The products, as yet unnamed, will begin appearing in September, according to Rand McNally’s Shel Greenberg, general manager of transportation data management, and Regina Williams, manager of product development.
Rand McNally already provides large fleets with a number of mapping and routing products such as MileMaker, Intelliroute and ArcLogistics Route. These programs run on most business operating systems, including Mainframe, Windows, Unix, IBM’s AS/400 and even PC DOS. Intelliroute Online, a web-based product, was initially targeted at individual drivers, but last year the company said it had drawn a following among large fleets as well.
According to Williams, the new products will come in two basic categories, one line for individual drivers and another for small fleets. In the case of the driver, she said, the initial product would consist of a single compact disk intended to run in Microsoft Windows on a laptop or desktop computer.
The CD will provide truck-sensitive, city-to-city routing. Williams said the software will allow entry of trailer length to flag those routes with restrictions against, say, 58-foot trailers. Bridge clearances are included, she said, and so are known construction projects.
Construction projects, of course, require data updates.
"You buy the product one time," said Greenberg. "Then you have the option of buying support on an annual basis." Support will enable users to download updated files over the Internet.
Greenberg said the owner-operator/individual driver product will probably be available with an introductory price of $199. While distribution has not been finalized, he said, the initial CDs will be likely be available at major truckstops.
Customers will eventually be able to order the CD through Rand McNally’s web site. However, the size of the files will prohibit direct downloading of the product, at least for the time being, Greenberg said. The product may also be made available to drivers through incentive arrangements with major carriers.
The small fleet product will be similar to the individual driver version, but with enhancements such as routing for hazardous materials.
Other new products in the Rand McNally pipeline include truck routing capability on a Pocket PC, a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) that runs the Microsoft’s Windows CE operating system.
"We’re going to have mapping and routing functions, which are initially going to be text-based so that people can have the miles and routing right in their hand," said Williams. "Pocket PCs can have 32 or 64 megabytes of data, so we’re eventually going to take this from text-based to full graphic."
Text-based routing provides a read-out of turn-by-turn directions and mileage. Graphic routing provides actual maps.
Even in the text-based version, said Williams, users will look up items such as truckstop amenities and routing by city, zip code and highway junction.
According to Greenberg, the company has not decided whether to offer a package that includes a PDA or to sell the software only.
Greenberg said Rand McNally is working on Web-based services for the driver community. The company will also be introducing upgrades, enhancements and redesigns for many of its current routing and mapping products.