Fleet management is traditionally a behind-the-scenes aspect of an enterprise. But in the age of Big Data, mobile technology and digital payments, fleet management is attracting the attention of innovators, making it not only easier for fleet managers to track and organize their vehicles and drivers, but also to lessen the headache of juggling their fleet-associated finances – fuel cards and all.
Transport Pro is one SaaS innovator in the space that provides businesses with a cloud platform to manage their fleet operations. Earlier this month, the company launched a version of its software for small businesses, a service that integrates right into QuickBooks.
When asked why Transport Pro decided to introduce a tool tailored to SMEs, Kelly Frederick, the firm’s Marketing Manager, simply responded, “Why not?” Frederick spoke with PYMNTS to elaborate further on what Transport Pro Small Business brings to SMEs’ fleet management efforts, and breaks down how a cloud platform to manage spending, invoicing, and payments can land a bit of extra cash in the pockets of small business owners.
PYMNTS: Why offer a small business version of your fleet management software?
KF: Why not? We believe that, just like larger transportation companies, smaller businesses need to perform certain daily functions in order to achieve stability. Part of that is streamlining daily operations to become more efficient and increase productivity. When a company (regardless of the size) can spend less time manually entering information into a system or spreadsheet, it can focus more on customer service and retention as well as customer onboarding, which in turn leads to overall growth.
Whether you are a large company or a small company, you have similar responsibilities such as keeping drivers safe and performing accurate accounting practices. We feel that smaller transportation companies have been largely neglected, so we decided to do something about it. The items we order don’t get to our doorsteps by themselves. The transportation industry is vital to our economy. We want to be on the front lines of change, which we believe starts with giving smaller transportation companies the attention they deserve.
What are some of the challenges faced by small trucking companies that are not necessarily faced by larger ones?
KF: The biggest challenge is being able to handle operational costs while growing the business. Smaller trucking companies have smaller margins, and therefore struggle to offer drivers perks like benefits and bonuses. Why would a driver looking for work accept the lower offer? They wouldn’t. So smaller companies are constantly stretching their resources, and sometimes find themselves overcompensating based on their actual budget just to keep drivers on board. Without drivers, there is no business.
In addition to paying drivers, companies need to maintain their equipment and purchase new equipment if necessary. This in itself is an exorbitant cost if you are just starting out. If you are a large trucking company, you probably have enough funds to allocate accordingly, from dispatchers to a marketing team. It takes a lot in this industry to reach exponential growth, and we believe that our software is at the root of that growth.
The software has the ability to help SMEs handle billing, payments and fleet card management. The system offers ways to digitize and automate these processes, but small businesses have traditionally struggled in their efforts to shift from paper checks, spreadsheets and paper invoices. Why do you think this is so?
KF: I think it has to do with people being afraid to step outside of their comfort zones. Many people who have been in this industry for years have the, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. Our message is that it is a broken system and it needs fixing.
[bctt tweet=”Many people in fleet have the, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality.”]
According to a recent study by Visa, many organizations spend up to 253 hours a week manually entering cash analysis data, which indicates that reports are often 10 days old before they are consumed. Think about how companies could spend their time if they worried less about manually entering essential data into a spreadsheet or paper invoices.
However, another reason I think smaller companies still use paper checks is to gain a few extra days of liquidity. For some, writing a check or manually entering data gives a real perception of where the budget is. We want to let businesses know that although it may be scary to think about leaving that mindset behind, it is becoming necessary to do so. What it really comes down to is saving time and money. Not to mention, going electronic is environmentally friendly. We understand that transitioning to a new software is intimidating, which is why we offer excellent customer service.
Can you tell us a bit about how all of these features work in synchronization?
KF: Absolutely. Once the user has registered all of their information in the system, they can begin dispatching loads. Our system allows users to change the dispatch status at any time. If you need to enter multiple planned loads, you can do that. The system automates the process of attaching drivers, tractors and trailers to loads. We also interface with MacroPoint and Qualcomm so users can communicate with their drivers electronically.
Once a load has been dispatched or delivered, you can mark the load as “ready to bill.” From there, our system allows you to attach any required documentation to the load as well as create a freight bill and billing packet. Our integration with Transflo and TripPak, as well as other scanning applications, makes it easy to upload documents and attach them to the correct load. Once the billing process is complete, you can export the data to QuickBooks or submit factored invoices.
As far as fuel card management, we interface with most major fuel card companies, including Comdata, T-Chek and EFS. The fuel card companies send nightly updates to our system so that you always have the most current fuel card information at your disposal in Transport Pro. Transport Pro also integrates with ProMiles, but ProMiles does require a subscription. ProMiles subscribers can take the information from the fuel and mileage report in Transport Pro and drop it into ProMiles. Although this is a manual process, ProMiles makes it a painless and straightforward process, and ensures accuracy.
Automating the processes in Transport Pro not only saves time, but reduces the potential for errors to occur (i.e. spelling a name incorrectly or entering the wrong number in a field). Something as minor as a misspelling can become a major headache down the road.
Take us through how Transport Pro can streamline the payments coming into a small company, and the payments going out from fuel cards, and how SMEs can gain greater visibility into their AR and AP?
KF: Transport Pro speeds up cash flow by enforcing users to scan documents electronically. Within just hours after a load is delivered, companies have the ability to upload required documentation and electronically send invoices directly to customers and/or factoring companies. In addition, Transport Pro automatically produces settlement information based on the settings in the system. This ensures drivers are being paid accurately, honestly, and on time every time. Based on the revenue and settlements entries, Transport Pro allows SMEs to break down revenue and costs reports to the mile, driver, customer, terminal, and more. All of this information can then be exported to Quickbooks, which provides excellent AR and AP tools users are already familiar with.
Fleet payments and management technology has seen some development in recent years, integrating Big Data to track mileage and spending, among other things. In the next five years, what trends and new technologies do you believe will become a mainstay in the fleet management segment?
KF: With mobile technology at the forefront, I think the power of driver apps will continue to grow and influence how transportation companies do business. Eventually, electronic practices, from managing logs to receiving and making payments, will become an industry standard. I also think that technological advances will fuel customer relationships and change the way companies interact with each other. Analytical tools will continue to put solid numbers into perspective and assist decision makers. Our Transport Pro Team is always searching for ways to advance and grow with ever-changing trends, and for that reason I am confident that our software will become a staple in transportation offices.