Trailer tracking system in field tests

Dec. 1, 1998
Preparing for commercial availability in the second quarter of 1999, Vantage Tracking Solutions has begun field-testing a system for tracking untethered trailers throughout North America.Using ORBCOMM's low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite network for two-way data communications, the Vantage Tracker system features an integrated satellite transceiver and GPS receiver that mounts between wall posts in the

Preparing for commercial availability in the second quarter of 1999, Vantage Tracking Solutions has begun field-testing a system for tracking untethered trailers throughout North America.

Using ORBCOMM's low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite network for two-way data communications, the Vantage Tracker system features an integrated satellite transceiver and GPS receiver that mounts between wall posts in the nose of a trailer. A rechargeable battery pack sits on the same mounting bracket and a cargo sensor is placed alongside to determine whether a trailer is loaded or empty. Vehicle hardware also includes a flat roof-mounted antenna and sensors to monitor doors, trailer connections, and ambient temperatures.

The system's lead-acid battery can send one status message a day for up to 45 days when it is untethered and has an estimated life of five years, according to the company.

Management software for Vantage Tracker includes applications for managing trailer messages and tracking, as well as interfaces for existing fleet operations, customer service, and dispatch systems.

Hardware cost for the system will be about $550 per trailer, with service fees of approximately $10 to $15 per month depending on the size and frequency of messages. Vantage says it will release a dry van version of the tracking system in the spring of 1999, followed by a refrigerated trailer system.

The next generation of on-board scales from Air-Weigh will be smaller, easier to install, simpler to operate, able to control a wide range of optional components, and cost less than the current model, according to company officials.

Undergoing field tests and due to be released in March, the AW5600 needs only power and ground connections from the tractor to control and communicate with weight sensors, alarms, lights, communications systems, and other powered components on both the tractor and trailer. The new system's power and ground network, called FSKNET, automatically registers any controllable component attached to a vehicle's electrical wiring system. For example, a portable printer can be added to the scale simply by plugging it into the tractor's power jack.

The AW5600's tractor control unit is installed with just two wires, and its display screen provides menus for controlling, calibrating, and diagnosing all components in the network. Among other changes, the AW5600 will also be offered with weight sensors for mechanical spring suspensions. The current AW5200 scale works only with air suspensions.

Cost for the basic AW5600 on-board scale and control unit will be approximately 20% lower than the AW5200 scale, according to Air-Weigh officials.

Prices for the Intouch Fleet Management wireless communications and tracking system have been reduced 50%, according to PeopleNet Communications Corp. Now under $400 per tractor for the system hardware, Intouch offers vehicle location and two-way voice and data communications by combining GPS tracking, cellular telephone service, and Internet access to its communications management hub. The price decrease will be offered for a limited time only, according to the company.

Millis Transfer Inc. has become the first fleet to sign up for a software licensing program that provides optimization and other truckload decision-support applications for a fixed per-truck monthly fee. Under the SmartAccess program from SABRE Group, the midsize Millis fleet has already begun using the OptiYield load optimization system, and will add driver, stop, and general fleet management programs in early 1999.

FuelLogic Online from Prophesy Transportation Software is a Web-based version of the company's fuel purchase optimization system. Subscribers can use the system to review all potential fuel stops along any route. Diesel prices are updated daily.

Using a private Intranet that can be accessed at some 300 truckstop kiosks, truckload carrier U.S. Xpress will begin sending electronic settlement statements to driver e-mail accounts. The private Intranet and driver e-mail accounts are being provided by TIMM Communications, which also operates the DRIVER Net kiosk network.

In addition to settlement details, the fleet's 7,000 company and leased drivers will have access to secure company data over the private network, including company messages, load postings, and routing directions.

U.S. Xpress will also test a TIMM document scanning system at two fleet locations. The system, called SCAN Net, allows drivers to transmit proof-of-delivery and other documents from fleet terminals and truck stops.

The FW2000 Series Embedded Vehicle System is a three- piece modular PC designed by FieldWorks Inc. for trucks and other commercial vehicles. The basic system includes a server, a color LCD display, and a sealed keyboard with integral pointing device. Optional floppy and CD-ROM drivers can be mounted on the back of the display or elsewhere in the vehicle. The server can be placed in a secure location such as inside cab walls, while the display and keyboard can be located wherever convenient.

The server, which can be connected to a vehicle's data bus or wireless communications system, is powered by a Pentium MMX processor running at speeds of up to 266 MHz. It has two PC Card slots, three serial ports, one parallel port, and a dual-channel Universal Serial Bus. The standard operating system is Windows 98.

