Sunday, August 03, 2003

Truckers and technology

It makes sense that truckers are the most well-connected travelers on the road. They need to stay in touch with the trucking company and with family. Also, they increasingly use Web-based services that help them find loads to drive home and avoid deadheading, or driving an empty trailer—every trucker's worst nightmare since those miles produce no revenue. In an attempt to remedy this situation, companies such as The Internet Truckstop, Insight Technology and On Time Media have set up Web-based load matching services. A trucker can log on to these sites, enter the city where he will be dropping off a load and the city to which he needs to return. The system will then tell him of any loads that need to be hauled between those cities. It gets sophisticated. For example, if a load is being dropped in Orlando and the trucker needs to go to New York, the system may find an Orlando-Memphis load, followed by a Memphis-Cleveland load and then a Cleveland-New York load.

Some IT investors follow the online movements of truckers closely because they are not traditionally thought of as early adopters of technology. Like travelers who pull over to eat where the truckers do, investors feel a sense of comfort once a technology becomes viable at truck stops. According to Jack Vonder Heide, president of Oakbrook Terrace, IL-based Technology Briefing Centers, 18-wheeler operators have led the way in road testing technologies that have filtered down to consumers. He notes a laundry list of technologies used today, including cell phones, ruggedized notebooks, touch screens, discount long-distance services, self-serve gas pumps, "and, lest we forget the past, CB radios."
Via Technology Review (may require subscription).

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