(Aug. 23) The rising costs and scarce availability of trucks, drivers and fuel are leading more produce companies to rely on mapping software and other fleet management technology.

“Most companies are having a hard time growing their fleets, so instead there’s a movement to become more efficient and maximize the fleet in place,” said Tom McLeod, president of Birmingham, Ala.-based McLeod Software Corp.

McLeod’s company has equipped 127 new customers with its dispatch and accounting software — LoadMaster Version 7 — in the past 18 months, and the company says it is growing at a rate of 50% per year. McLeod said the company planned to open a Salt Lake City office for training, product support and sales in September.

Loadmaster has been around since 1985, and Version 7 has been on the market for four years. The company plans to release Version 8, which has upgrades aimed at refrigerated carriers, in November.

The new software, which can be used with Windows, UNIX or AS/400 systems, has an automated refer fuel surcharge calculation that can factor billing by the mile or hour.

SYSTEM WITH GPS

Elsewhere, Navman Wireless Business Solutions, Lake Forest, Ill., has combined fleet management software and global positioning systems technology in the Navman Wireless Fleet Manager.

Spokesman Andrew Golden said Fleet Manager allows logistics managers to map truck and driver locations, check ignition status and fuel levels and optimize routes. Navman’s tracking Qube transmits and records location, speed, mileage, ignition status and arrivals and departures. Using Online AVL, a Windows-based interface, drivers and managers have access to two-way text messaging.

The system also has M-Nav, an optional voice-enabled GPS navigation device. Directions can be programmed in the vehicle by the driver or remotely by managers.