Sabre adds QTOPS to trucking software line Now offers "end-to-end" products, says more to come

Having identified trucking as an important new market, large software companies are quickly moving to develop and acquire industry-specific programs and products. Among the most recent moves is the purchase of Qualcomm Inc.'s QTOPS/400 fleet management package by The Sabre Group, a major provider of electronic services for the airline and travel industries.

Earlier this year, Sabre purchased the load-planning QDSS program from Qualcomm, and last year it purchased the load-optimization specialist PTCG.

The company is now positioned to offer truckload carriers end-to-end, or "enterprise solutions," according to Michael Jakob, marketing director for logistics. QTOPS includes applications for customer service, dispatch, payroll, fuel purchasing and other fleet management chores.

Originally developed by U.S. Xpress and sold to Qualcomm, currently QTOPS is also used by Celadon Trucking, Covenant Transport, and Landair Services.

Drawing on its secured-network experience in the airline reservations business, Sabre says it will also use its software to develop an information "service bureau" for medium and small fleets. Such a network arrangement would allow fleets to access information services without investing in hardware or software ownership.

The company is also investigating "thin client" applications that would use IBM's new AS/400E as the server and links with the National Transportation Exchange that would result in "yield to management" systems like those used by the airline industry.

The sale of QTOPS also completes Qualcomm's move to divest itself of fleet management software so that it can concentrate on mobile communications services.

TMW shows Internet tracking package, dispatch e-mail Fleets attending the TMW Systems users group in Cleveland saw previews of two new information products -- an Internet Web package for automated load tracking and a Windows-based e-mail program that can handle a variety of wireless and other communications systems.

Web Link, which has already entered beta testing, allows a fleet's customers to access load status records and to track loads over the Internet. The package, which includes a Web server as well as software, also allows users to search for specific shipments and to track freight by consignee and shipper.

Total Mail will let dispatchers and other fleet personnel send e-mail over a variety of communications systems from a single interface. Intended as a module for TMW's Windows-based Power Suite, the system is also designed to allow fleets to easily add new communications providers. Availability is expected sometime next year.

Collision warning system reducing accidents Everyday fleet use is proving the value of collision warning systems, according to Eaton Vorad, maker of a radar-based system. Over 1,400 trucks equipped with the Eaton Vorad system have accumulated 140.5-million miles and shown a 69% reduction in accidents, according to studies just released by the company. The warning system alerts drivers if they are closing in too fast on a slower moving vehicle or if there is a vehicle in their right-hand blind spot.

For example, one truckload carrier has equipped 850 of its 2,200 tractors with the Eaton Vorad warning system. Looking at rear-end and lane change collisions, trucks without the system are experiencing 0.5 accidents per million miles, while those with the system have dropped to 0.2 per million miles for a 71% reduction.

In local fleet operations, a beverage distributor has fitted 58 trucks with the warning device. While the entire fleet averages 18.5 preventable accidents per million miles, those 58 have had no such accidents in 1.4 million miles, according to the Eaton Vorad report.

In another test by a leasing company, 16 new tractors were put into a dedicated service in 1996 without warning devices. Eight were subsequently fitted with the radar system in 1997, while the other eight were used as a control group. In 1996, the control group had six accidents, including one front and one side impact, while the test group had a total of four accidents (two front and two side). In the first six months of 1997, the control group had nine accidents, including one front and two side. The test group, with the Eaton Vorad systems installed, had no accidents over the same period.

When it comes to information technologies, fleets need to develop a strategy to get the most out of their investment, according to Tom McLeod, president of Tom McLeod Software Corp.

"Before developing an information system plan, a fleet must first ensure that it has a strategy plan," McLeod told attendees at the company's annual user's forum. "The goal of an information system plan is to support the company's overall long-range strategic plan."

He said that fleets should ensure that existing resources are being fully utilized before introducing new technology to the company. And it helps to know where you fall on the following implementation continuum:

* Base functionality: systems that perform the daily activities of a transportation business such as mileage analysis, revenue reports, billing, settlements, fuel taxes and maintenance.

* Competitive necessity: technologies used for the purpose of staying competitive, including electronic data interchange.

* Competitive advantage: technologies that provide an edge over the competition but that can be duplicated. These include mobile communications, Internet load tracking, and optimization modules.

* Strategic advantage: technologies that are not readily available to competitors.

By assessing where your fleet fits in that hierarchy, you can better "evaluate technologies to bring the company to the next level," McLeod said.

