The acquisition and implementation of information technology (IT) is rapidly becoming a major cost-control battleground for the trucking industry, says one expert – one that could have a major impact on a carrier’s profitability.

“The major issue is looking at where a trucking company wants its business to go and then determining what technology has the capability to get them there,” Sharon Jones, managing partner of Jacksonville, FL-based consulting firm PPT Solutions, told Fleet Owner.

“But [carriers] have to beware, because technology is a high-cost issue,” she said. “It can give a trucking company the ability to reduce cost and improve service, but it can also eat up profitability if they are not careful.”

A former IT and human resources specialist with rail giant CSX, Jones noted that while most trucking companies might feel they need “latest and greatest” IT systems in order to compete more effectively, the level of technology must match the carrier’s ability to handle it or it won’t do any good.

And while the Internet may seem to be a ubiquitous IT component, it still must be handled carefully – especially in terms of security, Jones warned. “The Internet provides a back door into every company in America,” she explained. “That’s even more true for a moving fleet of assets linked by a wireless network, for it only takes one weak spot to open up vulnerabilities in your network.”

The key, she said, is to implement the right technology at the right cost to give a carrier the service capability demanded by customers – real-time online tracking and tracing of freight, ordering and billing over the Internet, etc. “The demand is there, but the challenge will be meeting that demand at a cost that keeps up a healthy profit margin, while not compromising security,” Jones added.