank you. I really appreciate that. It is a lot easier to – I forget someone said this quote more eloquently than I. Will butcher it. But it's a lot easier to connect the dots and tell the story, looking backwards than forwards. There are so many other paths, life – who knows, who knows where things are going to take us. I really appreciate that.
No. I appreciate the time that you've talked with me here and I've been doing just for everybody. I have a platform here. I don't know how loud and how widely listened to, or seen it is, but if you have a message either from logistics, or personal to anyone listening or hearing, what would that be? Here's your time on the soapbox. I mean, you’re CEO, you have that whenever you want it, but here is it on my soapbox.
I'm still thinking about the questions you had about the women in the industry and my recommendation and hope for certainly, women in the industry is that they look at the historically male dominated nature of the business and the industry as an advantage and an opportunity for them. If you can start to look at, reframe the – reframe the situation that way, it doesn't mean that it won't be challenging at times. There are things we're going to need to help each other through. If you can let that serve as a bit of a motivator, rather than perpetually, this is something I'm working against, I think that has served me very well.
Well, there you go. Well, Kary, thank you much for the time. Everybody, this has been Kary Jablonski of Trucker Tools, their CEO and fearless leader. She's been telling us, use anything hardship as a fire to get it there and great things. We’re excited about trucker tools, excited about everything you guys are doing and what's going out there in the truckload space, especially as Banyan is playing more and more to that as we're coming out of our LTL shell a bit. Kary, thank you very much for your time today. It was an absolute pleasure. I learned a lot and hopefully, I didn't keep you from any other important meetings too long.
Not at all. This was a pleasure, Patrick. Thank you.
Thank you very much. To all my listeners, make sure to stay tuned for this exciting episode. If you're watching at this part, then you already have and keep listening and watching for more and follow the pages. Appreciate it. Thank you. Bye, Kary.