The color LCD screen offers a 10.4-in. SVGA display and can be installed up to 16 ft. from the server.

A number of new mobile dispatch systems using the company's packet-radio communications service and the small RIM Inter@ctive Pager 950 were announced by BellSouth Wireless Data at the ATA Management Conference & Exhibition in late October.

*.BellSouth RAM Interactive Dispatch is a complete entry-level wireless dispatch system that lets drivers and supervisors communicate with both predefined and free-form messages. It will store and forward messages when a driver's RIM pager is not available, and provides dispatchers with time-stamped acknowledgements when messages are received. Smaller than a deck of cards, the pager features a full keyboard.

*.An automatic vehicle location system from ETE Inc. adds real-time driver tracking to two-way dispatch messaging. It integrates GPS and Internet technology for easy, inexpensive implementation.

*.MobileDispatch provides a complete dispatching solution for truck fleets, according to Dynamic Mobile Data. In addition to two-way wireless messaging, it also integrates with existing fleet office applications.

*.CompUtil PowerCradle 950 is a plastic vehicle cradle for the RIM 950 that acts as a recharger for the pager's nickel metal hydride battery. Options include a built-in Trimble GPS receiver and a DB9 serial connector for peripheral devices.

As part of plans to expand its wireless data services, QUALCOMM Inc. has changed the name of its OmniTRACS division to QUALCOMM Wireless Business Solutions (QWBS). The renamed business group will continue offering longhaul fleets OmniTRACS and TruckMAIL satellite-based wireless service, but also introduce a range of other communications products designed for P&D and other shorthaul fleets.

One of QWBS' first new products will be an untethered trailer tracking system based on cellular telephone communications. The trailer system was demonstrated at the recent ATA Management Conference & Exhibition and is currently undergoing field tests. Commercial availability is expected by mid 1999.

Designed for a client/ server evironment, the EZlog Machine automatically reads, verifies, and audits driver logs without manual data entry or verifications. Intended for smaller fleets, it requires an all-in-one office printer/copier, a modem, and a PC running under Windows 95/98.

Once logs are fed into the fleet's scanner, the PC automatically dials into a centralized server for processing by Scanware Inc.'s proprietary image and handwriting recognition software. Fleets pay only for the logs processed by the server, according to Scanware.

In addition to auditing logs, the system can produce driver performance reports as well as create, index, and store log images for up to six months.

Fleets in need of a fleet-management system that is Year 2000-compliant can get both software and an AS/400 server installed in as few as 90 days. The QuickStart 2000 program from TMW Systems includes the company's TL2000 operations software package, project management, implementation services, and training -- all for a fixed price.

Applications provided by TL2000 include dispatch, rating and billing, order entry, and account management. As an authorized IBM reseller, TMW can either provide a new AS/400 server or arrange for a loaner system during the implementation phase.

QuickStart 2000 is intended for truckload carriers with 50 to 500 tractors. Fees will be based on tractor count and other carrier characteristics, according to the company.

Advantage CVO, the automated electronic truck clearance system operating on I-75 from Florida to Ontario, will merge with MAPS, a similar system in the Pacific Northwest. The two will now use a common RFID transponder for identifying trucks as they roll by automated clearance stations. Fleets that meet safety requirements will purchase the tag for about $45. There are no other fees for participating.

States participating in the two systems use them to collect different data, and the merger will not change that, according to a spokesperson for Advantage CVO. However, fleets using the joint system will be able to choose which states they want to register in for automated clearance.

The largest automated truck clearance system is PrePass, which is operated by Help Inc. It distributes its RFID tags for free and charges carriers for each automated clearance. Its transponders are not compatible with MAPS or Advantage CVO.

Talks about merging PrePass with the other two systems have stalled over the issue of fees and how states will use the data collected, according to spokespersons for both groups.

ArcLogistics Route from ESRI is a desktop vehicle routing program designed to solve complex routing and scheduling problems. Easy to use, it generates route summary reports, overview maps, detailed stop vicinity maps, street-level directions, and driver manifests. It runs under Windows 95/98/NT and can be connected directly to SAP R/3 and ODBC databases.

Fleets can now search Kenworth Truck Co.'s used truck locator on the Internet. The company's new Web site (www. can be used to check the company's entire inventory of used trucks or trucks offered by any of 55 participating KW dealers.

Associated Grocers Inc., a food distributor serving 240 retailers in Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi, will equip its entire fleet with the Eaton Fleet Advisor System. The system combines an on-board computer and real-time wireless communications system with transportation logistics management software.

Energy from Descartes Systems Group Inc. is a collaborative Web-based delivery management system that tracks product flow through an entire supply chain.

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