In trucking, miles are currency, and there are few companies that have become more synonymous with trucking than commercial routing and mileage software providers. Few truckers start, execute or navigate a trip that wasn't planned using one of these products.
While these companies will undoubtedly remain in the commercial routing business, they now offer far more than that, with applications that offer turn-by-turn navigation, maps, fuel tax reporting, fuel management and even transportation management systems.
For example, ALK Technologies' most recent routing/mileage release, PC*Miler 25, includes enhanced transit times, ETAs, and congestion visualization features via the integration of Inrix's real-time and predictive (historical) traffic speed data. This allows fleets to better plan more precise travel times, based on historical traffic patterns along the route.
ALK will also unveil a new "Fastest Routing" option within PC* Miler 26 in mid-2012. It will factor in day-of-week, time-of-day historical and real time traffic speed data from Inrix to calculate the fastest truck-specific route, as opposed to the shortest route.
Also to be introduced with PC* Miler 26 will be a functions called Route Sync, a new product designed to bridge the gap between the planned route and the executed route.
When a truck goes out of route, Route Sync allows an updated route to be sent to the vehicle via the dispatch or fuel optimization system and mobile communications system. As the route is changed, the navigation system is updated with the changes, and it directs the driver back on route.
The company's Co-Pilot Truck system can be used on laptops, smart phones, tablets or integrated into a carrier's enterprise system.
"Commercial routing and mileage are the core," says Craig Fiander, Craig Fiander, vice president, Marketing - North America for ALK Technologies' Enterprise Solutions Group. "But we are really trying to reinforce to the industry that we are more than mileage. I like to refer to us as mileage, routing and mapping software providers."
ALK's not the only one. Prophesy Transportation Software was formed more than 20 years ago to offer simple load building, mileage and fuel tax reporting software.
"Our company cut its teeth in transportation with a PC-based commercial mileage system," says Bill Ashburn, general manager/vice president. "Since then, our company has evolved.
"Since we've become a part of Acellos (in 2008), we are different in that we offer both the routing and mileage solutions as well as fuel tax reporting, a full dispatch and accounting product, route optimization and mobile communications technologies," he says. "Our applications also integrate with Qualcomm, PeopleNet and other mobile communication providers."
Perhaps no company is more synonymous with maps than Rand McNally. Its ItelliRoute routing system features truck specific address-to-address routing. It also includes features that measure toll costs for each route and carriers can route around construction projects with the RoadWork module that is updated every two weeks. Rand McNally's MileMaker truck-specific mileage and mapping software uses industry standard household goods (HHG) and practical routing mileages.
But since the company entered into a business partnership with DriverTech in 2010, it has gotten into the in-cab computer business. Last summer, the company rolled out its electronic onboard recording system for electronic driver logs, the TND 760 Fleet Edition, which combines navigation with a mobile communication system that integrates with a fleet's existing enterprise management systems.
While many of these new offerings extend the routing function to the truck cab with turn-by-turn navigation, the nuts and bolts of the work done by these applications still occurs in the front office, rather than on the road.
"Mileage systems are not traditionally used to message drivers with the exact route they should take," says Prophesy's Ashburn. "Traditionally, they are used in the front office to do things like pay drivers, quote rates, set schedules and generate the most practical route." But since miles are currency, these new offerings make it easier for a fleet control the miles they don't get paid for.
For more on routing software, see the March issue of HDT.