Running it through the Internet

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When Bill Pate bought a trucking company in Lafayette, Ind., three years ago, the carrier was using an operations-based software system that was nearly 10 years old. It ran on an IBM mainframe platform, and Pate Trucking was spending thousands of dollars a year on programming and technical support, Pate recalls.

Still, Pate liked the modular approach of the system, which Innovative Computing Corp., Oklahoma City, created several decades earlier. Pate considered buying an updated version of the system that runs on the AS/400 platform. But Neil Neireiter, the carrier’s office manager for 11 years, estimated that an on-site version would cost the trucking company at least $50,000, plus another $30,000 for an AS/400 system. And Pate Trucking would still have to pay for its own technical support staff.

Pate Trucking is a truckload carrier operating 15 power units on behalf of two large local shippers and simply doesn’t have the revenue base to support an information technology budget of that scope. So instead of investing more than $80,000 in a new system, the carrier decided more than two years ago to try a new option Innovative had just begun offering – the IES (Innovative Enterprise Software) Access system.

IES Access gives small and medium-sized carriers low-cost, remote access to Innovative’s software. Each of the five PCs in Pate’s office can log onto IES Access through a dedicated subscriber line. At the other end, an AS/400 in Oklahoma City that hosts the web-based IES system is linked to the Internet. Didean Solutions, Innovative’s sister company, administers the AS/400 computer and a backup system in Memphis, Tenn. Minimum requirements for PCs that are used for IES access include a Pentium 300 MHz processor, 32 MB of memory and a 3 GB hard drive.

Pate Trucking pays Innovative a monthly per-truck fee of less than $35, plus $75 a month to WinTek Corp., its Internet service provider.

In addition to the lower capital costs, Pate also likes IES Access because new upgrades are immediately available to all users at no extra charge. And he’s eager to begin using the system’s Load Finder program, which Innovative plans to roll out before the year ends.
The IES system offers 18 integrated modules, including safety, administration, operations control, rating and billing, licenses and permits and maintenance. Pate also uses Rand McNally Milemaker, which Innovative makes available via an interface.

Pate Trucking’s Neireiter says preparing quarterly fuel-tax reports “used to take a tremendous amount of time, but is now a breeze.” He also likes the fact that Innovative continually updates the payroll module to reflect changes in federal, state and county tax rates. That helps because Pate employees’ live in more than 10 Indiana counties.

Another benefit of the payroll module is management of vacation policies. When an employee’s name is entered into the module for the first time, the system automatically begins tracking how many vacation days each employee is eligible for, based on his or her starting date, and how much time off each worker has taken.

Pate considers his enterprise system a strategic business tool as well. It can “crunch a ton of numbers” into essential management reports, such as one that measures weekly revenue per truck, he says. But there’s one number Pate never has much difficulty analyzing: the $80,000 Pate Trucking saved by not having to purchase its own software system and AS/400 computer.

Parry Desmond is executive editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. E-mail