Web Exclusive: Instant credit

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Credit checking services have made several helpful technological leaps in recent years. The biggest change is in delivery methods. A few years ago, most fleets got credit reports over the phone or through fax back services. While those methods are still relied on by many carriers, most now rely largely on the Internet to access reports.

“Our largest and most rapid growing delivery method is the Internet,” says Winston Aston, president of TransCredit. “Two years ago it was a very small percentage of our business.” CompuNet Credit Services and TransCredit offer their reports through the Internet, as do traditional credit report sources like D&B and Equifax.

The Internet has made getting the information faster. Carriers can access a credit company’s database of shippers 24 hours a day, and often the data is accessible in seconds rather than minutes or hours. “We’re talking to trucking companies,” says says Greg Conklin, customer relations and sales manager for CompuNet Credit Services.

“If it takes more than 30 seconds to check credit, a carrier may not be able to get the load.”
In addition to D&B’s decisionmaking software, the company offers other tech-based methods of deliveries. Subscribers, for instance, can access credit reports via personal data assistants, so that a sales force away from the office can find out instantly if they can extend credit.

Credit report companies also offer a variety of custom services. CompuNet, which has partnered with Equifax to boost its database of business, can e-mail an alert to clients when a broker or shipper has a change in their credit status. The instant update can make a big difference when a carrier is about to do business with a shipper whose payments are flagging. “Any time there’s a change to a credit report, we can send it to you electronically,” Conklin says. The company also offers some integration with fleet accounting software that helps track slow paying shippers.

In another way, the Internet has helped by integrating the credit process with other systems, like load searching. Online load boards offer more complete integration of credit reporting. TransCredit provide credit ratings to a variety of load providers like GetLoaded.com, Internet Freight Service and TruckIt.com.

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Craig Marzolf, product marketing specialist at TransCore, says his company offers credit scores through its DAT Partners site and expanded them to its DAT Connect.com and TruckersEdge.com sites. Fleets can get credit sores and summaries through the sites as a free service and can even access full reports on a pay-as-you-go basis. Small fleets and owner-operators tend to be satisfied with the limited summaries and scores, whereas larger carriers are accessing full reports. A recent software update by the company integrates reports from D&B and TransCredit more fully.

“It’s a tool that designed for trucking companies who are deciding if they want to engage with a business partner,” he says. “Fleets are very interested and ask for the credit score at a minimum. It’s a valuable service and they appreciate it being integrated as part of the service.”

TransCore also provides some credit checking of its own. Susan Little says brokers and shippers posting to the site go through a rigorous credit check before they can post and if problems occur later, TransCore will take action. “If you’re a carrier and don’t get paid on a load, you can report that to us,” she says. “After three non-resolved debts we will kick a shipper off. They must meet certain standards before they’re allowed in to our system. We’ve had very few incidents, but we will get involved with them if there’s a problem.

Credit services don’t yet work seamlessly with popular dispatch software, but that integration may not be a problem. First, dispatch rarely makes credit decisions at medium to large carriers. Second, for most trucking companies, the Internet is now just a click away.

Conklin says a recent survey of CompuNet’s clients, found only one fleet without Internet access. “When we did same survey three years ago, only 37 percent had Internet access,” he says. “That’s quite a bit of change.”