Norfolk Southern & DrayNow Partner to Improve Intermodal Drayage
Of the many lessons learned during the pandemic, the urgent need to digitize the supply chain was one of the most powerful. As we noted then, experts underscored how important it is to make the most of emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and 5G to support the critical need for better end-to-end visibility.
Within supply chain sectors, drayage operations have faced significant challenges over the past several years. As we noted in our post in October 2021, shortages of drivers, parts, materials, chassis, storage, and more contributed to congestion and created a logistical mess at rail terminals and ports — which only complicated matters further.
In the spirit of optimizing the use of technology to improve the supply chain, one company — DrayNow — is applying its expertise to improve drayage operations. And as Bill Stephens notes in a post for Trains, Norfolk Southern Railway recently announced a new partnership with the growing company to “improve the intermodal drayage experience for truckers and customers.”
Who is DrayNow?
First launched in 2017, DrayNow’s website says it is “revolutionizing intermodal’s first and last mile to create unexpected opportunities and exceptional value.”
Through its technology, the company says it:
Grants owner-operators “access to desirable intermodal freight previously only available to drayage companies, giving them the freedom to become independent. …”
Provides “a predictable and transparent drayage solution that leverages technology to serve our customers when and where they need us. Our simple, intuitive platform takes the complexity out of drayage freight to support container utilization, carrier capacity, and load execution.”
“The DrayNow digital freight-matching marketplace empowers drivers with transparency and efficiency, while also moving freight more productively than ever before,” the company says. “Founded by three industry veterans who saw first-hand the obstacles the industry was facing, the team is passionate about injecting technology into the industry. The DrayNow team believes in creating a fair playing field for all involved with moving freight. By using the forces of supply and demand, DrayNow is harmonizing how carriers and customers move freight.”
DrayNow says its customers include intermodal marketing companies (IMCs), beneficial cargo owners (BCOs), and freight forwarders who need help moving intermodal containers. The company says it offers them the following benefits:
Actively monitored carriers: “Immediately connect with available vetted carriers. Find capacity you never knew existed.”
Real-time track and trace: “Keep sight of your shipments' locations and status in real time, at all times.”
Paperless documentation: “Receive all documents quickly and easily, even before loads are completed.”
For carriers, DrayNow says its app places “intermodal at your fingertips,” with the ability to:
Browse: “See all open loads in your market instantly. Complete transparency on load details.”
Select: “Choose the load that's right for you, and you're all set to pick it up.”
Execute: “You are guided every step of the way as you haul your load.”
Get Paid: “Get paid within days for your load. All documentation is easily available in the app.”
Referring to its tech platform as the “first and only Intermodal freight matching marketplace,” DrayNow says its offering was “designed to harmonize the Intermodal industry by bringing customers and carriers together on one platform,” noting that features include:
“…technology [that] provides thousands of data points, including accurate on-time-rates”
“…hundreds of platform integrations, geo-fencing and more to provide the most accurate information possible”
“… [a] TRUprice tool [that] uses a proprietary machine-learning algorithm to give up-to-the minute pricing recommendations for all freight. …”
The Norfolk Southern – DrayNow partnership
In a recent announcement, Norfolk Southern Corporation said it is investing $8 million in DrayNow and forming a joint venture “to transform the intermodal capabilities of rail.”
“Together, the companies will develop and deploy technology to improve the customer and drayage driver experience, enhance supply chain transparency, and increase network fluidity,” the announcement said. “DrayNow is revolutionizing intermodal's first and final mile journey through an app that provides customers with real-time shipment tracking and document capture of drayage shipments. Norfolk Southern is the operator of rail's most extensive intermodal network in the eastern U.S. Together, this will unite a currently fragmented supply chain and increase the ability to best serve intermodal customers.”
"We're a customer-centric, operations-driven company. Together with DrayNow, we are reimagining the way we serve our customers and work with drayage," said Norfolk Southern Chief Marketing Officer Ed Elkins in the statement. "While we are a B2B business, our customers expect a B2C experience. This means leveraging cutting-edge technology to give them a full and transparent view into their shipments and a seamless administrative experience."
According to the announcement, Norfolk Southern's $8 million investment will be used for technology development, an increase in sales and marketing, and the addition of new team members. Norfolk Southern will also be represented on the board of DrayNow by Chief Strategy Officer Mike McClellan.
"We are taking a comprehensive look at the supply chain with an emphasis on areas where we can modernize our processes and extend our reach even further beyond the track," said McClellan. "Our shared goal is to improve our customer experience and help them grow their businesses. This is perfectly aligned with our long-term vision for Norfolk Southern."
"DrayNow has always been committed to building technology solutions that address intermodal's unique challenges and serve all the stakeholders of the intermodal supply chain," said DrayNow Chief Executive Officer Mike Albert. "Norfolk Southern is the perfect strategic partner to accelerate our vision of leveraging technology for transparency and efficiency all the while expanding our operating business."
Plans for a new app: ModalView
In a recent blog post on its website, DrayNow provided further details about the joint venture — including plans to create a new app that “provides unparalleled visibility and transparency to intermodal drayage.”
“This application, ModalView, will accelerate our mission of developing technology solutions that bring efficiency and connectivity to the industry,” DrayNow said. “ModalView will make similar technology found on the DrayNow platform available to IMCs for visibility over all of their intermodal drayage carriers.”
The company said the future ModalView app will “work for IMCs looking to track intermodal container moves and connect with the drayage drivers running that freight,” eliminating manual processes and providing real-time shipment tracking.
“Historically, intermodal freight transportation has been fragmented and lacking cutting-edge technology,” DrayNow said. “Our partnership with Norfolk Southern will bring intermodal drayage into the modern age through efficiency, transparency, and connectivity. By doing so, we will not only advance the industry but also ensure that all stakeholders benefit from a more agile and forward-looking intermodal drayage experience.”