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Technology – March 2004

AccuWeather.com launched AccuWeather.com Business, a planning tool for fleet operators that provides customizable weather alarms, summary forecasts and historical comparisons.

Minorplanet Systems USA, a provider of telematics solutions for commercial fleets, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The company plans to continue operations as it restructures debt.

SkyBitz signed five carriers for its satellite-based trailer tracking and information management service: Southern Cal Transport Inc., Fugro Chance, On Time Transportation Inc., Royal Freight and Gill Brothers Transportation.

Aether Systems Inc. said Denver, Colo.-based refrigerated carrier Western Distributing Transportation Corp. will convert its 170-truck fleet to MobileMax, Aether’s multi-mode wireless communications and tracking solution.

Cypress Semiconductor Corp. announced WirelessUSB LR, a 2.4 GHz radio system-on-a-chip solution that delivers up to 50 meters of wireless connectivity for commercial and industrial applications. The new product is an alternative to wireless networking solutions like Zigbee and Bluetooth.

SiriComm, has raised $2 million through a private placement. The company provides broadband wireless software and network infrastructure for transportation applications.

PASSING THE TECHNOLOGY BUCK
Like most businesses, trucking companies must devote significant resources to “back office” activities that must be done but don’t really relate to the company’s core function of hauling freight. In addition to those tasks inherent in running any business, regulations add further information management chores, such as processing logs or filing fuel taxes.

Many of these business and regulatory activities are prime targets for shifting to parties that specialize in them. Often, a carrier can save operating costs and avoid capital expenditures through outsourcing.

If anyone doubted the potential market for information systems outsourcing in trucking, a major announcement last month should cause them to take notice. ACS, a Fortune 500, 40,000-employee company that provides business process and information technology outsourcing solutions worldwide, has acquired Truckload Management Services Inc. (TMI).

The acquisition includes all TMI offices and offerings, including TripPak Express and TripPak Online document management services; TMI-MultiMedia, an advertising agency for transportation companies; and other services, including Truckstop Scanning, RapidLog Auditing, TripPak EZApp and TripPak Overnight. As a result of this acquisition, TMI will be able to offer its carrier clients even more outsourcing services, says Mark Cleveland, who recently was named president and chief development officer of TMI.

Carriers that use TripPak Express have their drivers deposit trip envelopes in the yellow TripPak drop boxes located at truck stops, high traffic centers and fleet terminals. The documents are picked up and delivered to their offices or third parties via overnight or two-day service from DHL/Airborne Express.

By adding TripPak Online, the envelopes are sent directly to one of two TMI data centers for overnight imaging and processing of drivers’ documents and expense reports, as well as trip auditing and dispatch data verification services. Drivers can also scan their documents at more than 1,500 truck stops.

Fleets access their images from the Internet or directly from their office’s IT systems by connecting to TMI’s data center through a virtual private network or wide area network link. TMI provides data management services, such as storage and network monitoring – to include virus scanning and protection – for customers’ images and dispatch data.

ACS has already established a presence in the transportation industry as the largest provider of outsourced state motor vehicle services, including the PrePass system used by thousands of truckers to bypass weigh stations. ACS also manages electronic toll collection systems used by several states, such as E-ZPass.

ACS’s commercial services for IT outsourcing include data center operations, data security services, help desk, imaging, mainframes, midrange, and client/server network management and storage solutions. In addition to these IT outsourcing services, ACS offers financial and administration outsourcing for accounts payable and accounts receivable, payroll, human resources and call centers, says Darin Wright, vice president of sales and marketing for ACS.

As part of its partnership with ACS, one of the first new services that TMI will offer its trucking clients, Cleveland says, is the ability to outsource their invoice printing and fulfillment. ACS is one of the largest imaging processing companies in the world. Currently, carriers that use TripPak Online can exchange images and data with their customers, but they are not able to outsource the printing of invoices. “All carriers in TripPak can now do that.”

TMI customers have also expressed interest in becoming paperless in their inbound accounts payables, Cleveland says. Carriers will be able to have invoices from their entire vendor community sent to a P.O. box at TMI for imaging, indexing and presentment to the carrier’s office system. ACS has already developed workflow software capable of doing just that, Cleveland says.

