Classroom on wheels

Innovative Computing Corp. (www.innovativecomputingcorp.com) will release its Scriptor Data Access and Reporting Tool this month. ICC says the tool will provide easy access to the extensive data stored within its Innovative Enterprise Software (IES) for quality data preparation and export of critical information such as load, billing and equipment information to a variety of report writers and spreadsheet programs.

ALK Technologies (www.alk.com) and Integrated Decision Support Corp. (www.idscnet.com) will provide IDSC’s over-the-road fuel purchase optimization directly through ALK’s PC*Miler routing and mileage software.

McLeod Software (www.mcleodsoftware.com) said that sales during the first two months of 2007 were 79 percent higher than in the same 2006 period and that it posted a record first fiscal quarter, which began Oct. 1. Growth stemmed from new major accounts and increased adoption of the company’s document imaging system, it said.

Navman Wireless (www.navman.com) expanded its GPS and cellular-based Wireless Fleet Manager system to incorporate features designed specifically for monitoring construction site equipment. One such feature automatically transmits data such as ignition status, engine diagnostics and vehicle activity to the site manager.

SkyBitz (www.skybitz.com) said seven new customers selected the SkyBitz GLS 200 trailer-tracking system with Smart Sensor Tracking. Combined, the new customers operate more than 2,000 trailers.

In November 2005, Craig Fuller launched a new company, TransMarkets (www.transmarkets.com), to focus on developing new technology solutions for transportation. Previously, as a U.S. Xpress executive, Fuller had led several successful new business ventures. TransMarkets grew out of Fuller’s first venture on his own, Innovative Processing Solutions (IPS), which specialized in electronic processing services such as payroll cards.

In March 2006, Fuller began studying a largely untapped market – in-cab driver training and education. The effort included a survey of 226 drivers – most undergoing orientation at U.S. Xpress – that included the following question: If your fleet endorsed a program for continuing education, would you participate? Seventy-seven percent answered “Yes.”

The survey also asked drivers to mark their level of education. Drivers with at least some college experience were the largest segment and indicated the strongest interest in continuing education – an average of 4.5 in a scale of 5. Although the survey wasn’t based on a true random sample, it yields a confidence interval of more than 6 percent at a 95 percent confidence level, Fuller says. That means that at least 70 percent of all drivers at top truckload carriers almost certainly would answer “yes” to the same question.

Based on this and other research, TransMarkets launched In-Cab University in July as a continuing education and driver retention program. The company selected an embedded Windows XP onboard computing platform from DriverTech (www.drivertech.com) to launch its virtual in-cab classroom. The DriverTech platform has full-color and touchscreen functionality and multimode (satellite, cellular and Wi-Fi) communications.

In October, after extensive testing of the DriverTech system’s capabilities, TransMarkets and DriverTech entered into a marketing agreement. TransMarkets sells its suite of fleet management applications, including the In-Cab University “portal,” to fleets with fewer than 250 vehicles; DriverTech sells the mobile computing platform to fleets with more than 250 trucks.

After an initial pilot project, TransMarkets found that most drivers were interested in using In-Cab University to obtain a four-year degree. So the company joined with an accredited private school, Mountain State University in West Virginia, to offer an online bachelor’s and master’s degree in organizational leadership. Drivers can login from their cab or through any PC. The programs are flexible, allowing drivers to transfer college credits and military training. Drivers also can qualify for financial aid, Fuller says.

Several large carriers already have signed on to offer In-Cab University degree programs to drivers, Fuller says. They include Express-1, Covenant Transport, U.S. Xpress and Smith Transport.

Training for the road
TransMarkets then turned to offering safety training programs for In-Cab University. Safety training and risk management are already a core competency of successful enterprises, but training is expensive due to travel and lost utilization for drivers to sit in a classroom; it also is sporadic due to conflicting schedules, Fuller says. Last October, TransMarkets entered into an agreement with Instructional Technologies Inc. (www.instructiontech.net) to offer the Pro-Tread computer-based safety training system through In-Cab University.

ITI provides the Tread-1 and Pro-Tread interactive training modules. Both modules are constructed entirely in Flash to incorporate animation and video. The difference is that Tread-1 uses iMac computers connected by a server to ITI’s server in Vancouver, Wash. Fleets distribute the iMacs at their terminals to assign specific modules to drivers, depending on their needs or safety record, and track the results.

Pro-Tread is a Web-based version that is hardware-independent. Fleets can assign modules to drivers, and drivers can access them from any Web browser. Pro-Tread also can be loaded onto the hard drives of onboard computers, such as those from DriverTech, to offer in-cab safety training, says Bruce Weiss, executive vice president of ITI.

“The opportunity to have Tread-1 lessons in the cab, 24 hours a day, is a breakthrough for us,” says Tom Anderson, director of training at Interstate Distributors, a truckload carrier based in Tacoma, Wash. Interstate Distributors is adding DriverTech units to all of its new truck purchases, loaded with Pro-Tread training modules.

