Tech in Focus: Help them help themselves

McLeod Software’s Internet module for its LoadMaster enterprise software allows fleets to extend real-time shipment tracking to their customers.

If your website is merely an online brochure, customers and other visitors have little reason to visit – and even less reason to return. Increasingly, customers would rather track shipments and conduct business on their own schedule, rather than waste time tracking down a live person through the phone.

Many carriers offer Web portals for customers to track shipments, tender loads and access reports, documents and other timely information. To improve the efficiency of human resources even more, fleets and software vendors are beginning to use new online applications for drivers and other remote workers.

McLeod Software recently added a driver center to the Internet module of LoadMaster, its transportation management software system. When logged into the driver center, drivers can view payroll history, request time off and use a secure e-mail and message center for personal correspondence, says Robert Brothers, manager of product development for McLeod Software.

Innovative Computing Corp. (ICC) is now beta-testing a new View Driver/Owner Pay History enhancement that is part of its Xpress Suite line of products – an optional connectivity module for the IES enterprise management software system. The new tool uses the existing Xpress Suite design and IES connectivity to enable company drivers to view their payroll history and owner-operators to view their settlement history over the Internet.

View Driver/Owner Pay History also allows carriers to customize searches for payroll and settlement history, such as by a specific trip number or through a date range. Additionally, it can store and display document images such as settlement statements or pay stubs.

“We believe that the simple act of allowing drivers secure, online review of their payroll history information will be invaluable to driver satisfaction,” says Ernie Betancourt, ICC president.

In 2006, TMW Systems released a Web portal for drivers called DriverSeat. With live connectivity to TMW’s management software products – TMW Suite, TruckMate and TL2000 – the 5,000 drivers now using the DriverSeat product can use a calendar to request time off, access a load board to view and request loads, see a detailed view of payroll and settlement information, and use a message center to communicate to dispatch.

DriverSeat also has a “friends and family” section that drivers can use to plan meetings with other drivers and to post news, says Dave Mook, chief operating and chief technology officer for TMW Systems.

DriverSeat also interfaces with a mapping application from ALK Technologies to provide users, including spouses, with access to location information from TMW Suite and other TMW products. “We have found that a lot of spouses are checking up on drivers to see where they are on a map,” Mook says.

Automation for brokers
For brokerage and third-party logistics firms, TMW offers a product called CarrierHub to track the status of individual loads and process transactions with carriers. A brokerage company can set up advanced filtering in CarrierHub, making it possible for carriers that use its website to see only loads in a certain region with certain characteristics. In other words, carriers and brokerage firms can collaborate to build their own custom load boards, Mook says.

PCS Software recently released version 16 of its Express transportation operations management system. The new version, created entirely in Microsoft’s .NET architecture, includes a Web portal called XpressTrax for no extra charge, says Sean VanDyck, sales manager for PCS Software. Carriers simply provide their customers with a username and password – or, rather than visit the website, a customer can choose to receive automatic e-mails every time a load’s status changes.

XpressTrax also has a load board for customers that have brokerage operations. “If you broker a load, our system can shoot an e-mail to the carrier you used,” VanDyck
says. “It gives carriers temporary login to XpressTrax to update the status of loads.”

Besides bringing carriers online to improve efficiency, new Internet-based technology also is helping companies better manage and control telecommuters and remote workers.

McLeod Software now provides an online tool for remote employees and agents to access certain operational functions of LoadMaster and PowerBroker, McLeod’s management system for transportation brokers and third-party logistics companies.

Last year, McLeod added the Agent Access module to PowerBroker to provide sales agents a secure Web interface to enter orders, dispatch trucks and fulfill other operational duties one would perform within PowerBroker itself, Brothers says. Companies can establish filters to limit what information agents can access. In October, McLeod released an Agent Access for Truckload module for LoadMaster.