Another potential outsource service of interest to carriers is call centers. ACS operates inbound call centers for some of the largest corporations in America. Some of the larger carriers may want to outsource their driver recruiting call center, for example, Cleveland says.

The acquisition talks between the two companies began, ironically, when a salesperson for ACS visited TMI executives to offer some outsourcing solutions, Wright says. As it turned out, each company had what the other was looking for in terms of future growth strategies. “We weren’t for sale,” Cleveland says. “But if we want to continue to be the lowest cost provider, we have to have a continual research and development process. In that process, we discovered ACS.”
– Aaron Huff is technology editor of Commercial Carrier Journal.


Teletouch tracks flats
Transport Continental Inc., a Texas-based flatbed carrier, said it has installed a wireless tracking unit from Teletouch. “Teletouch has provided us with something we weren’t sure we would ever have – the ability to know exactly where our flatbed trailers are,” says TCI President Jim Cowart. Teletouch offers its GeoTrax trailer-tracking product for less than $300. The price point, coupled with the ability to covertly mount one of its wireless, self-contained, battery-powered devices on a flatbed trailer, prompted TCI to outfit all 171 of its trailers with the devices, Cowart says. TCI ships throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico, and is now able to track its trailers to ensure on-time delivery for its customers.


SKYTEL RELEASES FLEETHAWK
SkyTel, a provider of wireless data solutions, announced an automated vehicle location (AVL) service called FleetHawk. The FleetHawk system combines GPS technology with SkyTel’s dedicated wireless data network and the Internet to capture location, speed and other vehicle information all through a secure website. The service also includes geofencing technology to notify fleet managers when a vehicle enters or exits a particular service area.

Customers can be alerted to specific vehicle information at any given time using a portable SkyTel 2Way-messaging device, a PC-based e-mail account, cell phone or a personal digital assistant (PDA) with an e-mail address.

The new service is designed for businesses with local metro fleets, including vehicle rental companies and passenger and courier service companies, the company says. The hardware package, which includes the base unit, antenna and power supply costs $349. The monthly service plan costs $16.99 to $39.99 depending on the different functionality levels.


@ROAD DEVELOPS NEW REPORTING TOOL
@Road, a provider of mobile resource management (MRM) services, announced the availability of @Road FieldServices, a suite of 18 reports to help field service organizations measure productivity. The reports include:

  • First Departure, which reports when workers depart their starting point;

  • Time at Work, which measures how long workers spend at each work center and how many stops were made at each destination;
  • End-of-Day Information, which reports when employees return to their starting point; and
  • Mileage and Travel Time, which provides data on how long it takes for employees to get from a starting point to work centers and back to the starting point.

@Road FieldServices reports can be generated on demand and viewed from any Internet-connected PC or scheduled for periodic delivery via e-mail. Companies can subscribe to @Road FieldServices reports for $7.95 per month, per subscriber, in addition to the GeoManager monthly service fee, which starts at $39.95 per month plus the cost of the @Road iLM Internet Location Manager.


PROPHESY UPGRADES FLEETRAX SOFTWARE
Prophesy Transportation Solutions, a provider of Internet and software solutions to the transportation and distribution industries, announced the release of a new version of its FleetTrax Premier fleet maintenance software solution.

Prophesy FleetTrax Premier fulfills all the necessary DOT compliance regulations pertaining to vehicle maintenance records and features preventive maintenance scheduling, maintenance history, fuel and tire usage, equipment tracking, parts inventory, work order generation, automatic costing of parts and labor, the company says.

Key improvements of FleetTrax Premier include: enhanced tire rotation tracking and bar code scanning as well as a new quick entry screen for easy scheduling of daily and annual driver equipment checks. Data entry and information displays have also been enhanced overall. Information can be viewed any number of ways due to new sorting options, the company says.


WHAT IS IT? OCR
Optical Character Recognition. Converts scanned documents into text with expectations of highly accurate recognition rate. Depending upon the quality of the original documents, OCR may give you good results.

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.