Relationships between distributors, suppliers and other mobile service businesses, and the customers they serve are typically fast-paced and time sensitive, spurring many businesses to turn to technology to automate and integrate their route accounting transaction management.  

The era of offline, handwritten paper-based transactions is fading fast as more fleet-based companies adopt automated, computer-based wireless systems that link mobile workforce transactions with back-office planning, processing and reporting systems.

The route automation trend spans many industries. Whether a fuel supplier specializing in just-in-time deliveries to oil drilling sites, a food and beverage distributor serving a network of supermarkets and retail stores, or a construction firm delivering materials and equipment to job sites, integrated route management software and mobile printing has proven to help to reduce costs, improve transactional speed, increase visibility across the enterprise, all while ramping up driver productivity and customer service. 

It’s likely that you built your company from the ground up, growing from one truck to multiple vehicles. Your accounts have more freight and you want to keep the business. Good drivers are scarce and idle rigs cost money. The obvious solution is to simply hire more drivers. Sounds easy, right? Well, not quite.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) new Safety Measurement System (SMS) monitors the violations accumulated by your drivers and measures the safety performance of your company against competitors. The worse your score, the more likely the FMCSA will initiate a targeted investigation of your company. The million-dollar question is, “What can you do to improve your company’s safety score?”

Certain things in life are supposed to just work. You flip the switch and the lights go on. You turn the key and the car engine starts. To this list we can add: The package arrives when you expect it or need it.

Customer satisfaction – and thus repeat business – is directly related to this expectation. It is not just a consumer expectation, though most people probably associate delivery services with packages that come to the home. In a globally integrated, just-in-time economy, manufacturers and enterprises of many types have these same expectations of perfection. It takes a lot of technology to get that package to the right place at the right time. 

Technology provides competitive advantage in this industry. Elaborate bar coding systems smooth operations in warehouses and processing centers. Fleet management technology completes the “last mile” solution for these operations. National or global services complete the last mile by managing trucks and people, while local services gain a customer satisfaction edge by optimizing their efficiency  down to the individual vehicle.

In late June, in a story that was first reported by The Wall Street Journal, it was announced that the U.S. Department of Commerce, through its Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), had issued a private letter ruling for Pioneer Natural Resources (Pioneer) and Enterprise Products Partners LP (Enterprise) which allowed the companies to export lightly processed condensate from their Eagle Ford, Texas, production. The ruling had actually been issued earlier in the spring, but had been kept confidential. It nonetheless triggered a widespread media overreaction — akin to Alan Greenspan’s famed “irrational exuberance” — with expectations that the ruling heralded the coming end to the U.S.’s long-held crude oil export ban. While not wholly irrational, such expectations are likely overly optimistic.

Ports and terminals are the critical arteries of the U.S. economy. In 2012, more than $17 trillion dollars of goods traveled via truck, rail, water, air and other transportation modes, and this number is forecast to grow to $39 trillion by 2040. Many of these goods travel through American ports and terminals. 

Those seeking to disrupt commerce know how critical ports and terminals are to the economy, be they terrorists, thieves or disgruntled employees. 

Collisions are an unfortunate part of the trucking business, and busier highways have led to a substantial increase in the number of injury accidents involving large trucks, with the Federal Highway Administration documenting a 9 percent jump in such accidents between 2011 and 2012. 

Though passenger vehicle drivers usually are at fault in accidents involving large trucks, it is the vehicle driver who typically initiates litigation against the truck driver and his or her company. Attorneys representing vehicle drivers monitor your every single action, policy and procedure following an accident in an effort to portray you and your employer as irresponsible parties who put profits ahead of safety.

For the past six years, the Panama Canal Authority has been hard at work on an expansion project expected to double capacity and create a new lane of shipping traffic. The roughly $5.3 billion project will prepare the canal for today’s larger container ships by creating new locks and channels to those locks, as well as widening and deepening existing channels. 

The Panamanian government has been optimistic about the project’s economic impact. During a speech announcing the project in 2006, then-President Martin Torrijos likened the canal to a natural resource like petroleum, and said that this project would allow Panama to better utilize that resource. An improved Panama Canal, Torrijos said at the time, would transform Panama into an economic force to be reckoned with. 

To maintain successful operations, on any given day fleet managers must juggle a wide range of priorities from fuel costs, to driver safety, to regulatory compliance. Managing all of these moving pieces in silos quickly becomes overwhelming and costly. The trick to successful fleet management and efficiency is to implement one system that integrates, secures and controls all important assets at the same time, and the most effective fleet management comes from proactive and remote monitoring and control across the entire fleet. 

With ever-rising prices, fuel is a particularly complicated and substantial cost that fleet managers must carefully monitor. Specifically, a long-haul combination truck idles an average of 1,800 hours per year (or 150 hours per month) – an annual fuel cost of approximately $8,600. It costs an extra one-tenth of a gallon for every mile per hour a truck drives over 55 mph. Not to mention maintenance costs rise 30 percent when speed increases from 50 to 60 mph. This means fleet managers have to be able to consistently control driver speed and truck idling in order to impact fuel cost alone.

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Transportation and Logistics International

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Chicago, IL 60611

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