Mobile server extends networks to trucks

The CP2100 from CellPort Labs Inc., Boulder, Colo., is an integrated mobile server and communications gateway that allows trucks and other vehicles to be linked to a fleet's network over a wide variety of wireless communications services. The new system, which features common computing and network standards in an open platform environment, can be used to integrate mobile office functions with company

The CP2100 from CellPort Labs Inc., Boulder, Colo., is an integrated mobile server and communications gateway that allows trucks and other vehicles to be linked to a fleet's network over a wide variety of wireless communications services. The new system, which features common computing and network standards in an open platform environment, can be used to integrate mobile office functions with company enterprise systems, provide remote vehicle diagnostics, manage wireless messaging and tracking, or run other applications requiring real-time wireless data.

Designed to handle all common vehicle data sources, the CP2100 supports J1939, J1850, and J1708 protocols, as well as a number of light-vehicle standards. On the wireless side, the new server offers connectivity to satellite, CDPD, Mobitex, spread spectrum, circuit-switched cellular, GSM, and private radio services with automatic selection based on service cost and availability.

A standard IP-based system, the new mobile server allows on-board systems connected to vehicle data buses to function as nodes on the Internet. That means fleets can directly access and control engine controllers and other intelligent vehicle devices through Web-browser interfaces, or allow customers to directly contact vehicles via a company Internet or Intranet site. The CP2100 can also function as a mail server, allowing drivers and vehicle systems to directly send and receive SMTP e-mail.

Input/output connections for the CP2100 include internal and external RS232, PCMCIA Type II, CAN/ J1708, USB, and Ethernet.

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Developed by Fuel Systems Services Inc. and ProMiles Software Development Corp., Taxrate.com is an Internet-based fuel management system that provides subscribers with access to 10 fuel-tax rate schedules.

Updated on a weekly or monthly basis, the schedules include IFTA rates, state and federal average tax rates for gasoline and diesel, Canadian fuel-tax rates, reefer fuel-tax refund schedules, general state sales tax information for over-the-road diesel buyers, and a historical diesel tax rate schedule covering the last two years.

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Small- to midsized LTL fleets, private fleets, and brokerage companies may soon have a new management software option from CustomLink Inc., Toronto. According to company president Peter Petruzzellis, CustomLink, the new Windows-based system is designed for electronic communication between carriers and their customers via dial-up networking.A variety of functions, including work orders, dispatch, load tracking, and driver or carrier assignment, plus reporting functions for managers, are available. "We're presently looking for marketing partners to help us bring this to market," explains Petruzzellis. System costs are expected to be "affordable," he adds, "a lot less than $25,000."

The KVT-10 digital radio camera from Kenwood Communications, Long Beach, Calif., can send color images from one radio to another while simultaneously handling voice communications. Capable of storing up to nine digital images in jpeg format, it features a detachable CCD camera and color LCD.

Southeastern Freight Lines, Columbia, S.C., will equip 2,000 P&D trucks with the Multi-mode Mobile Messaging System from American Mobile Satellite Corp. The system integrates land- and satellite-based wireless networks, automatically choosing the lowest-cost route for data communications. Southeastern says it will use the system to improve shipment tracking, automate customer service on its Web site, and improve cross dock efficiency.

Park 'N View, which provides drivers with plug-in connections to cable TV, telephone, and Internet services at truck stops, has changed its name to PNV.net. Along with the new name, the company announced that it will use its high-speed national data network to expand information-based services offered to fleets, drivers, and industry suppliers. Park 'N View will remain as the brand name for its driver communications service.

Portable unit offers spoken directions

The same size as a portable CD player, the AudioNav navigation system accepts voice commands and provides spoken directions. Developed by Pronounced Technologies, Reseda, Calif., it allows a driver to ask for directions to a specific address and responds with turn-by-turn instructions. Mapping software for the entire U.S. is provided on nine CD-ROMs shipped with the unit, but requires separate fees to be activated.

The AudioNav is said to respond accurately to different speakers, and can be programmed to remember specific locations. It can also be controlled by voice to play music CDs. Retailing for just under $300, it comes with navigation CD-ROMs (which require a separate fee for activation), headphones, microphone, 12V adapter cord, AC adapter, audio connection cables, and a tutorial CD-ROM. A real-time GPS (global positioning system) option will be available later this year, according to the manufacturer.

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The Intermec 5055 Data Collection PC is a full-screen Windows-based computer specifically designed for lift-truck, yard-hostler, and other severe warehouse applications.

Housed in a magnesium case, the 5055 is fully weatherproof and has a modular design that can accommodate a wide range of options including a tethered scanner and wireless modems. Based on a 133 mHz Pentium processor, the hardened PC can run under the Windows CE operating system, as well under Windows 95, Windows NT, or MS-DOS.

