Until now paperwork proved the villain in trailer renting. The rental process has always been easy — make a reservation; drive to the pickup point; inspect the trailer and hookup; sign the paperwork; and get on the road.
Tracking the paperwork to ensure the bills get paid and costs are kept within limits has been the problem. The rental receipt has always been the kernel of the potential problem. Until recently, it has been a five-or six-page no-carbon-required office form filled out by hand, signed by the person who picked up the trailer, and almost always required as proof of rental before payment would be made. Tracking the receipt often led to inner office exchanges like this:
“We just got an invoice for renting a trailer.”
“Yeah, we needed it.”
“Where's the receipt?”
“Don't know, haven't seen it.”
“Where's the driver who signed it?”
“Don't know; someone said he quit last week.”
“What did we find in the tractor?”
“Nothing — he turned it in clean,”
“Get the rental company to fax us a copy.”
And they would fax a copy. It would be the bottom, just barely readable, page of the original form that crawled out of the fax tray looking like something from the dark ages instead of a business document.
XTRA Lease of St Louis has introduced a new trailer rental checkout process that it says will make problems in tracking paperwork a thing of the past. Known as XTRA Xpress, the trailer checkout process mirrors the same procedure business travelers already use to check-out rental cars. “The difference between renting cars and renting trailers, says Bill Franz, president of XTRA Corporation, is that business travelers are so used to handling car receipts that it is simply second nature.” Getting the receipt to the correct person is a completely different issue for drivers, especially drivers who do not make many stops at the accounting department, he says.
The new process works like this. When a customer arrives at an XTRA location, customer data is loaded into a wireless, handheld computer terminal. XTRA personnel complete a final inspection of the trailer and note the results on the electronic rental agreement. The driver provides an electronic signature and the handheld device is used to print a receipt. However, that receipt is not the most important document in the process; it simply confirms that the driver has the trailer.
When the physical transfer of the trailer is complete, the handheld device transmits the completed rental transaction to XTRA's main computer system where a digital rental agreement is generated. Upon completion, the XTRA system creates a pdf, which is emailed to the responsible customer for review. The process is completely paperless, unless the customer chooses to print the agreement. If the original pdf is lost or accidentally deleted, XTRA can provide a copy by fax directly from its computer system.
The first XTRA Xpress installation was completed in Chicago in July 2004, and 41 locations in the US and Canada were equipped by March 2005. By midsummer 2005, installation throughout the network should be complete.