Creating chemistry among customers

GE Capital Solutions (www.gefleetservices.com) announced that CO2 emissions-tracking metrics have been added to my.Dashboard, GE’s Web-based reporting and analytical tool, for fleet customers of GE’s fuel program. In addition, GE provides an annual customer review process for CO2 emissions.

ALK Technologies (www.alk.com) unveiled PC Miler Web Services, a hosted interfacing application designed to provide PC Miler map data and functionality quickly and efficiently to customers. It does this regardless of the IT infrastructure via a schema-driven XML/SOAP interface developed in Microsoft .NET, packaged as a Web service.

Arsenault Associates (www.arsenault.biz) released version 4.4 of its Dossier fleet maintenance software along with a new feature, Invoice Data Import. For fleets that depend upon outside service vendors, the new option eliminates data entry of outside vendor invoices to save time and money, the company says.

SkyBitz (www.skybitz.com) has been awarded the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) 913 Intrinsically Safe Apparatus and Associated Apparatus Compliance for its signature GLS 210 trailer-tracking hardware.

Maptuit (www.maptuit.com) announced that Stevens Transport will be returning to Maptuit after a brief trial with another directions provider. Stevens once again will provide its drivers with FleetNav Directions for truck-to-dock and turn-by-turn directions, Maptuit says.

Shippers of bulk chemicals are competing in an increasingly global market, with even specialty chemicals on the verge of being labeled a “commodity.” In addition, shippers face increased pressure from manufacturers and other end users to offer just-in-time and other specialized delivery services. When combined, these pressures are driving shippers to find new alternatives to transport bulk products more economically, safer and faster.

Typically, smaller chemical shipments are made in totes (275- to 330-gallon containers), drums and tank trailers. In the first quarter of 2006, DistTech began a process to change this model through an offering it calls LTL Bulk. DistTech – a dedicated contract carrier of bulk liquid commodities – is delivering liquids in a dedicated, less-than-tankload environment.

DistTech developed its LTL Bulk solution as a way to incorporate numerous shippers into shared vessel space on DistTech’s nearly 300 multi-compartment tank trailers. With segregated delivery systems, the trailers prevent products from being mixed while loading and unloading, says John Rakoczy, chief operating officer of Newbury, Ohio-based DistTech.

Most fleets that provide dedicated carriage bill customers on a fixed rate, regardless of a shipment’s weight or volume. By contrast, DistTech’s LTL Bulk offering charges by vessel space. For example, if two DistTech customers each have a shipment of 1,000 gallons from Seattle to Portland, Ore., they could cut the cost of the shipment in half by agreeing to share vessel space on a multi-compartment trailer. Each customer pays a percentage of the cost based on the number of vessels used.

“This is especially beneficial during down cycles or down periods of the year,” Rakoczy says. “In the off season, gallons tend to shrink, and the cost per gallon goes up.”
In order to successfully market, plan and execute its new offering, DistTech began by fostering relationships between customers. The company regularly brings customers to Ohio to participate in meetings where the carrier and shippers openly exchange ideas.

Geography, business segment and technology are instrumental to the success of the program, Rakoczy says. Participants can’t be competing shippers – at least not yet -and products obviously cannot be dangerously incompatible. Shippers also must have common area pickup points. In many cases, shippers’ delivery times are inflexible, yet their pickup times can be changed to make LTL Bulk a success, Rakoczy says. “Also, the business rules must be co-developed and very clear for this program to be successful,” he says.

DistTech leverages several key technologies to plan and execute its LTL Bulk offering. Its trailers are equipped with segregated hydraulic-driven pumps. Each pump has electronic flow meters that track the exact volume of liquid loaded at pickup and unloaded at each delivery. The meters are integrated with Qualcomm units in the trucks.

At each delivery, drivers send a proof-of-delivery macro that includes the customer, location and gallons dispensed. DistTech uses this information to expedite its paperless billing process, Rakoczy says.

To create and plan routes for LTL Bulk, DistTech developed a proprietary “optimizer” that minimizes the miles per gallon of delivery for a group of customers. The optimizer interfaces with the company’s dispatch system from TMW Systems, as well as the PC Miler mapping and mileage system from ALK Technologies.

“Because of (PC Miler), we have visibility to all of the loads,” Rakoczy says. “We can create a phantom order and a phantom truck movement, usually about a week ahead. You have to allow time for shippers to manufacture the product – otherwise, you are planning a load that they didn’t make yet.”

DistTech presents its optimized orders and routes to customers. If the customers agree to the plan, an LTL Bulk delivery is dispatched.

Currently, three large customers are participating in LTL Bulk, with a more standardized pattern of deliveries set to begin in the third quarter. Rakoczy expects the number of participants to increase as the company continues to identify opportunities through technology and through collaboration among its dedicated contract customers.

“It takes a multitude of good people to make this work, including IT resources, shipper’s lab professionals and, of course, the transportation professionals who witness the benefits firsthand,” Rakoczy says. “This is a major step that is unique within the tank truck industry today.”


PeopleNet to launch new display in November
PeopleNet will launch commercially its enhanced display, the PeopleNet BLU Driver Center, in November, the company announced last month at its users conference in Hilton Head, S.C. The new color display operates on Windows Mobile and XP and features touchscreen and multilingual functionality. With three USB ports, a 1.5 GHZ processor and rugged design, the BLU Driver Center is designed to enable applications such as in-cab navigation, training videos, scanning and faxing – all of which will be offered starting in the fourth quarter, said Ron Konezny, PeopleNet’s chief executive officer.

“We are radically redesigning the way we interact with drivers, and the way drivers can work in terms of training, load discussions, routing and driving,” said Brian McLaughlin, PeopleNet’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. “This is a whole new way of doing business from a technology perspective.”

The new BLU Driver Center initially will cost more than three times the current LCD display and keyboard. Over the long run, Konezny said the company plans to offer its g3 in-cab system and BLU Driver Center at the same overall price as today.

The company also announced several new applications and software enhancements. The company’s goal is to release 15 to 20 new applications a year, delivered through the Web and through wireless networks to onboard computers, Konezny said.

One of the new applications is a Report Engine for the Web-based interface, PeopleNet Fleet Manager (PFM), set for release in the fourth quarter. The Report Engine will provide more options for more condensed and customized “push” reports, Konezny said.

In early 2008, PeopleNet will offer a satellite modem to customers who want expanded coverage beyond digital and analog cellular, such as northern Canada and Mexico. The company also will release e-Driver Logs 3.0 in early 2008, as well as enhance its vehicle and driver performance system, PerformX 3.0, with more frequent and additional types of data reporting.

PeopleNet also announced the availability of new applications through its g3 Services connectivity platform. Through a partnership with True Context, present and future in-cab software applications from PeopleNet can be deployed in a Windows Mobile environment with handheld devices. A three-phase integration plan with the Eaton Vorad system will allow data to be transmitted in real time to back-office software for analysis.

PeopleNet now offers in-cab scanning and faxing through Microdea, and remote vehicle disablement through Magtec. It also offers a host of connectivity options with various truck and trailer sensors and monitors through a product called Wi-VAN.

This year’s PeopleNet Users Conference drew almost 500 fleet attendees. Konezny said the company grew significantly in the past year, with 150 new customers installing more than 70,000 in-cab units.


iTrak launches new FleetFinder
iTrak Corp. (www.itrak.com) launched its new FleetFinder application for PDA and Smartphone devices, allowing a field supervisor to view a list of vehicles in his fleet and choose what information to display about any vehicle.