Fleets can begin using cellular digital packet data (CDPD) as the wireless communications link for the Skymark Vehicle Tracker system from Cimarron Technologies. The company's CDPD Mobile Unit integrates a CDPD modem, GPS receiver, and a control board in a small aluminum case.

In addition to providing real-time vehicle tracking information, the new mobile unit includes inputs for up to five sensors and a serial connection for a laptop or handheld computer, allowing it to serve as the communications link for wireless messaging and vehicle monitoring. A status/text terminal is also available as an option.

The first commercial low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite network began full data and messaging communications service on November 30.

With 28 satellites in orbit and 14 gateway earth stations, the ORBCOMM system now offers two-way digital packet data service in near real-time throughout North America and in 18 other countries around the world. The system's capacity is approximately 1 million messages per hour with an average delivery latency of less than 20 seconds, according to ORBCOMM.

Currently, some 115 companies, many in the transportation industry, operate 30,000 wireless communications units over the ORBCOMM system. The major applications are mobile asset tracking, two-way messaging, wireless Internet e-mail, and fixed asset monitoring.

Companies offering trucking-related tracking and management services over the LEO network include ARINC, Orbital Sciences, and Vantage Tracking Solutions.

The 4000 ST and 4000 Plus onboard computers from Cadec Systems Inc. can now be upgraded with satellite tracking uisng global positioning system (GPS) technology.

The new Cadec feature, called RouteTracker, automatically captures vehicle location data and stores it on the system's PCMCIA card, providing an accurate history of the driver's trip. Information recorded by RouteTracker includes latitude and longitude, date, time, and odometer readings.

The new feature will also allow fleets to automatically gather state-line crossings for a new simplified fuel-tax reporting system, according to Cadec.

Consolidated Freightways will outsource much of its information technology management under a five-year, $110-million contract with IBM Global Services. Under the agreement, IBM will manage the fleet's data center, network and voice communications, help-desk support, business recovery services, and other information technology resources. The two companies are calling the deal 'a strategic technology partnership.'

Air-Weigh On-Board Scales has signed up its first European distributor. Fleet Weighing Services has 22 dealerships in the United Kingdom and will also handle marketing efforts in Belgium, France, and the Netherlands.

Fleets using McLeod Software's LoadMaster management system can now interface directly with the National Transportation Exchange network. NTE describes itself as an 'interactive, real-time, Internet-based electronic commerce marketplace for motor carrier transportation services.' It allows fleets and shippers to tender and accept spot freight at rates set by the market.

Beginning on May 1, the U.S. Dept. of Defense will use the Defense Table of Official Distances (DTOD) as its standard automated source for domestic personal property shipments and for passenger transportation and travel services. International shipments will be covered by the calculation software beginning April 1. DTOD is a government version of PC*Miler from ALK Associates.

The routing and mileage software program PC*Miler/Streets can provide street-level driving directions, mileages, and maps specifically tailored for commercial trucking operations. Available in both regional and national additions, the routing package from ALK Associates can optimize an unlimited number of stops within a specific area, allow use of fleet routing preferences, and provide turn-by-turn directions for as many as 96 million addresses in the U.S.

The Windows-based program can be run on a stand-alone PC or on a network, and an AS/400 version will be offered in the near future, according to ALK. Interfaces for fleet management software systems and wireless communications networks are also under development by TMW Systems, QUALCOMM, McLeod Software, and Melton Technologies, according to the company. MicorAnalytics has already announced availability of an interface for its TruckStops for Windows Routing and Scheduling System.

A small GPS receiver and new software from DeLorme can turn a Palm or Windows CE handheld computer into a routing and navigation system. Maps and routing directions for the system can be downloaded from either a dedicated Web site or from the company's Street Atlas USA 6.0 routing program.

Solus Pro, which sells for $39.95, allows users to download multiple route maps and directions to a handheld, and to connect a GPS receiver for real-time navigation. Features include the ability to zoom in on maps, a trip meter, a record of distance traveled, and warnings for upcoming turns.

DeLorme's Earthmate is a small integrated 12-channel GPS receiver/ antenna that can run for up to 10 hours on four AAA batteries. Optional 12V and laptop power cords are available. In addition to working with handheld PCs, it can also be used with the Street Atlas software and a laptop computer to provide spoken driving directions in real-time.

The new GPS receiver, packaged with the latest version of Street Atlas, is available at many consumer outlets for under $160.