Speeding the flow of proof-of-delivery receipts and other trip documents is a financial necessity for drivers. Often, carriers do not pay until trip documents — or at least quality images of them — are received in the office to complete billing and payroll processes.
Companies that develop mobile software for document capture are looking to bring more automation to the forefront. A feature that already is available in some apps ensures capture of high-quality images at the source to eliminate errors and rescanning down the line.
Another recent development for apps and cloud-based imaging systems is the use of optical character recognition (OCR) to automate the capture of data from images to further eliminate data entry by drivers and office staff.
One of the first companies to develop mobile scanning technology was Pegasus TransTech. The document capture feature of its Transflo app automatically determines the size and skew of the document to focus the camera lens. If for some reason the quality of a photo is not consistent, the driver receives an immediate alert to rescan.
The app automatically converts images of colored documents, such as pink carbon copies, to gray scale, says Don Mitchell, director of marketing.
Transflo has a new feature that automatically identifies the type of document, such as a receipt or bill of lading, as soon as the driver scans. The feature uses artificial intelligence (AI) to recognize patterns based on learnings from millions of documents scanned over time, he says.
If the system doesn’t know the document type, Transflo has a processing facility that its customers may use to identify documents in route to the office.
EBE Technologies has Connect Mobile Capture app that most of its fleet customers use as an integrated product with their transportation management systems (TMS) to update the paperwork status of loads. With that integration, “a lot of customers are measuring how quickly drivers are returning paperwork,” says Larry Kerr, chief executive of EBE.
Some fleets give drivers a monthly incentive for scanning their paperwork within 2 hours of delivery, he says.
The app has a “capture wizard” that will automatically detect the borders of documents and a light turns green when the phone is at the right distance and angle to take a quality image.
“The real value is the ability for the capture wizard to teach drivers good habits, so you are not rejecting (an image) on the back end,” he says.
EBE is in the process of developing an OCR engine that will reside in its CMC mobile app to capture data, such as bill-of-lading number, weight and piece counts directly from the image. The OCR feature will read before the image is compressed and transmitted to the office.
Kerr estimates the new OCR capability will be available in the third quarter of 2019.
The Vector app has algorithms that create a silhouette — an “orange glow” — around the document. When drivers see the glow, they can take a picture at any angle or height. The app automatically removes any skew from the image to make it look like a flat piece of paper.
Vector, formerly named LoadDocs, also has an intelligent processing feature, Vector Back Office, that automatically transcribes data from documents captured by drivers that can automate data capture for rendition billing processes, the company says. The feature can instantly read and transcribe information from printed documents and handwritten notes.
The proliferation of smartphones and mobile apps has largely replaced drivers’ use of overnight drop boxes and truck stop scanning stations. The latest developments, as noted above, can get data from images into the billing and payroll process as soon as drivers snap a picture. There is also the possibility of shippers, freight brokers and carriers eliminating paper altogether with electronic proof-of-delivery.
Teletrac Navman, which offers the Director mobile fleet management platform, has a supplemental driver app that has a feature for building and attaching an automated custom form. The form includes a field for signature capture. Drivers can use the form to show a customer the details of the delivery and ask for a confirmation receipt to eliminate the need to collect and file delivery-related paperwork, the company says.