A Must-Have File Format for Connecting All of Your Systems

The future is now, in the trucking industry. Motor carriers are using more electronic systems and software programs than ever to run their operations. You can build a successful business by making sense of the massive amount of data these systems collect.

Large Systems

Some systems can do it all, from accounting to efficiency management and everything else in between. Other systems are built to be powerful in only one area – an excellent example of this would be a fuel card that keeps records of all fuel purchases. IFTA software can be especially powerful.

Have you ever had problems connecting two electronic devices, which won’t work out for some reason? It’s frustrating.

It is important that any electronic system you implement for your business matches your operations, and it must also work with other systems.

Electronic systems or software programs that “do it all” can be a hefty investment for your business. While large systems can save you hundreds of thousands in the long run, the savings will depend on what they can do for you, and how well-built those systems are.

If you are looking at implementing new systems or substituting old ways for running your business, keep in mind that the system(s) you choose must match your business operations. Find a reputable system that has good people working behind the scenes. It is no different than when you look at purchasing a new semi-truck, you look for a semi-truck that is capable of doing the operations you need. Find a brand you can trust, where your peers in the industry have already found success and are willing to talk about it.

Standalone Programs

Programs that specialize in specific areas for managing your business are also known as standalone programs. Standalone programs exist because not every motor carrier business can afford the massive investment for a large system that “does it all.” When you are not a large fleet, there are three standalone programs that most motor carriers rely on to run their business. These programs are for accounting, dispatching, and compliance.

These standalone programs, like the larger systems, can also save you money in the hundreds of thousands. You can easily imagine savings from a standalone program as an alternative to hiring somebody to do your paperwork; annual salary, payments to an accounting firm, or fees to a compliance office. All it might take is one or two hours of your time to complete tasks like your quarterly fuel tax reporting.

File Format

Whichever system or program you implement, the file format you need to move data from system to system has to be in CSV (comma-separated values) or text format. The data collected by all systems, whether large or small, is collected in its raw form. The standard for raw data is a CSV format.

Even the newest ELD mandate has a section which describes the ELD’s raw data format. ELD providers must provide their customers with a CSV format as it is mandated.

The section is here:

4.8.2. ELD Data File

An ELD must have the capability to generate a consistent electronic file output compliant with the format described herein to facilitate the transfer, processing, and standardized display of ELD data sets on the authorized safety officials’ computing environments. ELD Output File Standard

(a) Regardless of the particular database architecture used for recording the ELD events in electronic format, the ELD must produce a standard ELD data output file for transfer purposes, which must be generated according to the standard specified in this section.
(b) Data output must be provided in a single comma-delimited file outlined in this section using American National Standard Code for Information Exchange (ASCII) character sets meeting the standards of ANSI INCITS 4–1986 (R2012) (incorporated by reference, see § 395.38). It must include:
(1) A header segment, which specifies current or non-varying elements of an ELD file; and
(2) Variable length comma-delimited segments for the drivers, vehicles, ELD events, ELD malfunction and data diagnostics records, ELD login and logout activity, and unidentified driver records.
(3) Any field value that may contain a comma (‘‘,’’) or a carriage return () must be replaced with a semicolon (‘;’) before generating the compliant CSV output file.

All up-to-date systems or software programs that collect raw data provide it in a CSV format. Whether it is your mileage system or fuel card system, they should provide you with a report option to export the raw data in CSV file format.

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