New financial technology has helped Lowell-based carrier J.B. Hunt Transport Services improve invoicing and onboard new customers more quickly, sometimes within a week, a company director said.
In a recent FreightWaves webinar, Amy Horn, director of intermodal pricing for J.B. Hunt, discussed the new technology and other challenges, such as rising inflation, interest rates and fuel prices.
Horn said that warehouses are full of goods that aren’t in high demand by consumers, and some of the company’s containers and trailers have been used for storage.
“This, in turn, produces additional administrative work on our end,” she said. “We’re having to monitor, bill and put effort into collecting some of the accessorial charges that accompany those storage charges. Ultimately, we want our equipment to be freed up. We want our customers to be able to use it to move their freight.”
Meanwhile, fuel prices have extended beyond existing contract levels, and this has led to additional administrative work to extend those for both the company and shippers, she said. Other challenges the company has faced have been hiring challenges with office employees and drivers, but she said this is starting to improve.
Horn also discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic led some customers to transition to more modern invoicing, including e-mail and digital (EDI) invoices. She said this saved time and cut costs. She added that the company also started to use electronic proof of deliveries amid the pandemic.
“We recently have partnered with U.S. Bank to make the EDI invoicing process even better,” Horn said. “We were able to partner with U.S. Bank with a product called You Send We Map, where we as a carrier are able to send every piece of data that any customer could need through an invoicing perspective, and U.S. Bank from there has been able to take that data and send it to the customer as the customer needs it. That has allowed us to cut out the six- to eight-week delay, and in some cases, we’ve been able to onboard customers from an invoicing perspective through EDI within a week, which is a huge win for us.”
Jeff Pape, general manager of transportation, corporate payment and treasury solutions for U.S. Bank, said the company focuses on the following to encourage technology adoption: increase visibility and transparency, improve working capital and the invoice process, and streamline communication.
Horn said EDI invoices can typically be delivered in two days, and U.S. Bank can help resolve any challenges with the invoices, including discrepancies between the invoice and order. She noted that one of the challenges in EDI invoicing regards when a batch fails, and this could affect hundreds of invoices, leading to a delay of up to a day in finding the invoice that caused the issue.
She said the carrier is working with U.S. Bank to offer API invoicing, and this type of invoicing only affects the invoice that caused the failure as opposed to the batch of invoices.
Within the U.S. Bank platform, J.B. Hunt can receive payment on an invoice within three days of it being uploaded and approved.
“The platform not only allows us to receive that money in a more timely manner, but we also have greater visibility to when funds are going to be received at J.B. Hunt,” Horn said. “That’s an opportunity available for any carrier or shipper that participates in the platform.”
Over the next several years, Pape said U.S. Bank is expected to continue to develop API invoicing, digitization and do-it-yourself capabilities. Also, he noted the importance of reporting and analytics and said the company has invested in its analytics tools.