Syntelic Transportation Analytics: Ad Hoc Reporting Made for the Trucking Industry

By Scott Balthaser | June 8, 2023

Businessman analyzing data, working with digital augmented reality graphics.

These days, every business seems to collect data and use analytics—a systematic, quantitative approach to understanding and utilizing reams of information—to (hopefully) make better business decisions. Top business schools like the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and MIT’s Sloan School offer business analytics as a major, and data analysts are commonplace in finance, marketing, sales, and other industry verticals.

In the trucking industry, there’s no shortage of data collected. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) mandates the use of electronic logging devices (ELDs) on commercial vehicles to ensure that drivers comply with hours of service (HOS) rules, and most trucking companies collect far more information from on-board diagnostics (OBD) than required by the FMCSA.

Transportation firms also keep track of a host of other information, including:

  • Planned and actual routes
  • Driver safety and performance
  • Over, short, and damaged (OS&D) orders
  • Fleet inspections and maintenance
  • Operating expenses

But how does your trucking company use all this data? You may use software to manage your fleet, and there may be a plethora of information in the system, but the value of that information to your company’s decision-makers and employees depends entirely on the quality of the reports your software can generate.

Syntelic’s Transportation Analytics software can produce ad hoc reports that mine mountains of data points for trucking analytics gold.

What Is Ad Hoc Reporting?

Ad hoc is a Latin phrase that means “for this.” Ad hoc reporting refers to reports created for a specific purpose—perhaps to answer a question or understand a particular situation. The term ad hoc reporting is used to differentiate this kind of report from standard, or canned, reports.

What Are Canned Reports?

Canned reports—also known as static reports—include the same information each time they’re generated. They’re typically issued at regular intervals, such as weekly, monthly, or yearly. Although canned reports aren’t as flexible as ad hoc reports, they do have value. For example, monthly financial reports help you see trends in your company’s revenue, expenses, assets, cash flow, etc.

Ad Hoc vs. Canned Reporting

If you can create ad hoc reports for your trucking company with your transportation management software, you can prompt the system for the information contained in any canned report.

But this doesn’t work in reverse—if you only have access to canned reports, you have no flexibility to produce an ad hoc trucking report that will shed light on a particular aspect of your operation in real-time.

Ad Hoc vs. Canned Reporting
Ad hoc reporting Canned reporting
User-generated Created by an end user using a software interface Pro-generated Created by an information technology (IT) team
Instant Generated in response to a particular situation Regular Generated at periodic intervals
Specific Displays whatever information the user needs General Displays the same information every time
Flexible Adapts to solve problems and answer questions Rigid Can’t be changed without help from the vendor

Using Syntelic Software for Transportation Data Analysis

Any company that produces software for the transportation industry—whether it’s a transportation management system (TMS) or fleet management software that leverages OBD data—includes some form of reporting.

There are typically two primary problems with these reports:

  1. They’re canned, or static. If the reports don’t show you the details of your operation that matter to you—too bad.
  2. They’re costly. If you need a new report, you have to request it from the vendor and pay for it. If you find that a requested report isn’t working, you have to pay for revisions, too.

At Syntelic, we take a different approach. When we implement our Route Planning, Load Planning, and Transportation Analytics software, we tailor them to your specific business needs.

Are there standard, static reports you can use if you need them? Sure. But our Transportation Analytics software is a powerful ad hoc reporting tool for trucking companies:

  • Self-service ad hoc reports: We’ll train you and your staff how to use the no-code tools in Transportation Analytics to carry out an ad hoc analysis of your fleet’s on-time performance—or any other aspect of your trucking operation.
  • Free reports from our support staff: If you need a more complex report (or forgot how to create a new report), just contact our support team, and they’ll generate it for you—quickly and at no charge—as part of our ongoing support.

Features of Ad Hoc Data Analysis in Syntelic Transportation Analytics

Syntelic’s Route Planning, Load Planning, and Transportation Analytics applications collect information from all aspects of your trucking operation. We’re not an OBD company, but our software can interface with your OBD sensors to pull in near real-time updates on your trucks and driver performance.

From financial data and warehouse operations to routes, delivery times, and OS&D events—if the information is in the software, we can report on it.

Ad Hoc Trucking Analytics Reports That Tell You What You Need to Know—Right Now

Many canned reports simply dump data from your system into an Excel or CSV file. So, a report on the week’s deliveries might be a spreadsheet with more than 1,000 lines—a line for each delivery, for instance.

