Fleet Management

Technology in the Truck: Changing the game

May 2012, TruckingInfo.com - Feature

by Michael Geffroy and Chris Lee, Contributors

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Most of us have done of these things manually for so long that the thought of automating can seem overwhelming -- something only the big boys do. Today, technology innovation has put automation within the reach of any carrier.
So how do you evaluate the strategies and technologies that can make it cost-effective and easy to automate your business? What should you keep in mind as you search for the right technology solutions?

Fuel Tax Automation: In Reach for Any Size Carrier.

How many of us are still using spreadsheets to manage fuel taxes? For years, the cost of fuel tax automation has been prohibitive for all but the largest carriers. Keeping track of data manually has always been a huge headache. And the more states you operate in, the harder it is to keep track. Meanwhile valuable time is spent each month on spreadsheets, calculations and reporting.

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Today, instead of investing thousands of dollars in the hardware traditionally necessary for each truck, now carriers can spend a few hundred dollars on smart in-vehicle navigation devices that integrate directly with routing, planning and back office systems to calculate and track fuel taxes. Previous systems could cost $2,000 - $3,000 or more. Today, a smart personal navigation device from TomTom, integrated with the ProMiles system, can accomplish the same thing for an investment of about $400 per vehicle. This can represent a savings of up to 90% - making it possible for a carrier of any size to begin automating the fuel tax reporting process.

It's not only a matter of purchasing fuel in states that have the lowest fuel tax rates. Even more important is purchasing fuel at the lowest price. The best navigation and route mapping solutions will provide smart routing and real-time fuel information as well as fuel tax automation capabilities.

Simplifying the Auditing Process.

As recently as three years ago, using GPS data in the auditing process was almost impossible. Auditors did not have clear guidelines on how to use automated trip sheets and most carriers had to provide manual trip sheets even if things were logged automatically.

Today, technology can capture and record actual mileage and integrate it with your other systems, providing auditors with the most accurate mileage available. Removing the manual process - and capturing the actual audit trail is a huge cost and labor savings.

Visibility and Management.

Perhaps most importantly, integrated navigation/fleet management/route planning and back office systems can deliver a level of visibility and control that can have a huge impact on your business.

If you know where your drivers are, and what they are doing, you are better able to guard against behaviors like excessive idling, hard braking or steering, unsafe speeds or other actions that can impact fuel, maintenance or insurance costs. If you're able to integrate GPS and traffic avoidance solutions, you can cut down on these costs even more, potentially by 15 percent every month. Similarly, GPS and traffic avoidance solutions that are tightly integrated with route planning and dispatch products can increase the reliability of your ETAs and improve productivity.

Making it Work.

So what do carriers need to think about as they make technology investments focused in improving operations as well as automating some of their most time-intensive tasks? Greater visibility and accurate information, captured automatically, are key to making it work.

Some things to look for:
- Integration partnerships between route planning, navigation and other technology vendors;
- Accurate ETA calculations that take road conditions, traffic patterns and real-time events into consideration;
- Automated fuel tax calculations;
- Ability to monitor driver behavior;
- Accurate reports on mileage, idling and other factors.

Michael Geffroy is Vice President, North America, for TomTom Business Solutions. Chris Lee is Vice President of Marketing for ProMiles. The two companies are working together to integrate solutions for the trucking industry and deliver value to carriers of all sizes.

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