Interstate Distributors tries to hold quarterly training meetings with all its drivers, Anderson says. But trainers have to travel to each terminal to meet with drivers as they come through, and with 2,500 trucks, 10 terminals and 24/7 operations, meeting with drivers for safety training is a constant challenge.

“Basically, the driver doesn’t have an excuse anymore,” Anderson says.

Other options
TransMarkets isn’t the first to offer Tread-1 or Pro-Tread in the cab of a truck, however. ITI has offered the service through IdleAire for several years. But that service is tied to the availability of IdleAire comfort/entertainment connections at truckstops and a few trucking terminals.

ITI also is working with all of the leading mobile communication providers to offer Pro-Tread in the cab to their fleet customers. GeoLogic Solutions offers it now, and at least two more providers will offer Pro-Tread within a year, Weiss says.

J.J. Keller and Associates (www.jjkeller.com) also sees next-generation mobile computing platforms as a great way for its Web-based training products to reach drivers. J.J. Keller’s courses can be offered to drivers in the cab through interactive training, streaming videos, webcasts, podcasts and webinars, says Joel Landsverk, senior product development specialist.

Fuller says TransMarkets also is working on taking safety training to the next level using event-driven information, he says. The origin, destination, lane and other details of a trip could feed an algorithm that flows into a training module.

For example, if a driver is scheduled to go over Donner Pass in the middle of January, a fleet could require the driver to view a winter driving video. Or if a driver is scheduled to cross the U.S.-Canadian border through Windsor, Ontario, a fleet could require the driver to take a Canadian Customs training program in advance, Fuller says.

TransMarkets soon will be adding algorithms into its Web-based dispatch and transportation management system that will integrate with training modules through its In-Cab University portal. Fuller says by the end of this year, TransMarkets will begin initial testing of its “training optimization” model, which is now only a concept.

Judging by TransMarkets’ fast-paced record of development, this concept likely will soon be reality.


Xtra Lease adds Qualcomm trailer tracking
Xtra Lease (www.xtralease.com), a provider of over-the-road trailer equipment rental and leasing in North America, and Qualcomm (www.qualcomm.com), a provider of wireless enterprise applications and services, announced that Xtra Lease is expanding its service offering to include a customized version of Qualcomm’s T2 Untethered TrailerTracs asset management system for its trailers.

The two companies have collaborated to offer a Web-based user interface that will improve Xtra Lease customers’ ability to manage their fleets through trailer tracking. The new trailer-tracking interface provides dashboard features that enable Xtra Lease customers to quickly focus on fleet dormancy, utilization, history and mapping results. Qualcomm also has incorporated the enhancements into the T2 system for wider use; all customers using the Web-based T2 asset management system are able to use the new features and functionalities.

Xtra Lease plans to add Qualcomm’s T2 system to most of its dry van trailers by August. Xtra Lease customers will receive expanded tracking coverage into Mexico, in addition to the United States and Canada.


VeriWise goes live in Mexico
GE Equipment Services’ Mexico operation will begin offering customers the VeriWise Asset Intelligence solution this month, matching the total fleet management services it already offers to trucking companies in the United States and Canada.

GE Equipment Services (www.ge.com/equipment) has been operating its Trailer Fleet Services unit in Mexico since 1993, offering financing, lease, rental and maintenance services out of three branches.

“This step completes our North America coverage strategy laid out three years ago,” says Thomas Konditi, president and chief executive officer of GE’s Asset Intelligence division. “It supports our goal of providing seamless global supply chain visibility to transportation and logistics firms.”

Konditi noted that GE intends to offer Mexico customers its VeriWise satellite-based product first, and the cellular-based tracking solutions it gained in January with the Terion acquisition later this year.


Qualcomm, Sprint offer phone-based platform
Qualcomm (www.qualcomm.com) and Sprint (www.sprint.com) announced the launch of the Qualcomm Mobility Services for Transportation platform on Sprint’s GPS-capable mobile phones. Qualcomm says this service provides enterprise application developers with development and support tools for phone-based applications, including flexible mobile client development and support tools, intelligent two-way workflow management, and enhanced application and device provisioning.


TMW releases OnRoute communications
TMW Systems (www.tmwsystems.com) is releasing OnRoute, a mobile communications
product offering that is the first application to launch on the new Qualcomm Mobility Services for Transportation platform. The Qualcomm platform runs on the Nextel National Network from Sprint. OnRoute combines the dispatch-centered functionality of TMW’s D2Link mobile communications solution with the data security and message management capabilities of the new Qualcomm platform, TMW says. OnRoute allows fleets to use GPS-enabled phones running Java to communicate with drivers, track vehicles locations and assign loads.