Keeping the Books
Shopping for software?

If a new computer is likely to be under your Christmas tree, or you're just determined to better organize your business records, software designed specifically for your trucking business is a good idea. Here's a rundown of some useful programs for owner-operators and small-fleet owners.

Y2K Tip 
If there is any question in your mind about the continuing reliability of the programs on your home computer (or the computer itself) after the calendar rolls over on Jan. 1, take a few simple precautions.

1. Save copies of your important files to a floppy disk.

2. Print out a hard copy of all your files.

3. Make sure your computer is turned off when the clock rolls over to Jan. 1, 2000. Turn it on again later in the day (maybe during halftime) and check it out.

While the rest of the techo- obsessed world worries about the Y2K bug, most owner-operators are just worried about getting their 1999 income and expense records to their tax preparer on time. According to a 1998 association poll, more than 50 percent of OOIDA members' households have a computer, and more than a third of you are keeping your business records on a computer. Some of you have purchased programs designed specifically for trucking operations, and others have found a way to adapt a generic accounting or spreadsheet program to fit your needs.

Choosing a software program for your trucking business is a lot like spec'ing a truck. You must choose components that best fit the way you do business currently, but with a certain amount of adaptability to grow or change as your operation does. Available programs range from basic simplicity to infinitely detailed complexity. Basic programs track income and expenses and generate periodic (monthly, quarterly, yearly) reports. Some owner-operators also want to track assets, depreciation, generate reports that are more detailed, and analyze costs.

Are you a one-truck owner-operator leased to a carrier? Do you need a simple income and expense program, or do you need (or want) to track mileage and fuel tax information? Do you have your own authority? If you do, chances are you could benefit from a program that includes invoicing capabilities and a customer records database.

If you are a small-fleet owner with your own authority, you may prefer a program that does everything software designed for a large fleet does, but on a smaller scale. You will probably want a means to keep maintenance records/schedules, customer records, and employee records. You'll need the ability to generate invoices, and a full accounting package (including a payroll function that also generates employer tax calculations and reports). Depending on how extensive your operation is, you may want to invest in a mileage program and log checking software.

Many employed drivers also track road expenses on a computer to make things easier at tax time. One company driver who plans to become an owner-operator told us he uses a program designed for owner-operators to estimate income and expenses based on the loads he currently hauls.

The Trucker's Helper
The Truckers HelperT Version 5, from Mystic Moment Software, comes in a one truck version, a version that handles up to 10 trucks, a fleet version for up to 100 trucks, and a version that handles unlimited trucks. The one-truck version, which sells for $159, features income and expense tracking, mileage tracking, fuel tax reports, truck maintenance tracking, inventory, customer records, driver records, log checking, and settlements. Optional routing/ mileage feature boosts the cost to $699.

The multi-truck versions have added features that include calculating IFTA/mileage taxes, billing and invoicing, pickup and delivery records, a dispatch function, trailer tracking, a payroll function, tracking pallets, and trailer maintenance tracking. The ten truck version sells for $299 ($699 with routing/mileage feature). The fleet version for up to 100 trucks is $399 ($899 with routing/mileage feature). The cost of the version that handles unlimited numbers of trucks is $699 ($1,399 with mileage/routing feature). Check out the web site at www.trkrhelp.net, or call 800-875-7435.

Edonna Products and Services
Edonna has a number of programs for owner-operators and fleet owners. Profit TrackerT comes in both single truck and multi-truck versions. Among the features are tracking fixed and variable expenses, revenue, load information, maintenance and PM scheduling, state mileages (loaded, empty and toll), accounts receivable, fuel purchases and stops, and customer information. It will calculate fixed, variable, and total cost and revenue-per-mile as well as profit and loss in both dollar and per-mile amounts. The program will also generate extensive detailed and/or summary reports. Cost for the one-truck version is $100 and the multi-truck version is $200.

Profit Tracker PlusT will do everything Profit Tracker will do and more. Some additional features are tracking driver pay (by miles, percentage, hourly, or other options), miles in each state, trip miles, personnel records, preventive maintenance (by days, miles, or hours), and billing information. Databases for shippers, consignees, brokers, zip codes, and vehicle information (including trips, days in use, revenue and more) are also included. Profit Tracker Plus will generate 89 reports. A single entry will automatically enter information into all applicable files. Cost of the program is $225 for the one-truck version, and $350 for the multi-truck version.

