Operations

Ryder System Inc. has completed the purchase of Ruan Leasing Company for approximately $145 million in cash. The transaction involves Ruan Leasing’s fleet of more than 6,400 vehicles, 37 service locations and contract maintenance agreements. Ruan Transportation Management continues its core business of providing transportation services, including dedicated contract carriage and supply chain solutions.

Atlas World Group has acquired the assets and business of Bekins Distribution Services Co., which will be operated as a wholly owned subsidiary under the name BDS Worldwide.

Central Freight Lines has purchased selected terminals and rolling stock of Eastern Oregon Fast Freight, a less-than-truckload that had operated in Oregon, Washington and Idaho. The acquisition accelerates Central Freight’s expansion into the Pacific Northwest.

Overnite Transportation said it had reduced transit times from its New Orleans and Baton Rouge, La., facilities to nearly 100 U.S. cities.

USF Corp. promoted Edward Fitzgerald to president and CEO of USF Reddaway Inc. A 22-year veteran of the trucking industry, Fitzgerald joined USF Reddaway in May 2000 as vice president of operations. He became executive vice president and chief operating officer in March 2002

It’s technology time
When new technology enters the marketplace, I don’t rush out to buy it. I usually wait a few generations until suppliers work out all the bugs and, usually, the price drops substantially. Sometimes vendors go out of business leaving early purchasers with no service or support. It pays to research who will survive.

I put off buying a cell phone for years until it was apparent that not having one was causing me too much stress. Now I own five cell phones so that my teenage sons will have no excuses for failing to tell me what they are doing.

Likewise, many small fleets have sat on the sidelines, putting off an investment in wireless technology for locating or messaging. For many small fleet owners, these in-cab communications systems represented a costly investment with little or no apparent return. Any direct communication with the truck could be accomplished using a cellular phone, avoiding the capital layout required for an onboard communication system.

If this describes your situation, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate. The coming year promises, finally, to be the year in which the industry deals with the problem of having drivers tied up at a freight dock for hours on end for little or no compensation. Major trucking companies have already bumped their accessorial charges for waiting time – and are demanding payment.

One advantage of an onboard system is the ability to measure exactly when the truck arrived and departed at any customer location. Many fleets now have systems to alert the customer by e-mail that the clock is ticking on the free time for the truck. We all know that just because you send proof to a customer of a truck being delayed doesn’t mean it will pay the accompanying detention bill. But it certainly improves your odds of receiving payment in comparison to offering no proof.

Even if you can’t collect waiting time, knowing which customers are holding up trucks is important. Profit-oriented carriers focus their resources on customers that help them maximize driver utilization. Until you can measure arrival and departure times at the freight dock, you really don’t know the true cost of serving a particular customer.

If you plan to grow, consider where you will find the drivers and dispatchers you will need. A large percentage of these people will come from large carriers where wireless messaging and locating is a way of life. These drivers and dispatchers are accustomed to an environment in which many routine functions, such as check calls, are automated. I doubt that many good drivers or dispatchers are used to this functionality will work for a carrier that doesn’t have these tools.

You could argue that talking on the phone is much more driver friendly than getting information through a terminal in the truck. I couldn’t agree more. But calling dispatch several times a day can be frustrating for a driver, even with a cell phone.

Many who use both cell phones and e-mail for business prefer e-mail. Responding to e-mail messages is fast and efficient. There is a written record of what transpired. If you use both cell phones and e-mail, which would you give up first?

Given a choice, I believe most drivers would opt for a terminal in the truck for the same reasons. It is quicker, easier, and there is no need to write down information.

As to driver’s acceptance of these devices, about 15 years ago, I managed one of the first fleets to install onboard terminals to communicate with the drivers. With these devices so new, you can imagine the drivers’ apprehension. But once they were implemented, most drivers would tell me they wouldn’t be without one. Their biggest complaint was that dispatchers weren’t using them to the fullest extent. Too often dispatchers were sending the message “call in.”

If you decide to take the plunge and get onboard terminals for the truck, I will predict that you will quickly wonder how you ever got along with out them. If you have teenagers, you will probably be wondering if you can install one on their cars. Not a bad idea at all.


PrePass surpasses 250,000 trucks
PrePass, the leading weigh station bypass system, recently achieved a milestone with 250,000 trucks enrolled. In 2003, PrePass enjoyed a 48 percent increase in the number of carriers using the technology.

“A truck saves at least five minutes and roughly one-half gallon of fuel with each successful bypass,” says Dick Landis, president of Heavy Vehicle Electronic License Plate Inc., the public-private partnership responsible for PrePass. “That means PrePass saves the industry 200,000 hours of productive time and nearly 1 million gallons of fuel each and every month, which is more valuable than ever with the implementation of the new hours-of-service rules.”

The PrePass system, operated for HELP Inc. by ACS Inc., is operational at 242 locations in 24 states.