High-Tech Innovations Drive Success

Make sure you choose the routing solution that matches your needs.


Bills notes: "Increasingly, companies are using GIS for their tariff calculations because trucks have to pay taxes on the number of miles they travel in each state. This can be factored into your routing program so you have multi-criteria routing possibilities." Local restrictions in various jurisdictions can also be factored into route optimization programs.

When planning routes and deliveries in urban areas, time of day and traffic patterns on particular roadways during those times play a significant role, continues Bills. "We are moving in this area, which is one of the more interesting trends for dynamic routing and scheduling. We are completing a project taking these elements into consideration in order to display real-time travel speeds as well as incident data for re-routing."

Another option is geo-fencing. "This provides your driver with the route you want them to follow, with a mileage buffer around that route. If the vehicle deviates from that predetermined route and crosses the geo-fence, an alarm is sent to headquarters," explains Bills. This assures the driver's security as well as that of the vehicle since it can be tracked in the event of theft. "Trucking companies want to know about these situations––especially if the route passes near high-crime areas."

Providers are responding to the demand for truck-specific routing. For example, PC*Miler is ALK Technologies' branded digital truck-specific map, used by 21,000 customers including carriers, shippers and 3PLs. With over 21 years on the market, PC*Miler is considered an industry standard, says Siciliano, adding PC*Miler Web Services is now available via the Internet.

"We include things like weight restrictions, 53-foot routing, low bridge locations and HAZMAT routing. If you don't have this information and route your truck the wrong way, your truck could wind up with its top ripped off from trying to drive under a low bridge," he says. ALK will release PC*Miler Version 21 in April.

PC*Miler is now available with toll information. "Not a trivial undertaking," notes Siciliano. "We had to contact each of the 37 toll authorities in the country, and then we had to find every toll road and every toll barrier (over 1,000). We applied the toll barriers to our map, showing both latitude and longitude." The company then had to calculate every permutation and every possible on/off ramp (14,000) a truck could take, which equates to different toll amounts. "Then we approached all 16 discount authorities like E-Z Pass to calculate the applicable discount." Comparable fuel prices are also displayed on truckers' in-cab screens.

ALK's new CoPilot Truck provides PC*Miler's capabilities in addition to GPS navigation and route guidance technology. "This is the most explosive technology we offer," says Siciliano. "CoPilot runs on a PC, handheld computer, or cell phone, giving drivers truck-sensitive turn-by-turn instructions." The driver has a map to refer to, as well as vocal prompts reporting distance to the next turn. Last year ALK enjoyed 1200 percent growth on this product alone.

High-Tech Windshields

PeopleNet's primary product is People-Net g3. "We interface with route developers, capturing and presenting that data in text-based directions to the driver in the cab," explains McLaughlin.

"In the near future we will do the same through in-cab navigation capabilities that will present the route you're supposed to be following with turn-by-turn directions."

This will be done on a handheld computer or on an enhanced in-cab map display. "Our patented over-the-air programming allows us to update onboard software remotely, without taking trucks off the road."

Data transfer is accomplished within an onboard computer with a screen or other interface, using high-speed/high-bandwidth networks. "Companies know exactly where their driver is and where he is supposed to be according to the route plan," says McLaughlin. "We also provide geo-fencing so the back office knows when a driver is off-route or behind schedule. Clients can provide real-time updates across their supply chain, including the driver, the shipper and the consignee."

In-cab navigation is hitting critical mass, notes McLaughlin. "The time is right now regarding price points. A key enabler is wireless technology, which offers cost-effective delivery of lots of data." Although all systems use satellite-GPS for location tracking, wireless bandwidths with terrestrial networks allow heavy loads of data to communicate more efficiently.

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