All in the tank?

Information Technology and Logistics Council of the American Trucking Associations announced that its 2009 conference and exhibition would be held March 22-25 in St. Petersburg, Fla. For more information as it becomes available, go to http://itlc.truckline.com.

Prophesy Transportation Solutions (http://itlc.truckline.com) announced the release of FleetTrax version 3.5, a significant update of its fleet maintenance and inventory management system.

TMW Systems (www.tmwsystems.com) released TMT Fleet Maintenance for Windows Version 9. The application is offered by the TMW Asset Maintenance Software business unit, previously known as TMT Software.

Networkcar (www.networkcar.com) added a new alert system to its wireless fleet management system called Activity Alerts, which allows fleets to create e-mail or SMS (text) exception notifications for specific vehicle events.

SkyBitz (www.skybitz.com) announced that Dallas-based FFE Transportation Services will implement its trailer asset and information management solution in its American Eagle fleet.

DriverTech (www.drivertech.com) received a $7 million working capital line from Transportation Alliance Bank.

CEI Group (www.ceinetwork.com) said it now accepts electronic signatures from drivers to authorize the Web-based retrieval of their motor vehicle records.

Navman Wireless North America (www.navmanwireless.com) said that Donlen Telematics, a subsidiary of fleet leasing company Donlen Corp., will offer Navman’s mobile fleet management solutions to its customers.

With fuel more than $4 a gallon, a driver with a company fuel card might be tempted to sell discounted fuel to owner-operators and other motorists at truck stops. By peddling only a few gallons, he probably could earn some easy money – and his company might never know.

Electronic payment systems have become the main weapon for controlling fuel purchases. These systems, often referred to simply as fuel cards, allow fleets to set up parameters for each driver such as dollar amount, gallons, location and even distance travelled each day. Yet drivers’ routes and fuel needs change every day. To gain more control and visibility over fuel transactions, more fleets are working with technology providers to adjust controls in lockstep with their daily operations.

Drivers at A.D. Transport now have to call in each day for their fuel plan. The Canton, Mich.-based company uses a fuel card system from T-Chek that integrates with its fuel purchase optimization system from ProMiles Software and its AS400 dispatch system. Using dispatch information, the ProMiles software calculates an optimal fuel purchase plan and route. In turn, T-Chek automatically allows each driver to purchase a specific number of gallons at a specific location during a certain time window, says Dave Konopka, director of quality.

Fleets that integrate the Comdata fleet card with their dispatch software can restrict fuel purchases automatically by using the number of miles for each trip plus a factor for deadhead miles. Fuel purchases can be limited further by a certain gallon or dollar limit. Fleets also can require drivers to enter the correct trip number at the point of sale to authorize a fuel transaction, says Scott Phillips, senior vice president of Comdata Corp.

Fuel-card provider EFS Transportation Services recently developed a new application to fight fuel theft. When a driver wants to purchase fuel, he first sends a message through the in-cab communications system to request a specific number of gallons. The application looks up the last fuel transaction and determines, based on the number of gallons purchased and miles traveled since the last stop, whether the driver has burned enough fuel to justify the purchase. If so, the card is authorized automatically for the requested gallon amount. If not, the application overrides the transaction and sets the correct gallon limit.

“Every transaction is totally controlled by the fleet,” says Chris Courts, EFS senior vice president and general manager. “The driver has to plan ahead.” EFS, which developed the application at the request of a major truckload carrier, is in the process of making it available for all fleets. “Not everyone will have the ability to create their own IT application, but everybody has an interest in controlling fuel,” Courts says.

Fleet One offers a vehicle tracking service for real-time fuel management. Customers can get real-time alerts if drivers stop at locations that are not in their fuel network. Fleet One also offers additional fuel management services to help fleets determine the best possible fuel network based on their route requirements and needs. As part of the service, Fleet One will monitor driver compliance to that network for customers, says Tom Wagner, vice president of strategic markets.

The Fuelman fleet card, a product from FleetCor, requires drivers to enter a unique PIN number and vehicle odometer reading each time they fuel. To guard against fuel theft, fleets can track the mpg of each vehicle through a weekly management report via e-mail. After each fuel transaction, the Fuelman service sends an immediate exception alert to fleet managers if mpg is off by more than 25 percent, says Ken Moore, FleetCor’s executive director of national account sales.

Even the tightest electronic controls cannot guarantee that all fuel purchases enter your fuel tanks, but at least you will know when and where the numbers do not add up.


PeopleNet lays out product roadmap
Starting this year, PeopleNet will bundle new software releases into one of three time periods – summer, fall and winter – for all of its in-cab hardware options and Web-based software platforms. The company announced the new approach last month at its users conference in Naples, Fla.

The summer 2008 release included new state regulations for its eDriver Logs hours-of-service application. The company also added eDriver Logs, along with a graphical log summary, to its BLU in-cab touchscreen display. Other updates to BLU included Pacos geofencing, support for advanced applications and a driver interface in French, said Brian McLaughlin, chief operating officer.

PeopleNet is scheduling another “Summer Plus” release this month that will include a tethered trailer-tracking product called Wi-VAN, an in-cab system for scanning documents, and a customizable “dashboard” report engine for its Web-based user interface, the PeopleNet Fleet Manager (PFM). In-cab navigation also will be available on BLU later this summer via a partnership with Maptuit.

In the fall 2008 release, PeopleNet is launching text-to-speech functionality for BLU, as well as new enhancements for BLU’s driver/user interface such as shortcuts and themes. The fall release also will include driver training videos and a new J1939-compatible version of PerformX, PeopleNet’s vehicle and driver performance reporting tool, said Craig Dillon, chief technology officer. The J1939 is the new database standard for the electronics in 2007 tractors.

Looking toward the future, PeopleNet will be developing a new set of business intelligence tools called Logistics Intelligence. The first release, set for later this year, will give users the ability to launch dashboards and scorecards with drill-down capabilities in PFM. To develop the dashboard, the company is using a third-party business intelligence software system called Business Objects.

Other future releases will be focused on using predictive analytics to use the characteristics of good and bad drivers to predict future behaviors such as out-of-route miles, accidents and poor fuel economy.