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4/23/2012 8:15:00 AM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

iTECH: Technology Helps Fleets Develop New Business

By Stephen Bennett, Contributing Writer

This article appears in the April/May 2012 issue of iTECH, published in the April 9 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

As the U.S. economy continues to progress at a less-than-robust pace and motor carriers looking to improve their bottom line turn to the potentially risky tactic of diversifying their service offerings, experts, tech firms and carrier execs said one way to reduce the risk is to adapt the fleets’ existing technology to the new services.

Transportation management systems designed by technology companies to help with dispatching, invoicing and other aspects of a trucking business “can be integrated quite rapidly” to support new services, said Gary Salisbury, chairman of the Truckload Carriers Association, “because they have the ability to interface from one segment to another,” enabling diversification.

Mark Cubine, vice president of marketing for McLeod Software, Birmingham, Ala., said carriers can use some transportation-management systems to run multiple divisions on the same platform. That is useful, he said, because companies often will create legally separate companies for different operations to limit risk and liability. That feature also helps carriers to comply with accounting procedures that require them to document exceptions such as when a tractor assigned to the van freight company is used to pick up a refrigerated trailer belonging to a sister company, Cubine said.

Over the past 18 months, flatbed operator Maverick Transportation, North Little Rock, Ark., added refrigerated service and bulk-hauling business. The flatbed unit had been supported by the auto manufacturing and construction industries, said Wayne Brown, vice president of information technology, but both sectors fell into the doldrums for long stretches during the recession.

“We saw the need to diversify,” Brown said. “Having software in place that allows you to do that in an agile way is extremely important.”

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