Ask Lance Velasquez what the future holds for truckstops and he’ll point to a fire-engine red machine that looks vaguely like an ATM at all of Flying J’s 170 truck stops across the U.S. But it’s no ATM—it’s a document management system (DMS) that takes paper documents such as bills of lading, proof of delivery receipts, etc., and converts them to electronic files.
Those files get stored on secure servers at Ogden, UT-based Flying J’s headquarters to be retrieved by trucking companies. All it takes to send documents is a personal computer and an Internet connection.
“It’s all about speeding up a carrier’s business process,” Velasquez, head of imaging and WiFi services at Flying J Communications, a subsidiary of Flying J, told FleetOwner. “Once a driver makes a delivery and then stops for fuel on his return leg, he can send all the signed load documents back to his company instantly, vastly reducing the carrier’s freight billing cycle.”
One carrier cut its billing cycle by seven days using Flying J’s DMS imaging device, Velasquez said. Since that carrier bills $200,000 a month, cutting seven days out of its cycle boosted cash flow tremendously he added.
“And we’re not just talking about freight bills here—we’re also talking about the ability to send driver settlements [weekly paychecks] and any other document a carrier needs or uses,” he noted.
In fact, several carriers like the DMS device so much they’ve had it installed in their own terminals; 28 to date, Velasquez said. “It’s about making the truckstop more like a business center for drivers and carriers alike.”
There are some 1,600 truck stops nationwide, according to industry sources, and they are becoming more integral to the daily operations of carriers and drivers alike. For example, approximately 40% of all drivers use laptop computers on the road, said Velasquez. That statistic prompted Flying J to build wireless Internet access (WiFi) portals at all 170 of its locations as well as at 130 other non-truckstop locations as well.
WiFi provider SiriComm in Joplin, MO, is also betting big on the truckstop market. This is evident in a recent deal with Truckstops Direct to resell its InTouch wireless Internet access service to 178 independent truckstops and travel plazas in 44 states—adding to the 470 truckstops SiriComm already serves.
“It’s about creating the country’s largest public Wi-Fi network offering services specifically to the highway transportation industry,” said Paul Rogers, Truckstops Direct’s COO.
Additionally, Flying J is working out a deal with the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to provide digital TV and pay-per-view movies via its wireless connection.
“The focus is becoming more than just a fuel, maintenance, and eatery stop on the highway,” said Velasquez. “Truck drivers and carriers have many more needs we can service on the road by adding imaging and WiFi capabilities. It helps them improve efficiency and helps us keep growing our truckstop business, too.”