Strip-mining the Web for loads

SiriComm (www.siricomm.com), a provider of wireless Internet access for drivers and fleet productivity applications, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. In November 2007, SiriComm’s core network and Internet provider, ViaSat, turned off connectivity between the SiriComm network nodes, effectively disabling SiriComm’s entire wireless network.

ALK Technologies (www.alk.com) said that Aljex Software has integrated ALK’s PC Miler software into its full-service truckload brokerage solutions. Integration enables Aljex customers to access the routing, mapping and mileage functionality of PC Miler within Aljex brokerage solutions.

Descartes Systems Group (www.descartes.com) acquired certain assets of the fleet management business formerly known as Mobitrac from privately-held Fluensee Inc. in an all-cash transaction.

FleetCor (www.fleetcor.com) and Trimble (www.trimble.com) have partnered to provide the FleetCor Fleet MasterCard program to Trimble mobile resource management customers. The fuel card program will work with Trimble’s FuelGuard reporting feature – a theft-reduction capability that identifies the fueling of unauthorized vehicles on company-issued fuel cards.

J.J. Keller & Associates (www.jjkeller.com) recently introduced its Client Information Center, a Web-based tool designed to provide a link between fleet operators and J.J. Keller’s Vehicle Outsource Services area by giving users access to real-time fleet compliance data.

Any eBay user knows the frustration of losing a bid in the final seconds. Today, savvy eBay enthusiasts use automated bidding tools such as EZ Sniper (www.ezsniper.com) that give the competition no time to respond to their closing bids. They also can keep their knowledge of the value of items private.

With freight slow, many carriers also are scavenging the Web for spot loads. Until recently, this wasn’t too difficult, as there were but a handful of significant load boards. But according to the research firm ARC, most large shippers have built, or are in the processes of building, Web portals for carriers to login and view, bid on and accept loads. Shippers also are requiring carriers to enter these Web portals regularly to update the delivery status of loads.

For years, carriers have used software that automates these routine load transactions with shippers via electronic data interchange. The market is changing, however. EDI is still the standard, but its use is becoming more limited as shippers seek ways to reduce costs.

As a result, many carriers that use EDI now are visiting one or more shipper websites manually throughout the day to find loads to transport on their equipment, or to broker out to other carriers.

“One of our EDI customers posts loads on a website, and these loads are available for low bidding,” says Kenny Cornett, vice president of operations for D&D Sexton Inc., a refrigerated truckload carrier based in Carthage, Mo. “All other loads are EDI offer, a phone call or e-mail offer when we are not primary or secondary on a lane.”

Naturally, the number of websites monitored by carriers will increase according to the size of their operations. The impact is more administrative costs – and more room for human error.

“The problem right now is that carriers have people sitting in front of a machine, hitting the refresh button looking for new loads,” says David McCarty, marketing director of Intelek Technologies. “It is very human- and time-intensive.”

So Intelek (www.intelek-tech.com) soon will release a new load automation tool called StripMiner. The software was developed to gather loads continuously from multiple trading partner websites.

By logging in to secure sites automatically, StripMiner can check back at regular intervals to “scrape” load information posted in HTTP. It then translates HTTP code into a standard EDI load offer (called a 204), which flows directly into the carrier’s dispatch software.

Fleets can set up business rules and criteria in StripMiner for the loads they wish to find. Criteria includes – but is not limited to – rate, length of haul, origin and destination. When StripMiner finds loads that meet some or all of the criteria, a load offer enters into a carrier’s dispatch software system as an EDI 204 transaction.

StripMiner also can be set up to automatically accept loads that meet all criteria and send an EDI load acceptance (990) to the shipper. The system also can accept the load directly on the website, as well as automatically update the status of the load either through EDI or by directly updating load status on a shipper’s website, McCarty says.

StripMiner integrates with Intelek’s DiamondMine EDI and other EDI translation software to process data, track loads and communicate directly with carriers’ enterprise software. Currently, seven carriers are beta-testing the software, McCarty says; most are using the software to monitor a handful of websites, but a larger carrier is monitoring 150 websites.

Green Bay, Wis.-based Contract Transport Services is monitoring about a dozen different websites for loads. Paul LeRoy, safety manager for the 120-truck fleet, anticipates saving significant time and reducing manual data-entry errors. In addition, Contract Transport Services will have better visibility to loads as they become available, LeRoy says; some shipper websites give the fleet as little as 30 minutes to respond to load offers.

Intelek plans to offer StripMiner with multi-tier pricing in two different models: a hosted version and a version that carriers can download or custom-install on their own network, says Chris Bentkowski, project manager of StripMiner.

For a video demonstration of how the product works, visit www.stripminer.net.


Navman Wireless updates vehicle tracking software
Navman Wireless North America (www.navmanwireless.com), a global provider of vehicle tracking and fleet management solutions, announced the next generation of its vehicle tracking and logistics software, OnlineAVL2. A successor to the company’s Online AVL1 designed to provide fleet managers with vehicle positions and activity details, and a key component of the Navman Wireless solution, the new OnlineAVL2 integrates new ways for businesses to view the location of their assets, and address issues for their drivers and customers more accurately, the company says.

Providing fleet managers with a more photo-realistic view of their drivers’ actual surroundings, the new OnlineAVL2 utilizes high-resolution satellite imagery and high aerial photography. In addition to traditional street-level mapping views, the new software now supports several hybrid mapping display options with views including street-level mapping, top-down satellite imagery with street and street-name overlay, or satellite imagery only.

Each option displays the position of assets according to their current GPS location, and provides a clearer picture of roadways, structures and parking areas, to name a few, in relation to the vehicle, the company says; an intuitive popup window allows fleet managers to zoom in on a vehicle for greater detail without losing the rest of the surrounding map.

Additional features of OnlineAVL2, according to Navman, include unlimited two-way messaging to one, some or all vehicles from an office desktop; integrated navigation functionality for drivers; real-time and historical vehicle/driver activity reporting; Driver ID technology for differentiating individual activity with shared assets; programmable alerts for vehicle speed, idle time, unauthorized movement and security breach; and polygonal geofence functionality for defining driver territories.

The complete Navman Wireless solution, including OnlineAVL2, is priced from $1.50 per vehicle per day.