LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The Mid-America Trucking Show, usually dominated by the unveiling of new equipment, was used as the launching pad for several new or improved Web-based initiatives in what some industry watchers were referring to as the “dot-com” show.
Meritor Automotive launched what was probably the most aggressive plan with its unveiling of FleetWorks.com, a site designed for trading parts of all makes specific to medium- and heavy-duty trucks. Bendix is working with a venture known as CoreBin.com, which will be used to sell rebuilt equipment. And manufacturers from Volvo to International to Peterbilt have announced plans to expand their existing Internet-based services.
Meritor’s new initiative will go live by the end of the summer, and bring buyers and sellers together in one marketplace. In turn, sellers – OEMs, truck dealers, parts distribution and service providers – will have ready access to existing and new customers on one common electronic site without having to pick up the tab for building the architecture. The service will eventually be rolled out in Canada and other countries.
Susan Kampe, who will head the new venture, stressed that Fleetworks will be serve as a neutral trading exchange that will generate revenue by charging a transaction fee to sellers.
Fleetworks will operate as an independent company and be based out of Boston, Mass. And while Meritor holds the majority stake in the initiative, it has partnered with Accel Partners, a venture capital firm, and Gen3 Partners, a firm specializing in building and launching E-business strategies as well as providing the technical support.
You don’t have to tell Peterbilt general manager Nick Panza that E-commerce is turning his business upside down. Where one in every two North Americans have a computer at home, one in four truckers also keep laptops in their trucks.
It came as no surprise, then, when Panza announced that Peterbilt, recently ranked number one by PC Week’s Fast Track 500 for innovative and leading edge use of information technology, was launching a series of E-commerce initiatives including truck configurator software called eBilt that simplifies truck spec’ing.
Windows-based eBilt helps truckers trying to figure out if one component spec is compatible with another by creating a basic truck configuration for specific applications based on the answers they provide to a few application-oriented questions. eBuilt will be rolled out at the dealer level later this year but will eventually be made available directly to truckers. Peterbilt has also added interactive features to its site (www.peterbilt.com) including a virtual truck tour of the Model 397 conventional.
The last piece of the Peterbilt E-commerce puzzle is a close relationship with PNV, a company providing bundled telecommunica-
tions, cable television and Internet access at truck stops – and attracting investments from Volvo and Paccar. One of the more interesting features to come out of this relationship is wireless communications. Drivers will soon be able to go on-line once they’re within a half mile of PNV’s 268 domiciled travel plazas, eliminating the need for hard wires.
“Drivers already use the Internet for mapping, doing the banking and checking weather information. However, there is potential that remains largely untapped,” explained Bob May, CEO for PNVWireless. Connections will give truckers access to huge amounts of data, such as load and freight matching, document imaging and streaming video.
To roll out these and future e-commerce initiatives, Paccar has formed two new divisions, e-PACCAR and paccar.com. e-PACCAR is responsible for the company’s global Web strategy while paccar.com is a venture capital fund that has already invested in PNV and eScout, a business-to-business provider that helps give small- and medium-sized businesses the purchasing power of larger companies.
A new Volvo truck, meanwhile, is only seven clicks of a computer mouse away. Volvo Trucks North America has redesigned its Web site at www.volvotrucks.com to include the ability to order tractors and vocational trucks from the dealers of their choice in the U.S. or Canada. All users need to do is answer a few application-related questions and the choice of model.
The company plans eventually to offer customers everything from insurance to replacement parts, and even a virtual walkaround of the trucks they want to buy. By choosing colors from a palette, buyers will also be able to ‘paint’ their new Volvo truck while it’s still on the computer screen.
By June, Bendix will offer interactive training for selected products, broadcast live on the Web. Full ordering abilities will be available by July.
International, meanwhile, has launched a new truck locator – an electronic database that gives truckers the power to scan the inventory of the truck maker’s entire dealer network for available trucks. n
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