The truck stop scanning war
Truck stop scanning is a thriving service now, but for how long?

By John Bendel, editor-at-large

Truck stop scanning is not exactly on life support, at least not yet. In fact, the company that now provides virtually all the truck stop scanning in North America says it is still adding new scanning locations.

Even so, truck stop scanning is obviously at its high-water mark. It’s likely all downhill from here, maybe slowly, maybe not so slowly. It all depends on the evolution of cellphone cameras – but even more on drivers’ ability to use them to create legible copies of paperwork.

Thoughts of truck stop scanning were prompted by the recent takeover by Pegasus TransTech of TripPak Services. Pegasus offers Transflo Express truck stop scanning at Pilot Flying J and Love’s; TripPak scans at TA/Petro locations. Pegasus and TripPak had been competitors since Pegasus first ventured onto TripPak turf in 2002.

TripPak had been around for a while back then, moving trucking paperwork from drivers on the road back to the companies for billing and settlement. Before TripPak, as many drivers probably remember, you held on to your papers until you returned home, or you made a special effort to send them from the road. Sometimes that meant mailing them from a local post office or FedExing them to the carrier.

TripPak simplified that process by installing their trademark yellow drop boxes at truck stops. You packaged up your documents and deposited them in the first TripPak box you came to. It was up to TripPak to get the paper to the carriers. They called the service TripPak Express. There are fewer of those yellow boxes now than there once were, but TripPak still puts the number at approximately 1,000.

In 1995 TripPak opened a large scanning facility in Wilmington, Ohio. Instead of having the original documents sent to them, carriers could have them consigned to the new TripPak hub where they could be scanned and forwarded as electronic images over the newly emerging Internet. The service called TripPak Online saved time and, since TripPak would also store originals, space for the carriers. TripPak’s scanning service really took off in 1999 after Swift Transportation signed on as its first high-profile customer.

Then in 2002, Pegasus TransTech convinced Pilot truck stops that installing Pegasus-connected scanners would enable a viable and profitable service. The commercial truck stop scanning era was launched.

The service that Pegasus called Transflo Express involved no transportation of documents so it was faster than TripPak. It was also more efficient than faxing. The documents were electronic, not printed paper piling up by the carrier’s fax machine. It soon became clear that truck stop scanning was a viable business.

TripPak, the incumbent and the big guy on the block, downplayed truck stop scanning initially. Then they jumped in, and the truck stop scanning war was on.

TripPak was originally started by a Denver company called Truckload Management Inc., or TMI. Its TripPak operation ran out of Brentwood, Tenn. In 2004, TMI sold out to Affiliated Computer Services, or ACS, a far larger New York Stock Exchange company, which in turn was bought by Xerox in 2010.

Xerox pried TripPak out of the ACS mix and sold it to Pegasus TransTech earlier this year. Pegasus, on the other hand, has been a privately held corporation since it was launched as a document management enterprise in 1998.

Anyhow, it seems Pegasus TransTech finally won the truck stop scanning war. Both TripPak Express and Transflo Express are now under a single corporate banner. So you should be able to use either service, right?

Not yet, according to Pegasus spokesperson Karen Blanchard. The company hopes to make that possible in the near future, she explained, but for the moment a scanning account with TripPak can only be used at TripPak locations; Transflo Express accounts can only be used at Transflo Express locations.

Meanwhile, said Blanchard, TripPak’s smartphone app, TripPak Mobile, has been rolled into Transflo Mobile+, the new Pegasus app introduced in July.

Smartphone apps may just be the last mechanism for scanning and sending trucking documents from the road before the process goes entirely paperless. It’s just a matter of time. LL