by Ruth Jones, senior editor
Once you have the computer of your choice, the next step is finding a software program that fits your needs. Chances are, an accounting program from your local computer store won't do everything you want it to do. Most truckers choose from a wide range of programs developed especially for trucking.
Selecting a software program for your trucking business is a lot like spec'ing your 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. Software programs designed for trucking 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 employee drivers track road expenses on a computer to be better organized at tax time. Their needs are not as complex, and some have adapted to standard accounting software rather than specialized software for drivers. Some drivers with the goal of becoming an owner-operator in mind, utilize trucking-specific software to make the transition easier.
There are new trucking software programs hitting the market almost every month. Their developers all think they have the answer to your needs. Some of them may. But be careful. Ask questions before you make a commitment to buy. Do they offer a free try-it-on-for-size? What kind of guarantee does the program have? What about upgrades? What kind of technical support do they offer and what hours is support available?
Here's a rundown of some useful programs for owner-operators and small fleet owners.
Omni has introduced new "Show-Me How" videos designed to help truckers save money with their Easy Trucking Software programs. Running from three to five minutes each, the videos present topics such as setup, list view, tax rates by state, tool bar, making entries, handling expenses and managing fuel purchases.
Profit Per Mile 2000T 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 and NT) and is available in two versions. One version is for the owner-operator with up to five trucks and 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.
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.
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 about software or the new instructional videos, call (800) 459-6664 or visit the OMNI web site at www.2omni.com.
FastLane Software, Inc.
FastTrack is a software program for owner-operators and small fleets (up to eight tractors). Features of the standard edition (up to five trucks), include profit and loss statements, basic revenue and expense generation (including monthly expenses), average cost per gallon of fuel by truck or fleet, cost per mile, mileage by truck, deadhead mileage percentages, customer invoices, equipment lists, and more. All information is conveniently entered from one screen. The deluxe edition allows the user to add three additional trucks, drivers log entries and fuel tax reporting. There is also a payroll feature that may be added on to the program. For more information, call (877) 928-1464 or visit their web site at www.gofastlane.com.
From Barry and Howard 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. For more information, visit their web site at www.pbstax.com or call (800) 697-5153.
An update on the TRUCKERS HELPER software line
By its creator (and former Land Line columnist) John Ewing
In July, 2000, we merged with iFleet, Inc. I had grown the business as much as I could on my own. If I wanted to keep up with the new technology, develop an ASP model of the program and continue to expand our services to truckers, I needed more resources than I had. Realizing this, I responded favorably when Craig Zwiener of TruckNet approached me about the possibility of The Truckers Helper joining forces with him in bringing an ASP program to the web. We talked extensively for the next few months. I made a few trips to Atlanta to talk with the folks at iFleet, and discovered that we all had a shared vision of what we'd like to make available to the owner-operators and small fleets out there. So here I am in Atlanta, working on bringing the trucking community the tools they need to stay competitive in today's high technology world - at a price they can afford.
We have already started expanding the CD version of The Truckers Helper to the web. We currently have an online forum where our users can post questions, offer suggestions and find answers to common questions. This forum is on TruckNet, www.trucknet.com. Click the link to the Drivers Roundtable, then on the list of Forums look for The Truckers Helper forum. You can log onto the forum directly from The Truckers Helper by clicking a link on the main page of the program. This is just one of the new web enabling tools that we've added to the program, and there are more on the way with every new update. We also have e-mailing built into the program, dispatching can be automatically e-mailed to a driver. Drivers can respond and send e-mail back from within the program.
Plans for the future include the ability to use the ASP version for dispatching (for drivers and o/o's to be able to send in their weekly trip reports right over the web) and with our Palm system, they don't even need a laptop. The much more affordable Palm will allow them to connect from anywhere, enter their trip information and use the log checker. Companies using our system will be able to get the information they need from the weekly trip report right off the web from the information input by the drivers (using the ASP version or the Palm version). This will eliminate much of their data entry thereby reducing office time and costs. And all this is just the tip of the iceberg. We have a number of other plans (too early in the planning to talk about them yet), but they'll offer even more cost savings while making it easier for drivers and owner-operators to keep track of their business. My dream is to empower the small-fleet owner and the individual owner-operator with the same tools as the large fleets.
