ALK and EBE Technologies develop toll management products

ALK Technologies and EBE Technologies say they have developed two products that enable fleets to control the burgeoning cost of tolls. The companies have jointly launched two applications, PC Miler|Tolls Auditor and PC Miler|Tolls Manager.

Both applications combine the database and functionality of ALK’s PC Miler|Tolls application with the data integration and workflow capabilities of EBE Technologies to document toll costs by customer for reimbursement or rate negotiation, monitor the use of toll facilities by drivers, and validate the charges invoiced to carriers by toll authorities.

PC Miler|Tolls Manager and Auditor applications automate what is otherwise a time-consuming, largely manual job – when it is done at all, the companies say.

ALK continually monitors posted costs at all North American toll facilities, including tunnels, bridges, and roadways. These rates are regularly combined with ALK’s routing, mileage, and map data in PC Miler|Tolls, which knows the exact toll charges along any particular route for virtually any vehicle configuration.

Both new solutions are based on ALK’s PC Miler Web Services, its Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offering.

EBE’s integrated workflow and process management applications, known collectively by the brand name SHIPS, address trucking departments individually while freely transmitting data and documents among them.

“Tolls are rising rapidly everywhere and appearing in places they have never been before. No carrier can afford to simply absorb toll charges as many did in the past,” said Craig Fiander, ALK’s Vice President, Marketing – PC Miler Solutions.

PC Miler|Tolls Manager works within the EBE workflow system to automatically validate the charges incurred for each trip by leg, and creates the documentation for customer invoices, toll rate schedules, or rate approval forms. Customer specific workflows are executed for each toll incurred. By comparing the truck location in the carrier’s dispatch system to the proximity of the toll location, the system validates the accuracy of the toll charge. If a discrepancy is identified, a payables workflow is generated creating a disputed report that is attached to the agency payment.

“Through this partnership with ALK we will help carriers manage a daunting manual task resulting in improved customer service and a more profitable operation. Now tolls can be billed to customers based on specific business rules,” said Cindy Nelson, EBE’s vice president, marketing and business development. “As just one example, they can be applied to one leg of a trip and not another according to contract provisions.”

PC Miler|Tolls Auditor compares current toll data to trips in the dispatch system. If a toll is over the amount estimated, if tolls are not authorized, or if the toll does not match a truck’s location in the dispatch system, it is flagged as an exception and placed in a workflow queue for review.

“This enables carriers to correct mistaken toll charges. If a truck drives half the length of a toll road, but the scanner at the exit doesn’t work, the carrier might be charged for the entire length of the road. Using GPS records, a carrier can catch that. They will also be able to tell if someone uses, say, a company E-Z Pass transponder in his personal vehicle,” Nelson explained.

Both applications generate numerous management reports, among them unauthorized tolls by drivers, variance in calculated tolls verses actual tolls, actual entry and exit toll gates verses dispatch instructions, unauthorized tolls by toll road, and many more.

Using PC Miler|Tolls Manager and Auditor, the companies say that carriers can include toll charges and documentation in original billing, thereby eliminating supplemental toll bills. They can track annual toll costs by shipper as an aid in rate negotiation, recoup out-of-route toll expenses from drivers, and monitor toll authority charges through monthly statement reconciliation. A management dashboard enables a carrier to monitor driver toll compliance and maintain individual driver scorecards.

DistTech, a provider of dedicated and common carriage for liquid bulk commodities, has approximately 400 trucks with E-Z Pass transponders in its fleet.

DistTech has contracts with some customers to bill actual toll costs for each order. It also has contracts where toll costs are built into the rate. In other contracts, the company uses a predetermined toll cost from its mileage and routing software, PC Miler.

“We are trying to match (toll costs) so we don’t over or under-charge customers,” says John Hazenfield, chief information officer for the Newbury, Ohio-based company.

About three months ago, DistTech began using the Tolls Manager application to automate its tolls reconciliation process and eliminate error.

Every evening, the system automatically downloads electronic toll receipts from various E-Z Pass websites and matches each transaction by truck and by order in the company’s accounting and operations management system. Tolls Manager catches any discrepancies between planned and actual toll costs, Hazenfield says.

“This is exciting for the company and our customers. We no longer have to estimate,” he says.