Matching goals with reality

SiriComm (www.siricomm.com) will provide network access services at each of the 260 PrePass weigh station sites in 25 states. Under a three-year agreement, ACS Government Solutions will purchase SiriComm services for the benefit of its HELP Inc. contract for automated vehicle identification and weight station bypass.

Transportation Costing Group (www.tcgcis.com) has added a business intelligence module to the FACTS suite of software from Carrier Logistics Inc. The module, called FACTSview, is Microsoft Excel-based and uses TCG’s activity-based Cost Information System.

Getloaded.com, an Internet load board for the transportation industry, announced that it has added a new online portal, GLAuthority.com, to streamline the authority and permitting process for both motor carriers and brokers.

GeoLogic Solutions (www.gogeologic.com) released the latest version of its Web-based host software platform, Exec for Web, a component of the MobileMax Multi-Mode communications and tracking system. With the new platform, advanced MobileMax functions – such as custom forms-based messaging, geofencing, fleet performance data and engine diagnostic reporting – can be accessed from any browser, the company says.

QSI Corporation (www.qsicorp.com) has been selected by Independent Witness Inc. to provide the graphic mobile data terminal for its WaySmart driver and fleet management system.

Companies that use sophisticated optimization software to plan daily routes for vehicles and drivers face a common challenge. Often, what a computer calculates as mathematically possible is different from what experienced fleet operators say is reality.

For example, a corporate executive using a route optimization tool may conclude that his company could increase efficiency and capture market share by restructuring routes in Florida and the Carolinas to guarantee next-day, morning delivery service throughout the region. However, a local operations manager in Florida – based on personal experience of managing daily schedules and routes – may strongly disagree due to factors the computer didn’t consider, such as rush-hour traffic on certain routes.

DHL believes it has found a solution to this problem. In the past few years, the European courier market leader has aggressively gone after the U.S. domestic express market dominated by UPS Inc. and FedEx Corp. Currently, DHL – owned by Deutsche Post, the privatized German Postal Service – has about 7 percent market share. Initially, the company struggled in building a reliable network.

In the past two years, DHL has invested heavily in its network and launched several technology initiatives to boost customer service and increase efficiency. Through one of its most recent initiatives – route optimization – DHL Express now can model and execute both optimal service areas and optimized local routes that align closely with reality, says Steve Sanchez, senior manager of industrial engineering for DHL.

The new initiative, which the company announced in March, will be implemented in about 340 DHL facilities across the United States by September. Some of the benefits DHL plans to achieve are decreases in drive time, route length and fuel consumption. It also plans to increase the efficiency at each facility by quickly mapping out optimum delivery routes, streamlining sorting processes and balancing daily loads. In turn, DHL says its U.S. customers will benefit from better service.

Confident in the early results of its program, DHL already has expanded its money-back service guarantees for next-day 10:30 a.m. and Saturday delivery services to an additional 8 million ZIP code combinations.

The core technology of DHL’s route optimization program originated at the University of Illinois at Chicago. A research team, led by Dr. Ouri Wolfson, developed an intelligent battlefield management system with funding by the Army Research Labs. The technology was licensed to Mobitrac, and Mike Liddell, the company’s president and chief executive officer, adapted the modeling platform to commercial transportation.

Using Mobitrac’s software solutions, DHL’s route optimization process begins with data captured by its information systems. DHL industrial engineers take several days of representative work information from its various delivery areas and sectors in the DHL network.

“We pick a ‘typical’ day and build routes and resources in accord with that,” Sanchez says. Through collaboration with local operations teams, engineers then define a sophisticated set of performance metrics, including stops per on-road hour, stops per courier, total courier-on-road hours, and overtime.

“In taking representative information, it is important to understand how localized the information is,” Sanchez says. “Localized behavior changes drastically.”

DHL uses Mobitrac to calculate the per-capability baseline of different areas such as Manhattan or South Central Florida, Sanchez says. Mobitrac’s modeling platform then can define delivery areas and sectors around those metrics.

