Trucking On The Information Highway

These days, truck sales are inching along like a big-city interstate at rush hour. Climbing fuel prices and interest rates are forcing truckmakers, such as Paccar Inc. in Bellevue, Wash., to find new ways to boost margins and improve service. So Paccar, whose Peterbilt and Kenworth lines make it the No. 2 truckmaker in the U.S., is testing wireless systems that monitor the performance of its big rigs as they're driven so the data can be zapped to Paccar's internal Web sites. If a problem is diagnosed, the system will fire off an alert to the driver and the nearest dealership so the right parts can be on hand. "The Web doesn't end with a browser on a PC," says Patrick F. Flynn, Paccar's chief information officer.

That service is a year away. Meanwhile, Paccar is using the Net to cut costs closer to home. This month, it's launching a cyber-bazaar called Truckxchange that will process orders for supplies like electrical components and fasteners. Paccar expects to reduce its $500 million annual spending on such goods by eliminating paper ordering and asking more suppliers to compete on bids. It's all part of Paccar's move to the Information Highway.

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