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The PC*Miler 2000 line of routing, mileage, and mapping software products for PC, UNIX, midrange, and mainframe platforms adds 14,000 mi. of a roads, 22,500 new locations, and 24,000 named highway interchanges, according to ALK Assocs., Princeton, N.J. The expanded database also now includes Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

Other new features include customized route capabilities that allow users to accommodate specialized equipment or to develop seasonal routing preferences. As with older versions, PC*Miler 2000 interfaces with most major fleet and logistics management systems.

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An import wizard for the Truckstops Routing and Scheduling System from MicroAnalytics, Arlington, Va., allows fleet to quickly import data from an AS/400 accounting/order-entry system. The wizard handles ASCII text files and Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, transferring them into the program's Windows 95/98/NT environment.

The Eltron 2722 and 2742 from Zebra Technologies Corp. , Vernon Hills, Ill., are desktop bar-code label printers designed for easy use and high performance. Both are offered in direct thermal and thermal transfer models, and feature flash memory firmware that can be updated with new fonts or bar-code symbols directly from the company's Web site.

The U.S. Postal System has recently signed a contract to install XATA on-board computers in its heavy-duty trucks, which are used to distribute mail to regional and local facilities. The on-board information systems will be used by the federal service to analyze and optimize routes, according to postal authorities.

ITS America panel proposes test program

Representatives from major toll agencies in the U.S. say they support the concept of a national system that would allow them to collect tolls electronically from commercial vehicles carrying a variety of transponders or RF tags.

A blue ribbon panel sponsored by the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America) attracted over 100 executives from toll authorities and equipment suppliers for a recent seminar entitled "National Toll System Interoperability for Commercial Vehicles."

Under discussion was some type of national clearinghouse that would allow fleets to electronically clear toll facilities throughout the country without having to acquire different proprietary RF tags for each authority.

Ideally, that system would be able to handle transponders now used by some 100,000 trucks for automated commercial vehicle clearance systems such as HELP and Advantage I75, as well as those used by electronic toll systems. There are approximately 40 major toll authorities in the U.S., although not all have electronic toll systems in place.

Larry Yermack, chairman of the panel, proposed technical testing of interoperable electronic toll collection begin later this year with a goal of full national interoperability for commercial vehicles by the end of 2000.

Drivers and other mobile workers can easily send and receive Internet e-mail from any telephone with TelMail TM-20, a portable e-mail "appliance" from Sharp Electronics Corp. Once users create a message on the TelMail's keyboard, they can send it to any Internet address by dialing an 800 number and holding the unit up to the telephone receiver. Messages received at the same time can be stored for reading offline. In addition to e-mail, the Sharp device can be used to store personal information such as names and addresses, schedules, and important dates. The TelMail retails for $149 and requires a $9.95 per month subscription for unlimited PocketMail service. E-mail can be sent directly to a user's PocketMail address or forwarded from an existing Internet e-mail account.

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RoutePro Replenisher from CAPS Logistics Inc. is designed to optimize delivery routes for private or dedicated fleets that manages customer inventories. The software package handles both planning and operational decisions based on customer location and rate of usage. It will cut transportation costs while maintaining customer service by creating optimal daily routes that take into account demand fluctuations and current inventory status.

The program features interactive map-based graphics that can be edited to add new stops, accommodate urgent orders, and modify customer delivery requirements.

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Verspeeten Cartage Ltd., a truckload carrier based in Ontario, Canada, has installed the 50,000th HighwayMaster Series 5000 mobile communications system to be put in service. The Series 5000 provides voice and data communications using the analog cellular telephone network. Options include automated fuel-tax reporting and real-time estimated time of arrival information.

Profit Tracker Plus, developed by Edonna Products and Services Inc., Oakhurst, N.J., maintains detailed expense records for individual vehicles to help fleets determine operating costs and profits. Free demos of the Windows-based program are available at www.edonna.com, or for $10 (to cover shipping and handling) you can get a full working trial version on a CD.

The National Transportation Exchange, an Internet-based electronic marketplace for shippers and carriers, has named two new sales directors. Scott A. Johnson will focus on the shipper market, while Robert F. Wagner will work with carriers. Both men will be based in the company's Downers Grove, Ill., headquarters.

Two competing satellite radio companies are on schedule to begin offering subscribers coast-to-coast access to hundreds of entertainment and information channels by the end of next year.

In 1997, the Federal Communications Commission granted licenses to XM Satellite Radio, which is owned by American Mobile Satellite Corp., and CD Radio, a publicly traded company, to provide digital audio radio service on a subscription basis.

In recent months, the two have signed agreements with radio manufacturers to develop three-band (AM/ FM/XM or AM/FM/CD Radio) automotive receivers, as well as adapters for existing 2-band AM/FM receivers.

In addition, XM has just signed an exclusive marketing and distribution agreement with General Motors Corp,. and CD Radio has negotiated a similar exclusive arrangement with Ford Motor Co.

