Accurate mileage, mapping software critical for fleet ops
Commercial carriers have used mapping, mileage and routing software systems for years to drive new process improvements and efficiencies. Working behind the scenes, these systems feed mileages and detailed route data to dispatch, accounting, spreadsheets and other programs used for critical processes.
Technology providers now are able to leverage the Internet and many internal and external resources to keep mileages, maps and route data as accurate and dynamic as possible for fleet operations.
For Central Pennsylvania Transportation, having the most current and accurate information is especially important for price and cost modeling. As a small regional carrier in the Northeast, CPT pays between $32,000 and $35,000 a month in toll costs. In 2008, rates increased on 33 percent of all toll roads, says Thorny Embly, vice president.
“The tolls are there, and they will keep increasing,” Embly says. Fortunately, Embly says CPT is able to pass toll increases onto its customers by bringing current toll cost data into its cost models from ALK Technologies’ PC Miler software.
In addition to including toll costs, CPT factors traffic congestion into its price and cost models. From the fleet’s headquarters in Lancaster, Penn., travel time to New Jersey and New York City can vary by a half hour or more depending on the time of day.
To provide more accurate information on travel time, ALK (www.alk.com) is close to releasing a PC Miler product that will include historical traffic information, by time of day, for road segments throughout North America, says Alain Kornhauser, founder and board chair.
CPT also monitors actual versus billable mileage closely. Recently, Embly studied the miles he was billing one particular customer that required 53-foot trailers. After comparing actual route miles from GPS data to the practical miles he was using to bill the customer, the difference was six percent, he says.
“In my opinion, one of the reasons was that the origin point is a rural town,” Embly says. “Practical took the more direct route, but the 53-foot route pushed the route more in line with how the drivers are supposed to drive because of the 53-foot trailer.”
The customer, after seeing the study, allowed CPT to bill using practical mileage with 53-foot trailer routing from ALK. Embly has coined a term for the use of 53-foot trailer routing, toll costs and other actual data in its cost models: “reality-based pricing.”
“The reality is that it forces you to realize that the pricing you are putting in are real numbers,” he says. “There are so many things that drive our cost model.”
In the past, getting up-to-date mileages – let alone revised toll and fuel costs – was difficult because of technology limitations. Software developers had to mail updates of their mileage guides and routing systems using CDs. Developers now leverage the Internet to send more immediate updates based on customer feedback, internal research and public and third-party content providers.
Because changes to major highway routes are infrequent, Rand McNally releases a new mileage guide about every five years, says Amy Krouse, director of marketing. Carriers mostly use Rand McNally’s road network and mileage guide in its IntelliRoute software system (www.intelliroute.com) for billing purposes.
Changes that would impact truck routing, such as road construction, are available for download to the Windows-based IntelliRoute system every two weeks. Updates to road attributes such as toll costs, ZIP codes and locations of weigh stations and rest stops are sent out every quarter.
Street-level routing for heavy-duty trucks and various equipment types is available from within IntelliRoute through a live link to digital map and content provider Navteq. “We are going out to the Internet to grab that,” Krouse says. “Customers have that data immediately.”
ProMiles (www.promiles.com) has quarterly updates for all attributes in its Windows-based ProMiles XF software. The company provides daily, and sometimes hourly, updates to fuel prices along a route, and fuel optimization is included in the standard product at no extra cost.
One advantage to the online version of ProMiles XF is that updates are added continuously. Several dispatch software providers interface directly to ProMiles’ online service to obtain current mileages, routes and toll costs, says Chris Lee, marketing director.
For fleets, the deciding factor in whether or not to use the online version of ProMiles is address-to-address routing. Customers that require it typically choose to install the software at their own site to reduce computation time, Lee says.
DriverTech enhances eLog
DriverTech (www.drivertech.com) – designers of the DT4000 TruckPC, a Windows XP-embedded onboard computing system with three modes of communications – announced several enhancements to its suite of eLog applications.
Drive time now is measured by the hours-of-service application using the truck’s databus and is recorded on the DT4000 TruckPC. “By putting the intelligence in the truck, driver logs are more accurate, and the process of managing HOS compliance and driver on- and off-duty status updates is more efficient,” says Mike Stephenson, product manager.
DriverTech says its eLog offering also now provides tools to help drivers during roadside inspections, including the ability to display and e-mail or fax logs from the cab of the truck. An additional enhancement to eLog allows driver managers to better utilize the system’s FleetWatcher online portal to view a suite of reports on driver statistics.
Arsenault Associates ships Dossier 5.0
Arsenault Associates has begun shipping the latest edition of its Dossier maintenance management software, Version 5.0. The company says Dossier 5.0 focuses on today’s volatile energy and economic environment, and includes many new features and hundreds of software enhancements.
The Dossier Fuel Management System provides fleets with automated monitoring, reporting and control of fuel. This feature includes new reports with decision support tools, as well as a graphical dashboard that displays data summaries and trends. When used in conjunction with the Dossier Fuel Data Import option