Guarding your wallet

Arsenault Associates (www.arsenault.biz) has integrated engine diagnostic data from Networkcar’s vehicle management system, Networkfleet, into Dossier fleet maintenance software. Dossier users automatically can receive trouble codes and odometer and hour meter readings to automate maintenance scheduling, the company says.

Transplace Inc. (www.transplace.com), a provider of logistics technology and transportation management services, announced the Transplace Pay On-Demand Program for carriers. Participating carriers are paid as soon as their invoices are approved instead of having to wait for the agreed credit terms, the company says.

Innovative Computing Corp. (www.innovativecomputingcorp.com), a provider of enterprise-level software for truckload carriers, is set to release IES Mobile, a mobile phone-based driver management and productivity application powered by Qualcomm Mobility Services with direct integration with Innovative Enterprise Software.

SkyBitz (www.skybitz.com), a satellite-based asset-tracking and information management service provider, added two products to its existing suite: Cargo Sensor and Tractor/Trailer ID. Cargo Sensor uses ultrasonic technology to monitor the entire length of the trailer, while Tractor/Trailer ID identifies the tractor that is hooked to the trailer, displaying this information on the InSight Web portal, the company says.

To borrow an adage from American Express, you should never “leave home” without a fleet purchasing card. Or at least your drivers shouldn’t. Fleet cards have been around for years, but they remain the best – and possibly only – way to control when, where and how much fuel and other items can be purchased by drivers on the road.

What has changed recently is the number of online tools and data integration features between fleet cards and fleet enterprise resource planning (ERP) software systems.

FleetCor’s Fuelman program gives fleet managers control over a number of parameters by logging in to the iTrack Web portal. Fleets can fine-tune fuel transactions by vehicle, time of day, day of week, gallon, dollar amount and many other scenarios. If drivers exceed any one parameter, the pump will shut off automatically. Fleets can view transactions in real time by logging in to iTrack and by using instant e-mail alerts to catch irregular behavior, says Ken Greenway, president of Fuelman.

Technology is becoming a level playing field, but one distinguishing trait among fleet fuel cards continues to be the characteristics of each vendor’s fuel network. Each network consists of different merchant locations, discounts and pricing options for fleets, such as cost-plus agreements. And some vendors charge transaction fees, while others do not.

Another significant difference among vendors is the scope of card services they offer that go beyond fuel purchasing. A couple of fuel card vendors now offer wireless fleet tracking systems in order to better integrate fleet fueling data with real-time vehicle and driver information.

In July, Fleet One – a provider of fuel card and fleet-related payment services – announced Vehicle Tracking Solutions through a partnership with NationLink Wireless. Fleet One customers can view vehicle locations and Fleet One fuel-stop locations on a password-protected website. With a click of a button, fleet managers can pull up point-to-point directions for any vehicle, says Tom Wagner, vice president of strategic markets.

In addition to locating fuel stops, fleet managers can view amenities offered by each merchant, such as showers or food services. The system also tracks state mileages by vehicle, which – when combined with fuel purchase data from Fleet One – can simplify IFTA fuel tax reporting.

Wright Express recently added a telematics solution called WEXSmart in partnership with Networkcar’s vehicle management system, Networkfleet. The technology provides real-time reports on vehicle locations, speeds and operating conditions.

Customers that use WEXSmart get a single bill and single website to manage vehicles and fuel. Customers are using the new integrated system to cut down on idle time and automate IFTA fuel tax reporting, says Jessica Roy, director of communications for Wright Express.

MasterCard and Visa payment solutions are another way fleets are expanding their use of fleet card technology. Fleets can use these card programs to transfer payroll and settlement funds to a driver’s debit card to use at any merchant. Fleets also can set the cards to control purchases down to the product-code level for tires, batteries, oil, etc.

A potential drawback of Visa or MasterCard programs, however, is the speed of transaction reporting. Merchants settle directly with Visa or MasterCard, not the fleet card vendor. As a result, to save money, some merchants process transactions in batches, and transactions may take a day or more to show up online or in a fleet’s ERP system.

Generally, Visa or MasterCard programs are not the best option for managing over-the-road purchases by drivers, vendors say, but these are effective for streamlining business processes and reducing corporate expenditures.

T-Chek Systems offers a secure, convenient and cost-effective way to pay for fleet and corporate expenditures with a Virtual MasterCard Purchasing Program. The program is effective in combating fraud because a “card” number is securely and randomly generated and only used one time, says Mike Otto, T-Chek marketing manager. T-Chek’s suite of Web services allows easy integration into ERP and asset management systems.

Comdata’s MasterCard multi-card program delivers financial applications that improve control and visibility of discretionary expenses; the company also pays fleets back by sharing a portion of the interchange fee for each purchase. Trucking companies use Comdata’s MasterCard multi-card program for travel and entertainment, fleet maintenance, licensing, EZ-Pass tolls, office supplies and any item that is payable to a vendor. “It is helping them in all areas of the balance sheet to gain better control and visibility of their spend,” says Bob Sneed, vice president of corporate payment solutions.

