Fleets have long used truckstops for one important support service — fuel. These days, however, the relationship between some carriers and truckstop operations has evolved into a wide range of fleet business support services for drivers and vehicles no matter where the freight has taken them.
Fuel is still at the core of the services fleets look for from truckstops, but discounted price is just the opening negotiating point. These days data transmitted electronically in or close to real time is just as important as price to fleets as they move to automate as much of their back-office operations as possible.
Automating the fueling process for drivers as well is also important to many fleets. Card-swipe systems not only cut down on the time it takes to fuel a tractor and ensure fewer data-entry errors, but also make the driver's life easier. And when it comes to keeping drivers happy, fleet managers are beginning to understand that the right truckstop can be one of their best allies.
Of course, fleets looking for truckstop partners take driver amenities like clean showers, good food, laundry services, and restful lounges to unwind from the road as a given. However, there are other services that can both improve life for the driver and help a fleet hold down operating costs.
For example, whether it's emergency service or scheduled maintenance, the right truckstop shop can shorten the delay for the driver while providing reliable, cost-effective work for the fleet. It's no accident that some truck manufacturers have begun investing in truckstop chains. OEM warranty service at a fuel stop, as well as access on the road to the OEM's repair and maintenance records for a particular vehicle, offer major cost and time savings for a fleet, while giving the driver a comfortable place to eat, rest or catch up on phone calls.
Increasingly, truckstops are also becoming extensions of fleet communications networks, again benefiting both the driver and the fleet he or she works for. Truckstops have long offered fax services to deliver permits and other paperwork to drivers, but Internet access, whether at a standalone kiosk or through a data port at a restaurant table, expands their reach to the full breadth of electronic documents and turns the truckstop into a fleet's data communications hub.
E-mail, electronic purchases and web browsing at the truckstop can service both a driver's personal needs and a fleet's e-business requirements without the expense of wireless communications. The growing array of Internet-based routing and load-matching services is further increasing the importance of a truckstop's access to the Information Highway.
Although in comparison it may seem like an old-fashioned service, ample and secure parking is also becoming an increasingly important truckstop benefit for fleets as they struggle with the shortage of suitable locations for driver rest stops. Updating that traditional service, some truckstops are moving ahead with electrification in their lots, reducing idling to offer fleets fuel savings and drivers a quieter environment.
In another year or two, fleets will also be able to take advantage of systems for wirelessly downloading operating and business data for trucks as they pass through a truckstop lot, lowering the cost for gathering that data while also speeding up its collection.
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