Trucks sitting idle or hauling empty trailers on a return trip, late pick-ups or deliveries, inefficient route planning, billing errors — these are nightmares that keep fleet managers and trucking firms awake at night and losing money during the day.
After 17 years in the transport industry, Yves D’amours knows the trucking problems all too well — including the 15 to 20 per cent fees taken by those serving as brokers between shippers and truckers. Four years ago, he recognized the possibility of IT being applied to provide a kind of online matchmaking service between shippers and truckers, saving both parties money by eliminating brokers in this low-margin industry. Now he is president of Ship2Save which hosts an online service where truckers bid on loads registered by shippers.
It took three years for the technology to appear to make feasible the online transportation hub now marketed by his Montreal-based Ship2Save, and even then, new ground had to be broken to make it happen.
Ship2Save looked at many varieties of software and decided to “pioneer in .Net,” largely for the sake of its economy, recalls project manager Shawn Arsenault.
They selected MapPoint .Net Web Service and helped Microsoft improve MapPoint’s long distance accuracy.
Shippers who subscribe to Ship2Save.com, which Arsenault says includes major corporations, can get competitive bids from truckers and check out their credentials such as handling hazardous materials or state to state licensing. Trucker members can ensure the shipper’s ability to pay by checking the Dun and Bradstreet database on the fly since access can be via a PDA, mobile cell or IP telephony.
The company used Visual Studio .NET to integrate the MapPoint Web Service so truckers can visualize available loads for shipping which expedites their load searching, and shippers can track the status and location of their shipments at all times on the map, Arsenault explains.
Sam Falsafi, Ship2Save business development manager, hopes that by the end of its first year, the site that came online late last year will have 5,000 members, which he says is less than one per cent of the market.
He reports that the company is also building on the .Net platform RFID solutions for tracking items while going down the road. In March, Ship2Save announced an RFID pilot project with Canus Inc., a Montreal-based soap manufacturer that supplies products such as goat’s milk skin care to Canada, Europe and Asia.
Calgary-based Trimac Corporation, the largest trucker in Canada, has invested in IT to make sure information gets to the destinations that help products reach theirs. Trimac’s bulk transportation business involves 3,000 trucks and 6,000 trailers hauling one million loads per year over 220 million miles with an average of six customer changes per order before a truck departs. Trimac trucks deliver bulk liquids, petroleum products, chemicals, wood chips and cement all over North America.
As noted in the report about this winner of the 2003 Canadian Information Productivity Award of Excellence in the customer care category, in 1997, the company began to replace a variety of disparate business applications with a single, enterprise-wide integrated system to handle the logistics associated with its bulk transportation business and to position itself for growth. This has included creating a unique ERP and e-business system which enables users in the 140 Trimac branch offices across North America to quickly retrieve information needed to maintain the efficiency of internal operations and improve customer service.
The company reports that increased operational efficiency and error reduction has facilitated in capturing and analyzing a number of key business metrics, such as trip performance data, order entry data and on-time pickup and delivery statistics. This in turn has reduced costs and helped improve driver safety.
Multiple legacy dispatch and billing systems were replaced by TMW’s PowerSuite which Trimac customized to work in the WAN environment connecting Trimac’s locations.
Legacy back-office systems were replaced with Peoplesoft for financials, payroll and HR, giving Trimac a single, central repository for all driver-related information such as training, certifications for hauling different materials and safety test history — stored centrally but available to any other system that needs it.
A satellite communications system, based on TMW’s Total Mail solution, enables drivers to share information with the dispatchers via text messages. Onboard Cadec computer devices record trip-related information such as truck speed, to ensure compliance in speed-controlled zones, and engine idle time, so customers can be properly billed for truck wait times.
Using BusinessWare application integration technology from Vitria, Trimac integrated the dispatch component of its ERP system with the order entry and fulfillment systems of its customers for order entry, status and invoicing over the Internet using industry-standard protocols such as EDI and XML.
“This type of integration provides our customers and us with all kinds of opportunities to further streamline our businesses and to take time and cost and errors out of our processes,” reports Janet Topic, IT vice-president.