Instead of requiring a shop manager to fill out a purchase order to buy shop supplies or pay a third-party repair service, the fleet can issue a Comdata corporate card and set cash limits at pre-approved suppliers. The shop manager purchases directly from a supplier with the corporate card; he also can request a “virtual” MasterCard number that only can be used once at a specific vendor for a specific dollar amount.

Expanding your internal controls through fleet and corporate purchasing cards – whether plastic or virtual – can have benefits beyond fraud prevention. With more visibility of financial transactions and more efficiency in your approval and payment processes, you also might get more out of your human capital.


McLeod offers new products, features
At its annual users conference Oct. 4 in Birmingham, Ala., McLeod Software announced new products and features related to its three principal lines of software business – trucking management, brokerage/logistics management and document imaging.

McLeod is offering a new module called the Rapid Alert Notification System (RANS) for its flagship trucking enterprise system, LoadMaster. The feature allows users to define conditions that will prompt an immediate e-mail, message window or a custom audible alert to complement color-coded alerts already in LoadMaster.

For its PowerBroker brokerage/logistics enterprise system, McLeod introduced a new EDI for Logistics Module, giving brokers and logistics operations electronic data interchange capability. McLeod’s EDI transmits data in a true format, allowing the option to bypass a VAN and character fees associated with it.

For its Document Imaging System, McLeod is offering HirePower, a new module designed to reduce hiring times by allowing remote data entry of applications and to ensure a controlled, consistent application process. HirePower allows drivers to complete their applications through a secure, remote website; the application is made available automatically to all members of a recruiting team, assigning tasks to minimize work while simultaneously verifying and storing the 30 or more qualifying documents into an organized recruiting “file cabinet.”


McLeod offers new products, features
On Oct. 22 at the American Trucking Associations’ annual Management Conference and Exhibition in Orlando, Fla., McLeod announced a new cell phone application called mPhone designed to allow fleets and owner-operators to cost-effectively use a variety of phones from Nextel and Sprint and subscriptions to the Qualcomm Mobility Services platform to reliably and securely communicate load, vehicle and delivery information.


Qualcomm adds new features to OmniVision
Qualcomm announced new applications for the OmniVision mobile computing platform, and a terrestrial (CDMA) option for fleets or portions of fleets that do not require ubiquitous coverage. The system upgrade is a software and over-the-air firmware update. The new applications include Critical Event Reporting (CER), Maptuit’s NaviGo in-cab navigation, Vehicle Maintenance and new driver e-mail and content delivery options for improved logistical planning, operational performance and driver satisfaction.

Qualcomm’s CER application records, retrieves and analyzes truck and driver performance information – including data from third-party safety devices – to reconstruct and review critical events such as hard braking. CER data automatically is sent over the air immediately following an event, says Norm Ellis, vice president and general manager of transportation and logistics for Qualcomm Enterprise Services, formerly known as Qualcomm Wireless Business Solutions.

Vehicle Maintenance gives fleet managers a view into the mechanics of their fleet’s truck engines to monitor engine performance and troubleshoot if something goes wrong, Ellis says. Driver e-mail allows drivers to receive and send messages to/from designated family and friends at no charge; “Jill,” the voice of the OmniVision platform, broadcasts received messages over the air so drivers can concentrate on driving. Content delivery allows transportation companies to send audio files with important messages over the air to a specific driver or to their entire fleet of drivers.


TransCore integrates VoIP into 3sixty Freight Match
TransCore has added a PC-to-PC or PC-to-landline calling feature into 3sixty Freight Match, the company’s Internet-based logistics service that facilitates matching shipper’s freight to available trucks. To accomplish this, TransCore integrated Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP) within the freight matching logistics workflow of 3sixty Freight Match.

With a new feature called 1click2call, available free to all 3sixty Freight Match customers, users can complete a business transaction at a faster rate. Instead of identifying a load and then shifting back and forth between the computer, phone and databases, a customer – with one click – immediately can call the broker or carrier from the search results screen, with all essential data for the call, such as the carrier’s safety rating, provided on a customized pop-up screen.


EBE releases software for recruiting, driver management
EBE Technologies introduced a comprehensive suite of driver-focused software solutions for its SHIPS enterprise business process management (BPM) software for transportation. This newest addition integrates data from dispatch, accounting and mobile communications systems to deliver more efficient and cost-effective processes for recruiting and managing drivers and other personnel, says Larry Kerr, EBE president and chief executive officer.

SHIPS Driver Management Solutions are designed to capture, monitor and automate all aspects of driver activity, safety records and compliance behavior. A separate SHIPS Driver Performance module allows companies to efficiently gather, measure and take action on data stored in various systems, such as missing paperwork, hours-of-service compliance, commercial driver’s license expirations and other criteria monitored within the mobile communications system; it also tracks driver turnover and other statistics, the company says.