Using the Internet
Online trucking resources can help you work faster, smarter and more profitably.
With a connection to the Internet, you can find virtually anything you need to know concerning technology and your business. Many owner-operators use the Internet to:
• Check traffic reports, weather and fuel prices.
• Find and book loads.
• Send bills of lading.
• Keep in touch with family and friends.
• Keep in touch with dispatch.
• Manage bank accounts and finances.
• Stay up to date on trucking news.
• Plan routes.
• Shop for the best prices on equipment.
• Send receipts and settlement statements to business services providers.
LAND-BASED CONNECTIONS. These rely on extensive cable networks and operate similar to a regular phone system. If you choose to use exclusively land-based connection services, you will be limited mostly to your home, hotels and increasingly scarce truck stop kiosks. You will have access only when your laptop is attached to an available land line.
WIRELESS CONNECTIONS. These allow you to connect from most any remote location where cellular data or Wi-Fi local-area-network service is provided. To use Wi-Fi, your laptop must have wireless capability, as all newer laptops do. More and more locations, such as hotels, rest stops and coffee shops, offer a Wi-Fi network, sometimes for free. Most truck stop wireless services require a subscription fee.
Another wireless alternative is to link your laptop to your cell phone and sign up for a cellular-based wireless service. Using a standard cell phone connection can quickly become expensive if you spend a lot of time online. It’s also historically been slower than most Wi-Fi networks, but it’s getting faster all the time, particularly with the recent surge in smartphone use.
Following is a closer look at two of the most helpful owner-operator applications.
Load matching once meant scraps of paper with phone numbers stuck on truck-stop bulletin boards, or postings on a TV monitor. Today, online load boards link owner-operators to inbound freight and backhauls, based on equipment type and specific lanes. Most require a monthly subscription fee.
Smart users of online load boards can maximize their loaded miles, reduce layover times and dramatically increase their number of clients. In addition to loads, most boards provide information about a broker’s or shipper’s credit history.
One of the leading services is TruckersEdge.net, powered by Transcore’s DAT network, the country’s oldest and largest load board. TruckersEdge.net also provides the freight matching service available through OverdriveOnline.com.
The service also provides information critical to owner-operators’ cash flow, like brokers’ average days to pay, credit profile and bond information; mileage and routing tools; and unlimited searching and posting. TruckersEdge.net packages include access to broker-negotiation tools like truckload lane average rates, customized searches and notifications of specific matches, as well as phone posting.
Some other major load services are:
• Internet Truckstop (www.truckstop.com) offers real-time searches, credit reports, weather information, road conditions, fuel optimization and mileage and routing information. It’s also accessible by e-mail, fax or phone.
• GetLoaded (www.getloaded.com) offers subscribers access to credit scores, mileage calculators and weather reports, among other features.
• NetTrans (www.nettrans.com) offers credit scores based on the actual billing experience of a factoring company.
Dozens of sites provide other information tailored to truckers. OverdriveOnline.com provides up-to-the-minute news on trucking and links to many services, such as load matching, fuel prices by state, street-level truck routing, ads for used equipment and an online job search with hundreds of featured carriers.
Overdrive parent company Randall-Reilly Media and Business Information this year launched an application for the iPhone (with Blackberry and Android versions on the way) that links users with the deals offered via www.TruckStopCoupons.com, a great source for discounts on numerous items sold in truck stops, from food to GPS devices.
The Fuel Surcharge Index website (www.fuelsurchargeindex.org) presents fuel price information along specific lanes. And for the cost of a subscription, operators can calculate their own fuel surcharges based on fuel prices along a specific lane.
Truck Net (www.truck.net) provides a forum for thousands of truck drivers through dozens of specialized bulletin boards, including one for owner-operators. HotShot Hauling (www.hotshothauling.com) does much the same on a smaller scale devoted to the Class 3-5 hauling niche.
Truck stop chains such as Flying J (www.flyingj.com) and Petro (www.petrotruckstops.com) list their amenities, provide important links and directions, and even list their daily diesel fuel prices. Companies such as ProMiles (www.promiles.com) provide truckers with accurate routes and mileage.
Federal and state governments have websites that allow you to pay taxes online, research regulations and report possible violations. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (www.fmcsa.dot.gov) site has links to all trucking regulations as well as pending rulemakings. n
This is excerpted from the 2010-2011 Partners in Business manual, produced by Overdrive and owner-operator financial services provider ATBS. The next Partners in Business seminar will be Aug. 27 during the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas. To order a manual, call (800) 633-5953, Ext. 1301. Visit www.PIBlive.com for seminar videos and other information. The program is brought to you by Freightliner Trucks and Schneider National.