With Syntelic software, you’re not limited to a summary view; you can drill into your data. Sort the week’s delivery information by warehouse location, route, driver, or customer. Suppose your system imports OBD data every five minutes—you know the information at your fingertips is up-to-date and accurate. A customer calls, complaining that your deliveries at a certain location are always late.

  • With canned reports, you sputter an apology: “I’m sorry. We’ll try to do better.”
  • With Syntelic, you click on a dashboard link for on-time performance data, filter it by customer, sort it by location, and constrain the display to the last 10 deliveries. “I’m pulling up the data now,” you say. “Actually, we’ve been on time for nine of the last 10 deliveries, and there’s a note on the one late delivery—there was another company in the loading dock and we had to wait.” Case closed.

Suppose a summary report on delivery times indicates that the contracted drivers for your third-party logistics operation are consistently on time, but you’ve been getting complaints from your customers. With a canned report, you’re in the dark. With access to ad hoc reports on your trucking data, you realize that the summary report is averaging out early and late delivery times and reporting on-time performance. You dig deeper. Sorting by driver doesn’t turn up truckers who are consistently late. But when you sort by route, the answer is clear: Several routes need optimization, because they frequently have late deliveries.

Fine-Tuning Your Ad Hoc Reports: Filter, Sort, Calculate, and Visualize

Syntelic Transportation Analytics does more than display your raw data. Our software allows you to manipulate the data in several ways:

  • Filter: Less is more when you’re looking for an answer to a specific business question. By filtering out what you don’t need to see, the information you need is clearly evident. Interested in one particular warehouse, route, or driver? Filter out all the others. Need information from a specific week? Filter out other dates.
  • Sort: You’re in control of how your trucking analytics data are displayed. Sort by the parameters that matter to you.
  • Calculate: Some transportation data analyses require more manipulation of the raw data than filtering and sorting. Syntelic’s Transportation Analytics allows you to apply calculations. For example, if you want to analyze route profitability, your ad hoc report can provide a composite figure that accounts for the route’s revenue minus operating expenses (driver salary, fuel costs, maintenance expenses, etc.) and OS&D adjustments.
  • Visualize: Data tables are useful but are not always the best way to convey information. Syntelic’s Transportation Analytics generates graphs and charts that allow you to visualize target aspects of your transportation operation.

When we work with you to implement our Route Planning, Load Planning, and Transportation Analytics applications, we’ll create a set of frequently used, powerful reports and organize them on a dashboard. Simply click on the appropriate report on the dashboard and drill down to the information you need.

Syntelic’s Ad Hoc Reporting in Action

Uses for Syntelic’s ad hoc trucking data analytics are limited only by your creativity. Some common and pragmatic utilization tactics include:

  • Comparing planned and actual route data
  • Comparing planned and actual delivery times
  • Analyzing patterns in OS&D reports
  • Analyzing performance patterns by region or warehouse
  • Coordinating truck preventive maintenance with mandatory driver HOS breaks

Many OBD companies offer driver scorecards, but they’re typically canned reports that don’t necessarily account for what’s most important to managing your fleet. Suppose a canned driver scorecard considers ten factors and weights each factor equally—ranking driver safety the same as on-time performance. If safety is a priority for your fleet, the canned report won’t reflect that. With Syntelic, you can weigh driver safety higher—perhaps 20% of the overall score.

One of our all-time favorite applications of our ad hoc reporting capabilities for the transportation industry is billion-dollar companies using Transportation Analytics to calculate driver payroll. We didn’t design our software to handle payroll, but these companies realized that all the information to calculate driver salaries was in the software. They use Syntelic’s ad hoc reporting to tabulate a driver’s gross salary and feed that number into their payroll software, which deducts federal, state, and local taxes.

Syntelic’s Transportation Analytics Can Provide the Business Intelligence You Need

Syntelic software is made for the transportation industry. Use our Route Planning module to optimize routes for your fleet and manage driver scheduling. Use our Load Planning module to streamline your warehouse operations, avoid overweight violations, minimize cargo damage, and maximize delivery efficiency. And leverage our Transportation Analytics module’s ad hoc reporting capabilities to access near real-time trucking analytics data that put accurate, pertinent information at your disposal.

Contact us today to learn more about how a customized implementation of our software can serve the needs of your transportation operation.

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