MT: Cancom has been selling mobile communications into the Canadian market since 1990. Can you relate some of the most important market changes and how they have impacted the products Cancom offers?HA...
MT: Cancom has been selling mobile communications into the Canadian market since 1990. Can you relate some of the most important market changes and how they have impacted the products Cancom offers?
HAM: Qualcomm, which is the manufacturer and designer of the technology we market, has introduced a number of add-on products to the core technology to keep up with market changes. For example, fuel has remained consistently in the top three of trucking company operating expenses and yet, to a large extent, trucking companies don’t have the tools to measure that significant and growing expense. Our SensorTRACKS product measures how the driver and truck are working together. It’s not new but we are finding that more and more carriers are turning to it to measure, monitor and manage their fuel costs.
Another example is the driver retention challenge. Driving demands people be away from their home and family for days or weeks at a time. We turned our communications keyboard into an Internet access module with the introduction of CabCARD, allowing drivers and their families to communicate effectively anywhere, anytime, through the ease of satellite-based technology, without affecting the cost of the operational process.
At the same time the trucking business has become more complicated. There is a need to automate and drive information to the driver, to the customer, to an operational centre. We introduced an onboard computer with more processing power than the current keyboard, which allows us to start putting applications onboard such as fuel tax, driver logs and automation of those processes, taking the paperwork out of the operational process of the trucking company and capturing it in real time.
Some of the more subtle additions have included products such as QMASS, which provides fleets with the ability to copy messages. For example, a trucking company that has an interline partner also using Qualcomm technology can dynamically share information with its partner. Taking that concept a step further, a trucking company can remotely copy messages right over the Internet to a password-protected site that its customers can access to check load status without the need to call.
MT: Cancom has traditionally focused on the largest TL fleets. But LTL and smaller regional fleets are also now looking at mobile communications. How are you tailoring solutions to their needs?
HAM: For TL carriers what we like to call the “circle of service” that starts with the load assignment and includes the whole series of events (loading and unloading, driver hours, fuel purchases, prepositioning of trucks, etc.) that provide the operations people with the information they need to manage their fleet and deal with customers, happens once every few days. With LTL, it happens five or six times a day. So if capturing and measuring this information is important in TL, it has to be absolutely imperative in an LTL operation because it’s happening much more often. We’ve also recognized that whether you are a large trucking company or a small trucking company, one of the strengths of satellite technology is being able to communicate and facilitate change anywhere, anytime. What we’ve been able to do is take some features of our core product and build it over the Internet to bring the cost of the technology down for the smaller carriers.
MT: Some fleets have been using your products for over a decade. Are they using the technology to its full extent?
HAM: Five years ago, the average number of transmissions our customers were making per truck per day was 3.2. Today, it’s over seven; it has doubled. People are finding they need to share more information inside and outside the company. We are also probably seeing more integration now with our oldest and largest customers than ever before, which is a good indicator that as their operations grow our technology is facilitating that expansion.
MT: Along with the introduction of new mobile communications technologies in recent years have come new players. With the economic downturn should motor carriers expect consolidation among providers over the next few years?
HAM: Absolutely. We have been in the business for 11 years and in that time we have seen no fewer than 12 companies come into this business – all well financed – and then get out. All looked at the hundreds of thousands of trucks across North America and saw a huge market opportunity. It’s not as easy as they think. They could all communicate, they could all provide tracking, but could they do it with the high, almost perfect, reliability rating that is required? If you are driving your business through a wireless infrastructure, it better be perfect.
MT: In your view then, what should a fleet manager consider in selecting a mobile communications provider?
HAM: Coverage, capacity, cost. Never underestimate your coverage and capacity needs. Never compromise on your communications. Fleets have perfected the art of understanding what their customers need and spec’ing their trucks accordingly. The same amount of time and effort should be spent on spec’ing the communication equipment for those trucks.
MT: You recently announced a 30 percent reduction on the pricing of the OmniTRACS hardware.
HAM: There has never been a time in our history where security of transportation, of goods and personnel, has been of such utmost importance since September 11. Realizing this, along with the economic pressures in our marketplace, we have focused on reducing prices of hardware to make it more affordable for fleets to buy functionality and security for their customers and their staff. –
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