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Technology – February 2004

Xata Corp. announced orders totaling $8 million from International Truck & Engine Corp. and Freightliner due to U.S. Postal Service’s specification of the company’s OpCenter onboard fleet management system in its 2004 cargo van purchase.

Pharos and Tele Atlas introduced the Ostia Smart Navigator, which can help vehicle operators avoid traffic problems en route and estimate travel times based on traffic conditions.

Aether Systems said Granite City, Ill.-based Buske Lines will install more than 400 trucks with the MobileMax wireless communications system over two or three years.

Fleet One announced that its Over The Road cards, private label cards for drivers, and Plus Cheks are now accepted at Petro Stopping Centers across the country.

Maptuit Corp. said Arctic Express and Fikes Truck Line have installed products from the company’s FleetNav Suite of navigation and fleet optimization tools.

Power2Ship said last month that it has processed 100,000 loads and completed enhancements for its online exchange with the truckload transportation industry.

Eyefortransport has scheduled its Technology Forum for April 20-21 in Long Beach, Calif.

Fast collections are crucial to the survival of any business, especially startups with limited working capital. Although Carroll Fulmer Logistics is not the typical startup, its success during the past two years is closely tied to a solution from CitiCapital that converts its invoices into instant cash. This concept may sound familiar, but it’s not your typical factoring arrangement. Information technology provides the twist.

After nearly 40 years in business, Carroll Fulmer Logistics was sold to Atlanta-based Transit Group in 1997. During the financial reorganization of the bankrupt Transit Group in 2001, Carroll Fulmer bought his company back. After scraping to borrow more than $15 million to buy back the company, Fulmer turned to one of his lenders, CitiCapital, to jumpstart the company’s cash flow through a working capital program known as the ICE-Line.

CitiCapital’s ICE-Line (Instant Cash Electronically) includes a document imaging and workflow solution for clients to scan invoices, bills of lading and other supporting documents to quickly convert the documents to cash by the next business day. The ICE-Line uses the Web-based Transflo document imaging and workflow system from Pegasus TransTech. Documents scanned into the Transflo system are immediately available to CitiCapital through the Internet.

The electronic process significantly reduces overhead expenses for CitiCapital, providing the incentive to offer ICE-Line clients the Transflo system at no extra cost, says Steve Hausman vice president of business development for CitiCapital’s Asset Based Funding group. About 40 percent of the labor incurred by an accounts receivable lender or factoring company is the redundant work of sorting and filing paperwork, he says.

Carriers that use the ICE-Line can also reduce overhead. Without document imaging, carriers would overnight original freight invoices and supporting documents to their lender or factoring company. Besides eliminating postage costs, ICE-Line clients no longer copy and file invoices for their own records. After receiving and processing the electronic documents, CitiCapital advances the cash for the invoices, less interest and a service fee, to the carrier’s bank account by the next business day, Hausman says.

With 200 trucks and 10 terminals, Carroll Fulmer Logistics is larger than a typical ICE-Line customer, however. Because of its size, Fulmer decided to purchase the imaging software and hardware from Pegasus directly and store images on a company-owned server rather than use the Web-based Transflo system. The company has scanning stations at each of the terminals for drivers to turn in paperwork for immediate processing.

As with other accounts-receivable lenders or factoring companies, CitiCapital handles the billing and collection process for ICE-Line clients, Hausman says. Fulmer Logistics, however, has done its own billing and collections from day one. But for smaller carriers, the costs of using the ICE-Line are comparable to the costs of collection and AR management, Hausman says.

After 18 months of using the ICE-Line, Fulmer Logistics graduated to an asset-based lending (ABL) line of credit from CitiCapital. Fulmer Logistics still scans all its freight invoices and uses all of the same Pegasus workflow tools as it did before, but now its customers write checks directly to Fulmer Logistics. Under ICE-Line, Fulmer Logistics customers made their checks out to CitiCapital. Under the ABL arrangement, CitiCapital’s clients are responsible for their own collection, cash application and banking arrangements, Hausman says.

With its ABL-Line, Carroll Fulmer Logistics can borrow from its credit line and pay its loan balance down on a daily basis. Its line of credit is automatically updated with online reports available daily from CitiCapital.

With the slim margins in this industry, the recurring cost of accounts receivable factoring can hamper the growth and profitability in the long run. But for periods of cash shortages, such as a business expansion or startup, AR financing can be the solution. And CitiCapital and some of its customers have found that combining AR financing with technologies, such as imaging, that can streamline billing and collections can make for a win-win situation.


DELPHI REVAMPS ONBOARD COMPUTER
Delphi Corp., along with subsidiary MobileAria and distributor Pana-Pacific, has redesigned its Truck Productivity Computer to fit all heavy truck makers’ radio configurations and is offering the enhanced fleet management tool under the new name FleetOutlook. The revamped in-dash onboard computer, which offers full AM/FM radio functionality, uses MobileAria’s wireless services to provide real-time monitoring, two-way messaging and Global Positioning System tracking. Data can be accessed through the Web or through integration with enterprise systems.

FleetOutlook offers text-to-speech capability, so drivers can listen to incoming messages through the radio speakers. The system also relies on MobileAria’s wireless security expertise to provide vehicle enabling and disabling. For example, fleet managers can require a driver to enter personal ID numbers in order to engage the vehicle’s throttle.

FleetOutlook, which operates on a Microsoft Windows CE operating system, offers users a choice of satellite, cellular or WLAN (802.11b) wireless data services. A Web-based GUI interface allows companies with the necessary IT resources and system knowledge to customize. Applications can be configured remotely. The system also features automated driver logs, fuel tax reporting, vehicle diagnostics and trip information.


SYSTEM UPGRADES

McLeod Software announced the release of its Detention Module, which allows LoadMaster customers that also use the Mobile Communications Module to automatically notify and bill excessive detention time. The new module is aimed at helping carriers recoup some of the productivity costs associated with the new hours-of-service regulations.

Maddocks Systems Inc. announced an agreement with Veltion Inc. for integration of information between Maddocks’ TruckMate for Windows system and Veltion’s warehouse management software.

Innovative Computing Corp. released R8, the latest version of its Innovative Enterprise Software (IES). R8 includes enhancements in FlexFuel, LoadCentral, Fuel Surcharge, FlexEDI and Trailer Detention modules.


WHAT IS IT? Enterprise information portal
An enterprise information portal, or EIP, is a system offering a user-friendly interface to gain access to enterprise data. EIPs combine search, content management and database technologies to deliver information tailored for each user. EIP solutions include BroadVision, Northern Light Technology and others.

Source: “Glossary of Supply Chain Terminology – For Logistics, Manufacturing, Warehousing, and Technology” (www.idii.com).

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Aaron Huff is the Senior Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. Huff’s career in the transportation industry began at a family-owned trucking company and expanded to CCJ, where for the past 14 years he has specialized in covering business and technology for online and print readers and speaking at industry events. A recipient of numerous regional and national awards, Huff holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Brigham Young University and a Masters Degree from the University of Alabama.