The satellites that will be used to broadcast the new services are now under construction and scheduled for launch early next year.

Subscribers are expected to pay about $10/month to receive some 100 channels of digital audio programming when commercial broadcasting begins in the fourth quarter of 2000. Initially, the two systems will probably use incompatible hardware, but under FCC license requirements, future satellite receivers will be capable of handling either XM or CD Radio services.

Although a number of special-interest satellite radio channels have already been announced, there has been no word from either XM or CD Radio on plans for a national "truckers" program.

Designed specifically for procurement of maintenance, repair, and operating (MRO) materials and services, mroBuyer can automatically trigger and submit parts replenishment orders over a new MRO Internet-based marketplace developed by MRO.com Inc., a subsidiary of PSDI.

In addition to automated replenishment, the new software allows front-line employees with access to the Internet to search supplier catalogs, create requisitions, and view real-time inventory availability and order status. It will also automatically route requisitions through company approval chains by e-mail and provide seamless interfaces for major ERP systems such as SAP, Oracle, and PeopleSoft.

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The Communicator is a data messaging terminal for the Skymark automatic vehicle location system from Cimarron Technologies, Escondido, Calif. The new terminal can send either preformatted or free-form messages along with the system's position data over a variety of wireless communications services, including cellular digital packet data (CDPD) and two-way trunked radio systems.

Air-Weigh, Eugene, Ore., has announced lower prices for all of its on-board scales, including the new AW5600. Price reductions range form $245 to $400 for a tractor and trailer combination system.

Ruan Transportation Management Systems, Des Moines, Ill., will expand its dedicated carriage and load management services with the TransPro and Supply Chain Suite from CAPS Logistics, a division of Baan Co. The software applications handle all aspects of complex supply-chain movements from carrier selection and vehicle routing to rating.

New untethered trailer tracking solution scheduled for Q3 launch

HighwayMaster plans to introduce a new untethered trailer tracking solution later this quarter, according to Michael Evans, market segment director, mobile asset tracking for the company. Called TrackWare, the new system will combine wireless and GPS technologies with HighwayMaster's proprietary Network Service Center (NSC) to create the link between a fleet's trailers and the fleet control center.

The system will include a cellular antenna, GPS receiver, microprocessor, cellemetry transceiver by Cellemetry Data Service, a rechargeable battery, and a weatherproof power cable to provide power to the unit when tethered. According to Evans, the battery is designed to operate untethered for 30-60 days and to recharge automatically when the trailer is tethered to the tractor. TrackWare is a "simple" solution, he notes, designed to provide scheduled location reports, event-driven reports such as tethered/untethered and low-battery warnings, geographic trailer search capability, and "stolen" trailer location intelligence.

Evans says the costs for the TrackWare system will be about $500 for the hardware and about $10 per unit per month for the trailer reports. "Untethered trailer tracking is still relatively new," observes Evans. "As such, there is still some learning users have to go through. For example, does a fleet really need every-hour trailer monitoring? Or is every day or exception-only reporting just fine? Only some experience with the capability will answer these questions. One thing is certain, however. The ability to track untethered trailers will raise the competitive bar."

Eaton Corp.'s Trucking Information Services Division (TISD) recently introduced the InfoTach enhancement to the Fleet Advisor Transportation Logistics Management System.

InfoTach is designed to give Fleet Advisor users the ability to electronically capture and store vehicle information either second-by-second over a time interval or on a summary basis, storing only predetermined threshold values for parameters as they occur. According to Eaton, second-by-second data can also be gathered automatically when triggered by certain events, such as high-deceleration braking.

InfoTach uses the existing Fleet Advisor on-board computer (OBC), so it is not necessary to connect any additional hardware to the system. Depending on the type of data collected, it may be downloaded from the OBC either via a PCMCIA card batch transfer or real-time through the Fleet Advisor wireless communications system.

"By collecting vehicle sensor and SAE J1708 datalink information over selected time intervals, fleets will be able to verify speeds, braking, cruise control, and clutch status immediately prior to and during traffic incidents, such as speeding violations or accidents, said Jeff Skorupski, Eaton TISD marketing manager.

"InfoTach will also help identify drivers in need of further training by quantifying improper driving habits," Skorupski added. "Manual activation of the data recording interval also lets InfoTach function as a data acquisition device to aid in the diagnosis of vehicle problems."

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DaimlerChrysler recently demonstrated the capabilities of their "Electronic Draw-Bar" on a stretch of the Lake Constance Freeway near Constance, Germany. According to the company, the system actively controls the forward, backward, and lateral movement of a truck. This enables a second truck to be "coupled" to a lead vehicle solely by electronics, following automatically in the track of the front truck, which is steered in the conventional way. Lead/follow technology has the potential to reduce fuel consumption and air pollution while giving drivers a break from the monotony of highway driving, according to DaimlerChrysler.

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