Wired to Roll
While eating dinner at a truckstop, a driver for U.S. Xpress uses an iPhone to select his next load. With corporate connectivity outside the cab, the driver gets his top choice in loads, and U.S. Xpress accelerates its load planning process.
In the cab, U.S. Xpress drivers now are using a Windows-based computing platform with a touchscreen display. Outside the cab, they soon will be using applications or “apps” for their personal smartphones and mobile devices. The Chattanooga, Tenn.-based company also is creating mobile apps for sales, fleet management and customer service.
U.S. Xpress has designed its new apps to be motion-restricted so as to comply with federal and state regulations that prohibit the use of cell phones while driving, says Ken Crane, senior manager of mobility.
The rapid growth of smartphones, tablets and mobile devices has created a tidal wave of new software development aimed at both consumers and businesses. The lines have blurred, and with 24/7 operations and mobile workers, the transportation industry is full of executives, managers and drivers looking for smarter and more efficient ways to get things done.
Next year, Microsoft will roll out Windows 8, a highly anticipated release that will change the way business users interact with office PCs.
“Windows 8 will blur the line between an iPad and a business computer,” says Keith Mader, vice president of development for TMW Systems, a provider of enterprise transportation software. By next year, TMW plans to have all its Windows-based software systems running in the new Windows 8 environment. TMW also plans to incorporate the pinch-and-zoom screen technology that comes standard with smartphones and tablets such as the Apple iPad.
In general, today’s business applications are more visual and intuitive. Most fleet management systems now incorporate map views of data with quick drill-down and smart drag-and-drop features. When viewing dispatch data on a map view, a fleet planner could see locations of customers, loads and equipment. Clicking an icon displays more detailed information with drill-down capabilities to see specific pickup-and-delivery times and real-time hours-of-service status for drivers.
2. The mobile executive
Software developers in the trucking industry see untapped potential for filling a void for information beyond the realm of the office and the cab. Today’s mobile fleet executives and managers want to access more than corporate e-mail and Websites.
McLeod Software last year released a smartphone application to give its trucking and brokerage customers access to the information within the LoadMaster and Powerbroker enterprise software systems.