One misconception of SaaS is that consumer devices such as the iPhone and Android can withstand all the vibration, temperature and dust in a mobile environment. Fleets generally prefer commercial-grade hardware and to use one vendor for all hardware, software and networking so that any problem can be resolved quickly rather than watch two or more vendors point fingers, McLaughlin says.
4. Catering to drivers
Today’s onboard computing platforms are incorporating the latest trends in consumer and business software development. An area of emphasis is improving the flow of information in the cab and the user experience for drivers. Developers are taking full advantage of the latest graphics, computing power and screen features to move drivers through their daily workflow.
Starting from the time a driver clocks in, apps can guide him from one work assignment to the next. First, a pretrip inspection form pops up automatically. When the driver completes it, another form prompts the driver to enter a duty change for hours of service and specific information for an arrival or departure event.
PeopleNet plans to release a new automated workflow interface for its BLU and Tablet onboard computing platforms. The graphical Windows interface now is being designed to prompt drivers to enter information at the proper time and not allow other applications to be opened before they complete the assigned task.
Rand McNally recently released a driver-centric onboard computing platform called the TND 760 Fleet Edition that includes a full touchscreen computer display with a consumer form factor similar to the Samsung Galaxy tablet. From the home screen, drivers select icons to enter hours of service, navigation, messaging apps and driver/vehicle performance monitoring.
Fleets also can leverage a number of mobile apps designed specifically for drivers’ personal smartphone devices. “Everybody is moving to a smartphone,” says Mitch Hixon, vice president of sales for Affiliated Computer Services, which offers TripPak Mobile as a free download for smartphones. The mobile app includes a document capture feature that allows drivers to capture paper POD documents using their smartphone camera. The images are sent to ACS TripPak Services for processing and integrated with carrier dispatch systems.
ACS has begun another round of development for TripPak Mobile to guarantee image quality. Hixon predicts that mobile scanning quickly will become the most prevalent way carriers retrieve documents from their drivers. “There are no barriers to aggressive adoption,” he says.
Pegasus TransTech, a provider of document management software, recently began offering smartphone scanning. Currently available as a free download for the iPhone, the software recognizes the edges of a document and adjusts, sharpens and converts images to black and white. The software’s automatic photo-editing ensures that a quality image is transmitted to the office for processing, the company says.
PCS Software offers a GPS and driver communication app for the iPhone called Mobile Xpress Trax. The app integrates with the PCS Xpress transportation management system through three interfaces created for truckload, less-than-truckload and intermodal operations.
Through the LTL interface, drivers can receive an entire trip manifest on a smartphone, mark each stop completed and capture delivery signatures. With the intermodal interface, drivers can receive instructions for where to pick up or terminate containers and chassis. They also can record equipment numbers at pickup and termination points to update location and per-diem tracking instantly in the PCS Xpress transportation management system, says Sean VanDyk, vice president of sales.
The Mobile Xpress Trax app also has an option to capture POD documents using the iPhone camera with no per-document fees.
5. Virtual assistance
In addition to leveraging the latest apps and technology to improve the efficiency of drivers and fleet managers, carriers can use new services designed to keep their assets running at peak performance.
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