Redefining the map
As route-planning programs come of age, developers offer enhancements to improve the user’s experience
RexDon, a power-only transport company, has been a PC*Miler user almost since the day the trucking routing software became available. When General Manager Jerry Thomason got hold of the new PC*Miler 25 version, he found a useful feature.
Previously, Thomason says, if you wanted to favor or avoid certain road segments, you had to zoom in on the program map and click on each highway segment. It could be a tedious, time-consuming task and you might click on the wrong road. “With the new GeoFencing feature, I can draw a square or another shape around an area and say to avoid it,” he says. “There might be something about the route that we want to avoid. Or an area may have been flooded or hit by a tornado.”
Thomason also says company dispatchers are able to grab and move on-screen maps more easily. “It’s much more user-friendly,” he says.
The company, with about 80 owner-operators leased on, uses the program to compute mileage and locate pick-up and delivery locations. Mileage figures are used for making bids, billing, payroll and fuel tax reporting.
Route-planning providers are fine-tuning their offerings in the ongoing drive to outdo the competition and make the trucker’s life more profitable and safe. Dave Marsh, head of the development team at Rand McNally, says the team constantly talks with customers to update information and consider new features that will improve navigation. “We’ve added routing flexibility to allow drivers to find shorter routes that are truck friendly,” he says. “We want each driver to feel the system is unique to their preferences, so we’ve added to the number of preferences that are available to each driver.”
Following find a sample of what some of the major route-planning tool providers have developed. Additional features are planned for early this year, developers say.
Rand McNally TND 760
This device is a combination routing tool and electronic onboard recorder. The product integrates into a truck’s onboard computer and can send information via Wi-Fi and cellular. It offers communications via email, driver and vehicle performance monitoring, hours-of-service compliance and navigation.
As an EOBR, the product is Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rule 395.15 compliant and provides HOS alerts and warnings while automatically recording hours. On the routing side, the device offers routes based on load dimensions and 200 vehicle-specific measures, using IntelliRoute TND navigation.
Although targeted at fleets, the device is attracting owner-operator interest. “One of our first customers was an owner-operator fleet of less than five operators,” says Amy Krouse, Rand McNally spokeswoman. “They’re seeing the value of being in compliance with an electronic help mate in the cab.”
For Jones Motor Group, the device combines several functions in one tool. “It blends Wi-Fi capability, mapping, a navigational component and an onboard component as well,” says Ken Lacey, vice president of safety and risk management.
Lacey says about 10 contractors will begin using the devices at the all-owner-operator group of three operating companies and about 500 trucks. Contractors won’t be required to install it unless an operator has experienced problems with roadside inspections. “It’s kind of a shock to the system [for drivers] to have EOBRs, but it’s a way for us to save drivers we otherwise would terminate.”