Landstar Express America, Charlotte, N.C.

OPERATION: Domestic and international expedited carrier with regionalized operating network.Thomas C. Larson, vp of business developmentHow can a specialized carrier best revamp information systems to speed shipment tracking and enhance dispatching across a decentralized operation?Landstar Express America, based in Charlotte, N.C., was formed in 1995 when Landstar System Inc. acquired Express America

OPERATION: Domestic and international expedited carrier with regionalized operating network.

Thomas C. Larson, vp of business development

How can a specialized carrier best revamp information systems to speed shipment tracking and enhance dispatching across a decentralized operation?

Landstar Express America, based in Charlotte, N.C., was formed in 1995 when Landstar System Inc. acquired Express America Freight Systems and combined it with its existing expedited operation.

The carrier has developed into a ground-air hybrid. According to Thomas C. Larson, vp-business development, Landstar Express America's ground fleet consists of owner-operators, referred to as business-capacity owners (BCOs).

"We combine a dedicated network of business-capacity owners and scheduled airline service to expedite domestic and international freight throughout the country and across the globe," Larson explains.

"Critical shipment needs are our focus," he continues. "Because our vehicles are not domiciled, we can offer door-to-door, exclusive-use truck service -- with pricing aligned to delivery time frames. We also handle air chartering and ocean forwarding."

The BCOs field almost 300 units. They range from cargo vans to tractors with 53-ft. trailers. However, the fleet's principal vehicle is a 24-ft. sleeper truck customized for longhaul, nonstop operation by team drivers. The carrier also works through 36 "Express Centers," each of which is owned and operated by outside agents.

"We provide value-added service while functioning as a low fixed-capital 'virtual' company," Larson states. "That's why we needed an information platform able to give us and our Express Centers and BCOs greater knowledge and control of shipments and resources."

After a focused search of the marketplace, the carrier engaged TMW Systems to bring its computer programming to bear on the leased-fleet service network.

According to Larson, TMW extended its core software product, called The Trucking System (TTS), to become the Landstar Air & Trucking System.

"The new program is a real-time, online application," Larson reports. "The software interconnects us with our agency and mobile operators. Express Center access is via the Internet while our fleet owners are linked by an integrated HighwayMaster communications system.

"We now have virtually seamless, real-time communications," he continues. "A BCO can report operating status with a few keystrokes to an on-board HighwayMaster unit. The data is then accepted automatically by our computer system."

The carrier can also transmit to its operators messages about loads or delivery directions generated from customer information stored in the system.

Larson says the system amounts to a "virtual dispatch board" that gives all parties to a shipment immediate access to pertinent data. "An Express Center agent can record a load as a customer offers it and find a BCO to handle it -- all in a real-time process."

What's next? "We're developing a Web site to support customer access," Larson notes. "This will provide controlled access to shipment and traffic reports."

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