ASSOCIATED GROCERS TO TRACK FLEET WITH REAL-TIME SYSTEM

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Associated Grocers here this month will begin installing a new transportation logistics management system that provides real-time communication with truck drivers and uses a global positioning program to monitor the fleet's location.The system will allow Associated Grocers to track its fleet more closely than it had been able to do with on-board computers. Truck location information

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Associated Grocers here this month will begin installing a new transportation logistics management system that provides real-time communication with truck drivers and uses a global positioning program to monitor the fleet's location.

The system will allow Associated Grocers to track its fleet more closely than it had been able to do with on-board computers. Truck location information can be shared with retailers waiting for deliveries.

The new system will enhance retail service, and efficiencies will be passed on to retailers. "As a retailer-owned distributor, we hope to achieve further efficiencies in our fleet management, which creates a better return on retailer investment in our company," said Carl Marks, vice president and chief information officer for Associated Grocers. Associated Grocers serves 237 independent retailers in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi. The wholesaler owns and operates its own private fleet of 70 tractors and more than 80 trailers, and employs more than 80 drivers.

"We also anticipate corporate savings in better labor management of the drivers and better utilization of our fleet in terms of capitalizing on back-haul opportunities on short notice," said Marks.

Companies typically back-haul product to their own facilities but can also carry items for other firms in the area. In that situation, back-hauling can be a revenue source, make better use of equipment and reduce costs.

While it's too early to tell what the back-hauling opportunities will be, the system's real-time two-way communications will give retailers immediate benefits.

"We can advise retailers on subsequent stops if their delivery will be later than had been expected," Marks said.

Associated Grocers had used two-way communications previously, but not throughout its whole fleet. As a result, the wholesaler had to estimate time lines for each stop on the route.

The new technology uses a global positioning system that will track the fleet and the fuel efficiency of the trucks, as well as monitor deliveries and stops.

Down the road, Associated Grocers plans to integrate the global positioning system and its new transportation logistics management system into its corporate Web site through a computer interface. The interface is available from Eaton Corp., Clemmons, N.C., the supplier of the transportation logistics management system being installed this month.

When the interface is in place, "retailers will be able, virtually in real time, to establish the exact location of their trucks by visiting our Web site," Marks said. The site, www.agbr.com, is being developed through November.

The new technology helps improve efficiency standards programs for unloading times by providing more accurate documentation. With this data, Associated Grocers can "more accurately charge or otherwise credit retailers for their loading inefficiencies or efficiencies," Marks said.