The “first cut” routing plan from Mobitrac then is taken to local operations managers who validate the execution capability to make sure the routes are reasonable and customer-friendly. Because the “first cut” plan changes boundaries and routes, the Mobitrac system can produce a large body of information in reports and printouts that DHL engineers present to drivers and operation managers to educate and communicate with them.

Using feedback from local service centers, the adjustments are entered into the Mobitrac modeling software, and the routes are optimized again – for the final time. “Final output is very service-intensive and is very aligned with service reality,” Sanchez says.

Before using Mobitrac, DHL was planning its routes with a lower level of detail and efficiency, Sanchez says. A typical planning process for a service area would take up to six weeks, whereas with Mobitrac’s planning and execution solution, DHL engineers can deliver a route restructuring plan in 10 days. If demand increases or decreases after the planning process, the software can dynamically flex the “trace” of a route, which was initially calculated based on a “typical” day.

“As demand exceeds area boundaries, new boundaries are created,” Sanchez says. “We are not dynamically dispatching. We are making sure we have created more optimal area traits and routes – the way we traverse an area.”

The dynamic route planning tools also have increased stability and consistency for operators and drivers. Benefits include vacation and absenteeism coverage, route flexing, and predictable adds and pulls, Sanchez says.

“The advantages are very clear,” Sanchez says. “The courier workload is much more consistent.” Sanchez says after using Mobitrac, DHL has achieved up to 15 percent improvement in stops per route and has reduced total overtime by 4 percent.

As operations and drivers become more efficient with the designed routes, Sanchez says customers are seeing strong increases in service performance against standards, such as on-time delivery and time in transit. That should go a long way in driving DHL’s success in growing its market share.


Tracking speed versus the law
PeopleNet (www.peoplenetonline.com), a provider of onboard computing and mobile communications systems, said it has integrated into its g3 mobile communications platform LandSonar SpeedGauge – a compliance tool that captures onboard information for speed and acceleration bound to vehicle location, and compares these to legal speed limits and safe operating speeds. SpeedGauge, which will be available commercially later this year, allows fleet managers to monitor vehicle speed on all roads nationwide – including city and surface streets. Each day, driver performance information is captured and sent via e-mail from the PerformX performance monitoring application to the fleet compliance manager. The daily reports document and rank driver compliance to the company policy and speed limits, the company says.

PeopleNet also announced it has teamed with Bolt, an Internet-based software management system designed for fleets with fewer than 500 trucks. Working through the g3 platform, PeopleNet will provide information on truck availability, and Bolt’s trucking software will post that unit to help find the best routing and backhaul information, says Gayle Robertson, principal of the Robertson Group – the developer of Bolt.


Better routes for big trucks
Rand McNally (http://trucking.randmcnally.com) released IntelliRoute Streets, the first in a series of forthcoming “add-on” software modules for its IntelliRoute software for Class 7 and 8 vehicles. The new module calculates accurate address-to-address mileages and routes with full map presentation, with highlighted route, pan and zoom, and street-level distances in the mileage breakdown.

The new address-to-address module, forthcoming modules and Internet updates represent major improvements to IntelliRoute, which Rand McNally says is the only trucking solution to include every industry mileage standard: practical, quickest, lowest-cost and Household Goods.


Integration for smaller carriers
TransCore (www.transcore.com) introduced OpsCenter, a software application that combines freight matching, dispatch management, asset tracking and mileage in a single Web-based interface. Aimed at small and medium-sized fleet operations, OpsCenter allows carriers to book orders, find freight and carriers, track trucks, e-mail drivers, and process billings and payments anywhere they have Web access, the company says.

OpsCenter offers carriers full North American freight matching through postings to both the LoadLink and DAT Services – both owned by TransCore. Other services integrated in OpsCenter are LinkDispatch management services, GlobalWave satellite-based asset tracking and ProMiles mileage. Based on the number of users and the selected system components, OpsCenter can be as low as $100 per month, TransCore says.