A dock without workers?

Transportation Costing Group announced an interface with Innovative Enterprise Software (IES). The interface between the TCG Truckload Cost Information System (TL/CIS) and IES gives truckload motor carriers accurate, load-specific, activity-based costing and profitability analysis, the company says.

@Road (www.road.com) introduced the @Road Telco, Cable and Utilities Suite, a set of services and features designed for field service organizations, that includes GPS tracking and remote access for drivers to company information and customer records.

AccuWeather.com now offers the Planner, which provides a complete two-week snapshot of the weather on one web page. Users can set their own weather alarms for specific conditions, such as low temperatures or precipitation levels that may impact maintenance, personnel scheduling or routing.

TMW Systems (www.tmwsystems.com) announced it has attained Gold Certified status in the Microsoft Partner Program with a competency in Independent Software Vendor (ISV)/Software Solutions.

Xata Corporation (www.xata.com), a provider of onboard fleet management systems for private fleet transportation, announced that Valley Proteins, one of the largest independent recyclers and renderers of food processing byproducts in the United States, is implementing Xatanet in its fleet of 450 vehicles operating at 22 sites.

Imagine, for a moment, you could find a driver who does exactly as he is told with no complaints, questions or excuses. He is programmed only to listen and obey commands. For commercial motor vehicles, this remains the stuff of fantasy. But if you use forklifts in your operation, this scenario probably is closer to reality than you think.

Seegrid and E-P Equipment recently launched an automated vehicle called “SmartTruck.” The product uses Seegrid’s advanced vehicle guidance system and the EPT-20 series of electric pallet trucks to automate the travel of a pallet truck from one end of a warehouse to another – including navigating around corners and moving people, says Greg Valentine, Seegrid’s vice president of business development.

SmartTruck uses a vision system that consists of four cameras mounted in a 360-degree array around the electric pallet truck. The cameras feed data to a proprietary software program that breaks the environment up into thousands of 3-D grids called Voxels, Valentine says. Each Voxel is filled with statistical evidence that tells the computer whether or not it is occupied. The system can identify thousands of points in a room and knows its position through “triangulating” with just three of those points.

Training SmartTruck to follow a path is as simple as walking it manually along the desired path. “You simply tell the machine what station you are starting from and move it around manually with the handle,” Valentine says. “When finished, you say ‘This is station 2’ and then ‘Learn this path.’ You can then say ‘Go to station 1 or 2’ or simply ‘Go back,’ ” Valentine says. “It is designed to be very easy.”

Until now, installing automated guide vehicles required engineers to map out a facility and install lasers and wires for the path of travel. Valentine says SmartTruck is designed so anyone can install a path of travel.

“It only recently became commercially feasible to put this amount of computing power on a machine,” Valentine says, adding that SmartTruck’s cost “is not significantly more than a standard powered forklift.”

Currently, the only automated function of SmartTruck is the path of travel. To use SmartTruck in a warehouse requires staffing a person at both ends: one to load a pallet manually and someone else to unload a pallet. In the future, however, Seegrid plans to develop a fleet management system to coordinate the moves of multiple vehicles and add behaviors such as lifting and dropping loads off, Valentine says.

Aren’t you hoping that Seegrid next tackles commercial motor vehicles?

Nextel, Air-Trak offer dual-mode service
Nextel Communications (www.nextel.com) announced a partnership with Air-Trak Inc. (www.air-trak.com) to provide a dual-mode GPS tracking and communications service for ubiquitous coverage. The service combines satellite and cellular communications on Nextel’s iDEN network and GPS/Java-enabled phones, Air-Trak’s vehicle-mounted tracking unit or a combination of the two.

The service is available through Air-Trak’s SatCom upgrade – an add-on module that consists of a satellite transceiver equipped with an omni-directional antenna and onboard intelligence that automatically redirects communications to the satellite network when cellular service is unavailable. The dual-mode service provides Nextel customers 100 percent coverage throughout North America, Central America and parts of South America.

Customs drops C-TPAT mandate for ACE
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has eliminated the requirement for Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) certification for participation in Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) tests. CBP hopes to increase usage of ACE, the new commercial trade processing system being developed to enhance border security and expedite trade. ACE will replace the paper-dependent Automated Commercial System (ACS) with an integrated, fully automated information system.

Separately, Celadon said that it and its Canadian subsidiary, Celadon Canada, were the first full truckload carriers to be fully certified participants in ACE.

Traffic reports on the go
Two navigation systems recently announced the availability of real-time traffic information. RandMcNally (www.randmcnally.com) announced a partnership with TeleCommunication Systems Inc. to offer Rand McNally Traffic. In more than 90 U.S. cities, subscribers can get unlimited, immediate access to information on accidents, construction, areas of congestion, road closures, weather conditions and traffic-impacting events such as sporting events and concerts.

Rand McNally Traffic is initially available to Sprint PCS Vision, AT&T Wireless and ALLTEL mobile phone subscribers with compatible phones for $3.99 a month. Visit this site.

Siemens VDO Automotive, a supplier of automotive electronic/electrical systems and components, has added “Traffic Message Channel” (TMC) capabilities to its VDO Dayton line of vehicle navigation systems that can route drivers around traffic delays automatically, before the traffic incident has been reached. Broadcast of the traffic and travel information is delivered through a partnership between Tele Atlas (a provider of digital maps and dynamic location content) and Clear Channel Radio. One-year service is $59.90 ($4.99/month). Visit this site.

Online bids choose e4score
iGit Enterprises – developer of this site, a portal for collaboration in the transportation supply community – announced that two providers of transportation sourcing solutions, Verticalnet Inc. and Manhattan Associates Inc., will use the e4score Carrier Profile Database to identify potential carriers for truckload bid events. Truckload carriers in the database can be considered automatically whenever a Verticalnet or Manhattan Associates client conducts an Request for Information (RFI), says Chuck Irwin, president of iGit Enterprises.