Dispatching PlusT is a program designed to meet the needs of trucking companies or brokers. It includes invoicing, rate confirmations, work schedules, carrier, driver, and sales personnel settlements, advances and receivables databases, and billing for customers, consignees, shippers, and carriers. Dispatchers are automatically warned if customers are not in good standing or when a customer is within $2,000 of their credit limit. Dispatchers are also warned when carrier cargo, liability, workers' compensation, or a brokers agreement is within 30 days (or less) of the expiration date. All load information is available on one screen and new customers can be entered from the load screen. The program will also generate a comprehensive list of reports. Cost of the program is $1,000 for a single user, or $1,500 for the networked version.

Edonna also offers a pallet management program, Pallet TrackerT, and PC* Miler products. For more information visit their web site at www.edonna.com or call 800-846-1802.

Truck Books by Barry and Howard
From Howard and Barry of PBS Tax and Bookkeeping Service, Truck Books Version 3.0 is a simple to use windows-based program that organizes your income and expenses. The program handles multiple trucks and features customized expense categories, income and expense summaries, operating statistics, and easy to read monthly and year-to-date profit and loss statements. Cost of the program is $99 plus S&H. For more information, visit the web site at www.pbstax.com or call 800-697-5153.

HammerLane Software Systems
HammerLane Owner Operator 2000T includes new functions and reports. Features include tracking income and expenses, tracking customers, brokers, companies, vendors, and personal contacts, and recording maintenance and warranty information (including a reminder function). The program also includes a 70-hour logbook recap, profit and loss statements, comprehensive trip records, advance tracking, generate invoices, pallet control, tracking fuel purchases, and tracking state mileage by month, trip, or quarter. If desired, expense categories may be linked to QuickBooks for payroll or other more detailed accounting features. Owner Operator 2000 may also be linked to the Prophesy Mileage database for routing and additional mileage functions. Screens can be opened with buttons or pull down menus. Cost of the basic program is $399. Add the Prophesy Mileage database to any HammerLane product for an additional $450.

HammerLane Driver 2000T is a program for employed drivers. The program tracks income and expenses, records stops and reimbursements for each trip, and tracks advances and trip settlement information. Cost of the program is $99.

HammerLane Leased Fleet 2000T is a unique program designed specifically for those small-fleet owners who lease equipment to one or more carriers. Tracking functions include income and expenses by truck or carrier, receivables, driver information, driver settlements, truck and trailer information, fuel purchases, state miles, pallets, and maintenance. The program includes a trip management feature, driver recap log, customer, broker, and vendor databases, and will also interface with the Prophesy Mileage database. Cost of the basic program is $899.

HammerLand Fleet 2000T records load booking details, dispatch information, income and expenses, driver information, truck and trailer information, driver settlements, fuel purchases, state miles, and tracks pallets. It also features a driver log recap and databases for customer, broker, and vendor information. The program will generate a long list of informational and accounting reports. HammerLane Fleet 2000 sells for $1,299.

For more information visit the HammerLane web site at www.hammerlane.com or call (503) 665-3858.

Profit Per Mile 2000(tm) is the latest version of Omni's Profit Per Mile software. This program is designed to be easy to use and offers 90 days of free technical support. Profit Per Mile 2000 is Windows-based (95, 98, & NT) and is available in two versions. One version is for the owner-operator with up to five trucks, the other for the fleet owner with six or more trucks. Features include unlimited income and expense categories, accounts receivable, invoicing and statement capabilities, a dispatching feature, operating statistics, trip sheets, trip recaps, and maintenance reports. Price for the owner-operator version is $129.95 and the fleet version is $349.95.

Fuel Manager 2000T calculates fuel taxes owed and helps you plan fuel purchases to minimize the tax bite. Features include separate quarterly tax tables, IFTA reports, IRP reports, audit reports, fuel analysis reports, fuel invoice and fuel stop fields, and an internet link to current fuel tax rates. Price of the program for owner-operators with up to five trucks is $119.95. For the fleet owner version (six or more trucks), the cost is $349.95.

Both programs feature automatic backup to protect your information, a search engine for quick retrieval of data, and a 30-day risk-free test drive. Special pricing is available for those who wish to purchase both Profit Per Mile 2000 and Fuel Manager 2000. A dispatching program will be available by the end of the year. For more information call 800-459-6664 or visit the OMNI web site at www.2omni.com