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Thursday, Feb 22, 2024

Truckers Need Faster Telecom

The trucking industry might seem a staid, slow-growth sector, but Glendale telecommunications firm Velantro doesn’t see it that way. The company, a provider of business phone systems, has hollowed out a presence as a conduit between shippers and carriers. Its cash cow is a click-to-call web plugin that dispatchers can use to gain a competitive advantage when scouting online “loadboards” for job offers. In an industry where the first to contact a loadboard listing typically gets the job, shaving seconds off the time to call can make all the difference. “The company became profitable when we released that tool and trucking companies started coming to us,” said Chief Executive George Gabrielyan. Velantro debuted its click-to-call plugin in 2014 and sells it in an all-inclusive package deal with its business phone systems. To sign up costs $25 per phone line; the average trucking company employs 20 to 25 dispatchers. Gabrielyan said Velantro now boasts annual revenue of $7 million to $10 million, 75 percent of which comes from trucking clients. It also works with insurance agencies, medical offices and retailers such as Wingstop. Loadboard advantage Trucking loadboards, also called freightboards, are web pages that allow shippers and freight brokers to post loads and find truck drivers to bring those loads wherever they need to go. Amazon.com Inc., for example, uses loadboards as a shipper to move products sold on its marketplace. They refresh in real time, and competition to earn each job is fierce. Generally, the first to call is awarded the work. Velantro’s plugin for Chrome and Firefox web browsers is essentially an automated scanning tool that searches a website’s code for phone numbers in real time. When it finds a dialable number, a blue icon appears next to the digits. Click it, and a connected phone or headset immediately places an API call through the Velantro server, which calls the listed number in milliseconds. “When you click, you see the phone ring, but in reality there are a few processes being done on the server. Our super-fast networks optimize the calling speed,” Gabrielyan said. “In a first come-first serve industry, that’s all that matters.” By automating the dialing process — a seemingly insignificant step — the plugin reduces the time it takes to make a phone call tenfold, all but ensuring the user gets the job, Gabrielyan said. The software integrates with all of the industry’s most popular loadboards, including Truckstop.com, 123Loadboard, 3Sixty, GetLoaded, Freight Finder and DAT Solutions, on which millions of transportation jobs trade every day. “We need to impact their bottom line, to make money for the (client),” Gabrielyan said. Velantro client Mega Dispatch is landing 20 to 30 percent more jobs from loadboards since signing up with the telecom in 2016, according to owner Ruben Hovhannisyan. Based in Glendale, Mega Dispatch owns five trucks and employs seven drivers in addition to finding work for independent big rig owner-operators out of its dispatch center in Glendale. Hovhannisyan said the company finds “almost all” of its work through loadboards. “We have to be first,” he added. Velantro’s plugin is also used by trucking industry leaders like Landstar and Allstate Trucking, both of which have thousands of phone lines with the company. David White, co-owner of Iuvo Logistics in Dayton, Ohio, has been using loadboards since 1993, when they were still faxed to trucking companies on huge rolls of thermal paper. He said online loadboards such as DAT Solutions, the longest active loadboard, remain an industry standard for finding jobs. White is aware of products that automate communication between shippers and carriers, but said he hasn’t seen one that works well enough to truly disrupt the industry. “I think the reason is that there are still a lot of truckers and companies in the business that lack technological sophistication,” he told the Business Journal via email. Velantro, then, hopes to help usher the industry into the age of automated digital communication. Starting up While enrolled in law school in the 2000s, Gabrielyan started a real estate brokerage and quickly realized that he needed a phone system. A self-taught coder, he began toying with an open source phone software system called Asterisk, which was able to make and receive voice over IP calls — the current industry standard — over a Linux server. “I thought, maybe I can create my own office phone system and don’t have to pay AT&T. … And instead of putting this Asterisk in the office, I could probably provide service to a couple other peers that I know. The work is done, let me just charge people to use it,” Gabrielyan said. “That was kind of the dinosaur version of Velantro.” That was 2008. After seeing marginal success with the modified Asterisk system, he decided to invest in a proprietary telephony platform of his own; because Asterisk’s code was open source, it left too many loopholes and vulnerabilities to be a viable base for his platform. Velantro launched in 2010. As the company picked up clients as a cheaper alternative to AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless, Gabrielyan found that Velantro’s smaller size was actually an advantage against its leviathan competitors. “Being a small company gives us that advantage to be in touch with customers,” said Gabrielyan. “When you specialize in a vertical, you speak their lingo and their day-to-day operations issues. We know every single client by name.” He said Velantro’s careful attention to customer service spreads fast through word-of-mouth, which has become the company’s strongest tool for marketing to prospective clients. Additionally, with regard to trucking, Gabrialyan said, “We network with a lot of schools that train brokers. And we have an inside sales department that we use to reach out to trucking companies to explain the benefits they’d get from switching to us from a traditional VoIP provider.” Velantro has already modified the scanning tool behind its click-to-call plugin into other services, including an integrated caller identification tool. The company’s next venture is an SMS marketing service that aggregates mobile phone numbers into contact databases for mass text outreach. Gabrielyan plans to market it as an events promotion and customer engagement tool for clients in the entertainment industry, and hopes it will be as revolutionary for them as click-to-call has been for its clients in trucking.

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