Mobile Printers Keep Truckers Moving
By Teresa Von Fuchs
Genesis Crude Oil is a division of the Houston-based Genesis Energy, a company serving a wide range of customers within the oil and gas industry. Genesis Crude Oil's business is trucking crude oil from pumping stations to storage facilities and then to refineries in the Gulf Coast states including Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.
More than 12 years ago, Genesis Crude Oil went looking for a wireless solution that would allow it to improve the tracking of its on-the-road assets and facilitate communicate with drivers in the field.
More often than not, Genesis drivers are in remote locations, or as Michael Moore, Director of Operations at Genesis Crude Oil puts it, "Cell phones don't work most places we go."
The average cell phone would also have a hard time in the harsh environments, "anything we use needs to be able to withstand the dusty, bumpy places we go. Our trucks are almost never on smooth highways."
The company found OmniTRAC from Qualcomm Enterprise Services. OmniTRAC uses satellites to track trucks in real time and allows dispatchers to remain in reliable contact with drivers using two-way text and data communications.
The system also sends data about conditions on the truck -- such as its current location or the temperature and weight of the product being carried -- back to regional headquarters.
"If there's a problem with one of our trucks after it leaves the pick-up location, we can find out about it before the driver reports it," explains Terry Lincecum, Louisiana District Manager for Genesis Crude Oil.
The solution quickly improved communication with drivers in the field, and gave managers reliable reporting and asset tracking, as well as saving time and money throughout the company.
The solution had been zipping along the highways all over the southeast when, about a year ago, as the company was adding new trucks to its fleet it realized the mobile printers that it had originally bought with the solution were becoming obsolete.
"We found we couldn't get parts," says Moore, and the printers often needed repairs.
While OmniTRAC automatically transmits details of each driver's pick-up or drop-off, drivers rely on the wireless printers to generate receipts for customers. They also keep a printed copy of each transaction in case a Department of Transportation inspector asks for documentation of the truck's contents.
Realizing it needed to replace its mobile printers, Genesis first looked to Qualcomm to recommend a compatible alternative.
"We did some outside research but mostly we worked closely with Qualcomm to research potential new printers," explains Moore.
Genesis chose the microFlash 4te wireless thermal printer from Datamax-O'Neil. "The local Datamax O'Neil representative was also very helpful in our selection and training process," says Moore.
The 4te incorporates a new 32-bit RISC ARM 9 processor that is designed to enable the printer to quickly process complex applications with an exceptionally high print throughput. The device specs state that it can clearly print more than 2,000 6-inch receipts on a single battery charge.
The improved operational capacity was important to Genesis; with the old printers, drivers had been complaining about having to replace paper too often. Customers were sure to appreciate the easier to read receipts, and price was another selling point.
"Price is always an issue," says Moore, "but this fit our budget and other criteria really well." That the 4te paired with the OmniTRAC system was essential, but an added perk was a newly developed kit for pairing the printer with the Qualcomm system. "The real beauty was how seamless the whole transition was, the drivers didn't even need much in the way of training," explains Moore.
With almost 30 printers in the field for more than a year, Moore says he can't remember any real problems or issues, "I haven't heard any complaints so far, which is pretty good news."
Lincecum adds that drivers don't have nearly as much downtime as they once did; "With our previous printers, when one went down, the driver would have to locate another truck nearby and wait for that driver to show up to print a receipt for the customer. We haven't had those issues with the Datamax-O'Neil printers."
Talking about the overall solution, Moore said there haven't been any surprises in working with Qualcomm or Datamax-O'Neil. "I wouldn't change a thing about the solution, it fits our business case perfectly."