Solving trucking issues with software

Three different carriers with three different problems: yet all are using some form of computer software to solve them – a far cry from the way things used to be in trucking

Like many cross-border trucking operations, Canada-based LTL Darcol International kept getting bogged down at inspection stations – waiting to get their drivers and loads cleared via a time-consuming, paperwork-laden process. It proved to be a drag on productivity.

Likewise, Pittsburgh’s carrier Pitt Ohio Express found its productivity slowing, albeit for a much different reason. It’s driver turnover had climbed, leaving the company short of vehicle operators at peak times.

And in Salt Lake City, refrigerated carrier C.R. England found itself slowing as it couldn’t add customers to its electronic data interchange (EDI) system fast enough.

Three different carriers with three different problems: yet all are using some form of computer software to solve them – a far cry from the way things used to be in trucking, according to Tom McLeod, president of McLeod Software. “The trucking industry has gone from being one of the least computerized segments in American business to being at the forefront of many new technologies [developed] by the computer industry. New technology is now an accepted fact in every facet of trucking, from dispatch and mobile communications to vehicle maintenance, electronic engines and computer diagnosis on the maintenance side.”

In fact, McLeod believes the best managed and most profitable trucking companies going forward will be those who lead in computer technology. “They have moved to the forefront in their willingness and ability to adopt and use new technology, which will continue to become available at an increasingly faster pace,” he said.

In Darcol’s case, that meant getting away from a paperwork-based cargo manifest system and switching to a totally electronic format – one that enabled their drivers and loads to clear border crossings faster, with minimal extra work on the fleet’s part, said Carol Norrie, Darcol vp. Using the e-Manifest interface developed by Trans+Plus Systems Corp., the fleet can send electronic cargo information to the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agency and get their loads cleared in five minutes. This has allowed drivers to start skipping secondary inspection zones at the border – a major time killer. “Being able to skip [the secondary inspection lot] had my drivers through the border in two minutes flat! Very exciting for us,” said Norrie.

Pitt Ohio had an altogether different issue – rising turnover – yet turned to software to solve that problem too. Installing the UtilPro human resource management system developed by Ultimate Software of Weston, FL, starting in 2002 enabled Pitt Ohio to improve its driver hiring process. It got better and more detailed information at the outset to make sure drivers stayed with the company, said Jodi Kerchenske, HR manager for Pitt Ohio.

“By using UltiPro’s reports to analyze turnover from all angles — such as by reason, length of employment, location, and so on — we made the decision to expand our new hire orientation program to give new employees a better understanding of our culture and expectations,” Kerchenske explained. “We also developed a formalized process requiring both human resources and managers to follow up with new employees so that they have plenty of opportunities to ask questions. Employee satisfaction and retention are important to us, so using the information generated by UtilPro helps us make the employee experience as positive as possible.”

Then there was C.R. England’s issue – trying to integrate an EDI system across the company’s four divisions. “With our legacy EDI system, we couldn’t keep up with our sales department,” explained Dirk Anderson, C.R. England’s vp-technology. “Our IT team could only handle 1-2 new customers per month, and our sales team was selling at a rate of 5-6 new customers per month. We knew we had to make a change to support the company’s growth.”

Increasing EDI speed was another key need, as C. R. England processes more than 100,000 EDI transactions each month, along with direct communications from trucks en-route via Qualcomm mobile systems. The solution turned out to be a software package designed to integrate EDI systems – one developed by Pottsville, PA-based Extol.

C.R. England’s Anderson said he formerly had one full-time employee completely dedicated to EDI. Now, because of the automated functionality of the Extol’s Integrator, and the fact that it does not require custom programming, that employee spends only 30% of his time on EDI – allowing him to devote more time to strategic projects.

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