One-card solutions

@Road (www.atroad.com) introduced Dynamic Capacity Management (DCM) Suite, a solution designed to optimize field service planning, capacity control and appointment management. The company says the solution can continually synchronize available resources with ever-changing customer needs and preferences.

WebTech Wireless (www.webtech.com), a provider of fleet telematics, and Intermec (www.intermec.com), a developer of mobile computing and data collections systems, announced they have attained Gold Certified Partner status in the Microsoft Partner Program.

TMW Systems (www.tmwsystems.com), an enterprise management software provider, reported signing 17 new customers in the first quarter of 2006, substantially more than in the same 2005 period. TMW says the new customers bring its active customer list to more than 560 carriers and private fleets.

Transportation Costing Group (www.tcgcis.com) said that Blenker, Wis.-based deBoer Transportation adopted its Truckload Cost Information System (TL/CIS) for use in deBoer’s fleet of more than 500 tractors and 1,300 trailers.

Terion (www.terion.com) and Add On Systems (www.addonsystems.com) announced the completion of the first phase of Web-services integration for AS400 dispatch applications. The joint development uses features in Terion’s FleetView trailer-tracking system to power Add On Systems’ Trailer Monitoring and Management application.

GeoLogic Solutions (www.gogeologic.com), provider of the MobileMax multi-mode communications and tracking system, announced the availability of over-the-air software downloading capabilities for upgrades and enhancements.

Fleets have long used purchasing cards as the standard tool for capturing and controlling fuel expenses and other transactions. Over time, vendors have added a variety of fuel discount and rebate programs, fueling networks and other services.

As the selection has grown, technology also has given fleets the flexibility to use cards from multiple vendors without adding an ounce of complexity. For example, if you choose one card for local or regional drivers, you could use a separate card for over-the-road operations without having to manage separate systems.

Some fleet management software providers have developed interfaces to manage multiple fleet cards simultaneously, as if a fleet were using only one card.

Some fleet card vendors have developed their own unique interfaces for fleet software systems to eliminate everyday work. Instead of logging in to a card vendor’s website each time you need to perform a routine operation – wire money, download transaction data, assign cards to new drivers or change card limits – these items are handled automatically.

T-Chek Systems developed an interface for fleet software systems called TRIP. After a load is created in dispatch, TRIP captures information about the specific event – the load number, truck, trailer and driver information. This event is sent through the Internet to T-Chek’s database, which can be configured to automatically advance funds to the card and activate it.

“When the load completes or is terminated, the card can be deactivated to protect against non-business related fueling,” says Bruce Larson, senior vice president of IT for T-Chek Systems. “Purchase information is also sent back to the dispatch system, creating check calls and, if configured, flows into financial applications.”

While integration with dispatch software boosts efficiency, a true one-card solution extends controls and reporting beyond drivers.

“It is T-Chek’s vision for one vendor to provide a single source of data for all purchases, while providing flexibility within our systems to address any customer’s financial reporting, data collection and purchase control requirements,” Larson says.

This strategy is shared by all. Comdata’s card traditionally was used exclusively by fleets to purchase diesel fuel. The company now offers the Comdata MasterCard, an addition that increases acceptance of the Comdata card at more than 225,000 retail facilities, says Bob Sneed, vice president of sales and marketing.

The Comdata MasterCard has traditional controls, such as limiting purchases to a specific dollar amount per transaction per day. It also has the traditional expanded data capture of a vehicle’s odometer and unit number for each transaction.

One of the added features of the Comdata MasterCard is that fleets can use it to restrict purchases to certain locations (MCC codes) and brands – not just fuel locations and fuel type. It also can be used with terminal fueling systems and to process pre-negotiated discounts at select merchants – such as fuel or office supplies – at the point of sale.

The card also can be used to capture corporatewide spending on a single platform, Sneed says. Comdata MasterCard clients can improve administrative efficiency by having individual card users, such as a purchasing manager or salesperson, assign general ledger codes online for their purchases. A manager can review the transactions and GL coding online, and then export the data to a financial accounting system.

“Comdata has taken the MasterCard platform and extended it to be more than a fleet card to be an all-in-one purchasing card to pay for everything from office supplies to discretionary business expenses,” Sneed says.

Fleet One offers a Visa-branded fleet card, but Dave Rewers, vice president of sales for Fleet One, says very few fleets are using it to pay corporate invoices. He says most of Fleet One’s purchasing card customers choose the non-Visa card, which gives a discount of 2 cents per gallon off of retail in Fleet One’s rebate network of 500 stops, with no transaction fees and no gallon minimums.

While the concept is still new to trucking, many businesses are paying invoices using card numbers instead of checks. This practice gives companies cash rebates from credit card companies, but merchants have little incentive to change, Rewers says; merchants must pay card fees up to 3 percent of the transaction.

Another drawback of using a co-branded fleet card, according to Rewers, is that merchants outside of the card vendor’s fuel network may not guarantee level 3 details, such as product type and quantity. Also, some merchants decide to process their Visa or MasterCard transactions daily or in weekly batches, and transaction details are not available in real time.

Some fleet card providers also use batch settlement processes for purchases made within their network, says Mark Lavin, senior vice president of field sales for FleetCor’s Fuelman fleet card.

“You may know that an authorization has occurred, but not have complete information that a driver bought 150 gallons until the next day,” he says.

The Fuelman fleet card provides real-time transaction processing and instant online visibility of complete transaction details, Lavin says. The Fuelman card also can be set to limit purchases to a specific gallon limit, and the pump literally will shut off once that limit is reached.

No matter how many fleet cards you use now, providers are banking that their latest technologies and services will give fleets new incentives to use true one-card solutions.


Qualcomm announces Critical Event Reporting
Qualcomm (www.qualcomm.com) announced a new vehicle data recording application for use with the OmniTracs mobile communications system. The new Critical Event Reporting (CER) application records, retrieves and analyzes truck and driver performance information in order to reconstruct and review critical events, the company says.

“New applications such as CER have great potential to generate further return on our investment in mobile communications,” says John Rakoczy, chief operating officer of Distribution Technologies, a 400-truck liquid-bulk tank carrier based in Newbury, Ohio. “Tools that support a more proactive, preventative approach to safety will help improve driver performance and reduce truck accidents.”

Qualcomm says the CER application will be available commercially this summer.


ALK releases PC Miler 20
ALK Technologies (www.alk.com) announced the anniversary release of PC Miler 20 – the 20th annual upgrade of its routing, mileage and mapping software solution. The latest version includes 15,000 more miles than the previous version, for 771,000 total miles of truck-specific roadway and 350,000 miles of truck restrictions.

Enhancements to PC Miler 20 include the ability to track types of roads traveled and summarize the distances traveled on particular road types – such as interstates, four-lane divided highways or two-lane undivided roads.