Optimization for simpler tasks

Lectronix (www.lectronix.biz) and Bluetooth specialist Parrot said they will integrate Parrot’s CK5050 OEM Bluetooth hands-free kit into the Lectronix Navion T7000 in-dash driver information and navigation system. Truckers now can have a hands-free cell phone call by wirelessly connecting their Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone to the truck’s Navion T7000 dash-mounted console and speaker system.

Tele Atlas (www.teleatlas.com), a provider of digital maps and dynamic content for navigation, and Cobra Electronics announced they will continue a partnership to equip most of Cobra’s navigation devices with Tele Atlas’ digital maps.

Routeware (www.routeware.com), a supplier of hardware and software for the waste industry, launched Alurte, a fleet management system that features GPS tracking, mapping and alerts for speeding, idling and unauthorized use.

Carrier Logistics (www.carrierlogistics.com) said that its FACTS freight management system has been chosen by Purolator Courier, Canada’s largest courier company, to support the growth of its new freight division, Purolator Freight.

Telargo (www.telargo.com), a provider of mobile asset management solutions, announced that Bradco Supply, a national distributor of building materials, is deploying Telargo’s fleet management solution in more than 1,000 vehicles.

What does your worst dispatcher or load planner cost you? If you added up lost profits in a year due to cronyism, excess empty mileage, poor utilization and other mistakes, what would you get?

A couple of years ago, TMW Systems (www.tmwsystems.com) asked this question to a select group of customers. The company was in the early stages of developing a new software tool for its enterprise management software, TMWSuite.

Dave Mook, chief operations and chief technology officer for TMW Systems, says one fleet executive instantly answered “$100,000 per year.” Other fleets agreed that the difference between their best and worst dispatcher is $100,000 a year.

Most dispatch software systems have tools for dispatchers to quickly match drivers to loads, and vice versa. With basic training, a dispatcher can learn to sort and filter data in a variety of ways. For example, he may start by filtering drivers by proximity to a load. He then may filter by hours of service and equipment type to converge on a good driver-load combination.

But considering everyday work distractions and time constraints, even the most experienced load planners are likely to make errors. Furthermore, carriers cannot afford to wait months for a new dispatcher to operate at peak performance. So to eliminate mistakes and squeeze out more profits from their business, truckload carriers increasingly are looking to standardize and, in some cases, automate their load matching decision processes.

On the high end of the technology scale are dispatch optimization systems from vendors Integrated Decision Support Corp. (IDSC) and Manhattan Associates. They integrate with dispatch software to provide load planners and dispatchers with optimal recommendations for matching drivers and loads.

These systems solve a full-scale optimization problem. They consider all possible driver and load combinations at once to find the most profitable – and feasible – driver and load matching solution. For example, a carrier with 50 trucks and 50 loads faces a vast number of possible combination sets. Optimization software can quickly find the most profitable set.

One problem with these solutions is their cost; they generally are too expensive for carriers with fewer than 250 trucks, Mook says. At TMW Systems’ annual User Group conference in October 2006, the company showcased a “lighter weight” optimization tool that is practical for small to mid-size truckload carriers, Mook says.

Instead of solving the complex challenge posed above, the company’s Intelligent Dispatch Assistant (IDA) is designed to solve a much simpler problem. For example, IDA finds the best possible match from a set of 50 drivers to one load, or one driver to 50 loads. To do this, the program uses a complex evaluation process that measures each driver-load combination. It then ranks possible matches using a total profitability value.

To measure each combination, IDA uses separate customizable, plug-in code modules called “evaluators.” Each evaluator checks one load versus one driver at a time using different “factors” – that is, constraints – that are unique to each different evaluator, which might include revenue, empty mileage or driver preferences, among many others.

Each evaluator returns a “go” or “no-go” solution and a value for each possible match. Drivers or loads that fall in the “no-go” category are dropped automatically from the list, and IDA ranks “go” drivers or loads using a total profitability value for each match.

IDA is designed to show dispatchers the total profitability value and other numbers behind the recommendations. It also is simple for users to edit the evaluators, Mook says; for example, a dispatcher may want to add a driver preference or “soft cost penalty” to an evaluator to avoid sending a certain driver to New York City.

Fleets can suggest best matches for each load reviewed, or allow IDA to just operate in the background, flagging only poor decisions. Managers can review decisions and the reasons why a dispatcher might need to override a certain match suggestion.

A handful of TMW customers are currently using IDA, and it’s not quite ready for the masses, Mook says. When it is ready, IDA should be much easier to implement than a full-scale optimization system. IDA is just one of several new intelligent decision tools TMW Systems plans to offer to the trucking industry in the next few years, he says.

Arsenault reports record growth in ’06
Arsenault Associates (www.arsenault.biz) reported record growth of more than 31 percent for 2006. Founder and CEO Charles Arsenault says the company added 54 new Dossier fleet software customers and 246 new 24/7 Fleet Online ASP users last year.

GE Equipment Services acquires Terion’s business
GE Equipment Services (www.ge.com/equipment) has acquired the business
of trailer-tracking vendor Terion (www.terion.com). Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. GE Equipment Services said it will integrate Terion’s businesses with its Asset Intelligence division, which includes the VeriWise Asset Intelligence trailer-tracking solution. The Asset Intelligence division is involved in developing solutions not only to track and monitor assets but also to predict maintenance requirements and costs.

“Our business is evolving from simply providing financing for transportation assets to providing broader solutions that help shippers and transporters make their supply chains more productive,” says Deborah Reif, Equipment Services president and chief executive officer. “Terion’s technology, people and vision complement ours beautifully, and will help us increase our current capabilities for over-the-road trailers and accelerate our development of intelligence-based services for other modes of transport.”

Asset Intelligence and Terion will coordinate operations but continue to operate separately over the next several months while the two businesses develop and implement integration plans, GE Equipment Services said.

TCG adds new analysis tools
Transportation Costing Group (www.tcgcis.com), specialists in activity-based cost analysis, announced the addition of several new capabilities to its Truckload Cost Information System (TL/CIS) and its Less-Than-Truckload Cost Information System (LTL/CIS).

Both systems have a new accessorial revenue feature that identifies costs based on the load-specific revenues related to value-added services provided. The feature calculates the corresponding costs of specific extra services to enable more effective analyses and enhance rating capabilities, the company says. Other enhancements include a simplified drill-down process to investigate reasons for specific loss or profitability issues, the company says.