That's the short version of where we are and where we hope to go - when we bring these visions into reality it should have a real impact on the way owner-operators do business in the 21st century.
The Truckers Helper 2000
The Truckers Helper 2000 offers a full range of features for truckers, from the drivers version, which is designed to handle the specific needs of the company driver, to the small fleet version, which offers everything a small fleet needs to operate their business. The program also includes ProMiles routing, which is built right into the program.
The latest version of the program now includes a Trip Sheet, which should greatly simplify entry of your daily information into the program. The Trip Sheet copies the format of the weekly trip sheet that has been used in the industry for years, and requires only a minimum of information to create valid records for you and keep track of your trips, mileages and expenses.
As the Internet continues to grow The Truckers Helper is keeping pace and now offers a number of web features built right into the program. These include sending and receiving e-mail, logging onto web sites, finding loads and interfacing with the new Truckers Helper ASP that allows Mom to work from home and Dad to work from the road. Now keeping your books doesn't need to wait till you get home. With The Truckers Helper ASP Mom & Pop can both work in the program at the same time, and small fleets with multiple offices can all work in the same program right over the Internet. As DSL and other affordable high-speed connections become available, a whole new world of possibilities is opening up for small fleets.
The Truckers Helper is also Palm enabled now, and with a Palm VII you can log onto the Internet and keep your mileages, expenses and check your log without the high cost of a laptop. You can also use your Palm to find loads and to send and receive messages from home or your dispatcher.
As always, we continue to be customer driven, making changes and upgrades based on requests from our customers. We started the year with The Truckers Helper 2000 - 5.2.0, we're now up to 5.2.112. Most of the revisions represent at least one new feature, report or tweak to the program that was requested by a customer. We are also working hard on improving our user interface and making the program easier to use. The Trip Sheet is just the first in a number of user interface changes that we are working on.
Accounting also continues to be an area where people have a lot of confusion, so we are working on a new accounting format that will automate most of the account assignment information, etc. for you.
We've been so busy working on new features for the program we haven't had a lot of time for updating the web site, but our new Truckers Helper 2000 web site is www.truckershelper.com. The phone number for sales is still (800) TRKR-HELP (875-7435). Our new support number is (678) 277-8509 and operates 9 a.m.- 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. Friday through Sunday EST. We are hoping to start 24/7 support early in 2001.
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.
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.
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, workman's comp, 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.
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.
Five more OOIDA members won the chance to compete in Louisville next March for prizes totaling $160,000 in the National Association of Show Trucks Stars and Stripes competition. The final Stars and Stripes qualifing round took place at the Rip Griffin Travel Plaza in Terrell, TX, Oct. 27-29.
Combination qualifiers included OOIDA members Bob and Nancy Drummond of Cocoa, FL (first place); OOIDA member Bryan Swartz of Plainfield, PA (second place); and Rob Harris of Marinette, WI. Bobtail qualifiers were all OOIDA members. Darian Stephens of Hereford, PA, took first place honors, followed by Chris Lewis of Jackson, MO; and Jim Thomas of Caballo, NM.
In non-Stars and Stripes competition, Mike Holtz of Hilbert, WI, took best of show honors and five other awards in the combination class with his yellow and purple 2001 Peterbilt 379 pulling a utility trailer. Best of show bobtail and five other awards went to OOIDA members Dee and Ruth Jones of Grain Valley, MO, for a 2000 black Freightliner with teal accents owned by All Freight Systems. Other winners included OOIDA members Bill and Joyce Rucker of Billings, MT (three awards); OOIDA member Frank Elias of Menominee, MI (three awards); and W. L. Putnam of Tunnel Hill, GA (two awards).