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September 2004

Communicating with Your Drivers
"You Have Mail"

Today, communication with a driver is usually via cell phone or radio. Unfortunately, the quality of cell and radio service providers leaves much to be desired, and even if they work just fine, the driver has to stop and write down names, addresses, phone numbers and other instructions.

Wouldn't it be nice if you could write all this down and simply print all the information in the vehicle with a note to call if the driver has any questions? You could also include a map with driving directions and an estimate of how long it would take to get there.

Truth is…e-mail can make this happen for less than $1,000 per vehicle. Could this really work? Absolutely. Let's see how potential problems are addressed.

Problem: E-mail is turned off in the vehicle.
Solution: E-mail is queued up on the Internet, and as soon as it's turned
on, the work orders are delivered.

Problem: Driver forgets to turn it on.
Solution: Your e-mail service can be configured to page or place a cell
phone call to the driver that new mail has arrived.

Problem: The printer runs out of paper.
Solution: The driver can read the message on the screen of the e-mail
device.

Problem: Something is broken.
Solution: The Internet is everywhere. Office supply stores, coffee shops
and most motels and hotels offer Internet access service. The driver can
stop at any of these locations, tap the system and print out current work
orders.

E-mail is simple enough to be used by anyone and Internet access is never far away. The secret is volume! There are over 100 million e-mail users in this country alone, and if you start counting phone messaging, the numbers go off the scale. This means lots of users, competition and service at rock bottom prices. It's like the old 10 cent phone call, but better.

All this for less than $1,000 per vehicle! And it may be less by the time you finish reading this column.

Here is the shopping list.

  • DC/AC power converter ($25)
  • Printer, laser ($200)
  • Laptop ($600)
  • Wireless modem ($100)

Here is how it works. The equipment is placed in the vehicle and is in constant communication via the Internet. In your office, you prepare an e-mail message and in the subject line you include information like work order number, time, etc. When the equipment in the vehicle receives it, the e-mail arriving in the PC will cause a beep, telling the driver new mail has arrived. The driver opens the e-mail that has an attachment that he/she prints.

When the job is done, the driver can respond and type in the details of the job, which serves two purposes. First, this acts as a receipt to the customer and secondly, it is sent back to the office so an invoice can be prepared and mailed out. It also gives the dispatcher the status of the driver's work for the day.

E-mail offers a new form of communication that allows you to tell the driver what to do next without having to disrupt the driver's work and driving, is totally self-documenting, and offers options to improve the invoicing cycle of your business.


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