Roadshow to be acquired by Descartes, a supply-chain software company The Descartes Systems Group Inc., a Canada-based developer of supply-chain logistics software, says it has agreed to buy Roadshow International Inc., one of trucking's leading providers of routing and scheduling software. The acquisition involves a combination of Descartes common stock and cash valued at $41 million (Canadian).

Roadshow's routing and scheduling software is used by distribution, P&D, and service fleets in over 40 countries. Customers include Coca-Cola Consolidated, Marriott International, and G.O.D.

Descartes software handles order management, distribution, and customer service functions, including direct store delivery, EDI, and mobile computer applications. Major users include Dunkin' Donuts and Perrier.

Together, the two software companies would have had revenues of $37.9 million (Canadian) over the last 12 months.

Bell Mobility, partners to build wireless systems for fleets The Canadian communications company Bell Mobility and two partners have started a new company to specifically develop and market wireless fleet management systems for North America. Called AirIQ Inc., the new company says it will combine wireless communications, in-vehicle computing, and vehicle location technologies in systems for North America's trucking industry. Development of the new company was partially funded by a grant from the National Research Council of Canada.

Bell Mobility will provide the new company with cellular service, as well as its proprietary Cellemetry Data Service, which uses idle cellular network capacity to send and receive short messages.

The second partner, Datumtech Corp. of Buffalo, N.Y., specializes in automatic vehicle location and host systems that can handle a variety of wireless communications technologies. The third partner is The Lenbrook Group, a market development company with operations throughout Canada and the U.S.

NTE, CSC join for integrated electronic commerce project Carriers using Freight-Link management software from Creative Systems Corp. (CSC) will soon be able to electronically identify and seamlessly tender available trailer space through the National Transportation Exchange (NTE).

The planned integration will also present dispatchers with a shipment's potential profit before they accept the load. Once a load is delivered, Freight-Link will notify NTE and create an account receivable, which will be paid by NTE electronically within seven days.

The joint system is currently under beta testing by five fleets, according to CSC.

The eighth annual meeting of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America) will be held in Detroit's Cobo Hall May 4-7, 1998. The meeting will include more than 100 technical exhibits and 70 technical sessions. For information, call 202-484-4847.

Information Software Inc. has been renamed Prophesy Transportation Software Inc. The company, headquartered in Bloomfield, Conn., is the developer of the Windows-based Prophesy suite of fleet management software products.

Refuse and recycling fleet management software from TransComp can now be integrated with Hardy Instrument's Strategy computerized collection system. Strategy includes automatic container identification with RFID tags and dynamic on-board scales.

Geotek Communications has added Houston, San Antonio, and Phoenix to its digital wireless network. The company now provides tracking, dispatch, voice, and data service in 35 U.S. markets, including most of the Northeast corridor between Boston and Washington, D.C.

DAT Services says it will give six months of free listings on its Live freight-matching system to any U.S.-based company posting loads into or out of Canada. The offer expires March 30, 1998. It's also offering current customers a 30% discount on credit reports from CompuNet Credit Services. That offer extends through June 1998.

Lightstone Group, a routing and scheduling software developer, has joined Microsoft Corp.'s Value Chain Initiative. Members of the initiative are working to develop transportation logistics software that can easily be integrated under the Windows NT operating system.

Innovative Computing Corp., a leading developer of fleet management software for truckload carriers, has been acquired by PBB TransIT Corp., a recently formed holding company. TransIT has also acquired Visual Movement Corp., a developer of client/ server software including systems for intermodal, drayage, and brokerage operations.

UPS Worldwide Logistics, a subsidiary of the giant package delivery company, says it will jointly develop supply chain management software with ProAct International Ltd., a U.K.-based software development company. Intended to help users manage a complete supply chain, including links to outside vendors and customers, the new software modules are scheduled for release next year.

As it prepares to begin full service for its low-earth orbit (LEO) satellite communications network, ORBCOMM has opened a network control center in Dulles, Va., for its messaging, tracking, and monitoring system. The company, which currently has two satellites in service, says it will launch 10 satellites before the end of the year and another 10 in the first quarter of 1998.

Arizona has become the fourth state to install the PrePass electronic weigh station bypass service, opening a PrePass site on I-40 westbound in Sanders. Before the end of the year, the state also plans to open PrePass facilities on I-10 in Ehrenberg, I-10 westbound in San Simon, and I-40 eastbound in Topock.