Category Archives: Trucking Software

How Electronic DVIRs Can Streamline Trucking Operations?

Have you heard of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) regulation governing driver vehicle inspection reports (DVIRs)? Complying with them is supposed to be a simple task.

To comply, they outline four simple steps:

  1. Truck drivers must conduct a pre- and post-trip inspection.
  2. Truck drivers must record all safety-related vehicle defects.
  3. Truck drivers must submit the reports to their fleet managers.
  4. Maintenance must be scheduled before the vehicle is returned to active service.

In reality, these steps are loosely followed. Either truck drivers are half-heartedly scribbling nothing while management takes its time acting on any reported issues. Curious as to how we come by that information? Just take a look at the share of maintenance violations bulging the FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program metrics.

Over the past 24 months alone, over half of reported CSA violations are related to maintenance problems. Lights, brakes and tires rank at the top of the defect violation list. The highest concentration of maintenance violations can be found in California, where the total number is around 70 percent of the state’s overall total.

From Paper to Electric

One of the best way to address the problem with driver inspection reports is through the use of electronic DVIRs. They are widely available and can be fully integrated with most modern fleet telematics systems. Many motor carriers are already using them in concert with electronic logs.

In some case studies, after fleets have installed telematics systems that include electronic DVIRs have greatly reduced cost while increasing operational efficiency and compliance.

These advanced systems often come with portable display units installed outside the cab. The unit tracks the truck driver to ensure they walked all the way around the cab through RFID zones placed strategically around the vehicle. Once the truck driver scans each zone, the inspection is marked complete in an app or heads-up display.

Information captured by these systems also make if quite easy to determine what may be wrong. Fleet mechanics can be instantly notified by email if a defect is reported, while also having visibility on the location, truck driver, and reporting time.

Truck drivers also like them because they can be assured fleet mechanics are seeing the information they are reporting, without it having to be passed through someone else first.

Telematics providers have been increasingly expanding the capabilities and connectivity solutions available with electronics DVIR devices, mobile apps, e-logs, and more. Some software providers have even released forms-based software applications that fleets can customize to create their own inspection process.

The forms can be set up in a proprietary software system and will prompt the truck driver to capture pictures of any defects and provides a signature area for verification of the report.

Full Maintenance Integration

Beyond simply capturing inspection information, new trends involve using DVIRs in conjunction with maintenance management software. Full vertical integration into the repair process creates new opportunities where cost and efficiency are concerned.

Vendors are providing new systems that integrate repair order scheduling with critical defect notifications. Cloud-based systems allow fleet technicians to manage service events and repair orders. The software itself can manage almost the entire process.

When a defect is entered into the DVIR, the system sends a notification to the shop and automatically schedules the repair. If the defect is safety-related, the system can prevent the truck from being put into service until the repair work is completed.

As the CSA program ramps up the pressure on fleets nationwide, it’s ever more important to ensure you’re staying on top of vehicle maintenance. As such, interest is growing in technologies like DVIR, which make once error-laden processes much more effective and efficient.

The fact is, once you integrate these processes into your fleet’s operation, only good can come from it. When there’s no paper to be misplaced, vital information doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

Technological Disruption In Trucking Industry

We know, you’ve been hearing about it over and over again. But do you know what? There’s a good reason for it. Trucking cannot get away from technology. And as much as we would like to keep these static, tried-and-true, we can’t escape the digital grasp of technological innovation.

As we’ve reported on before, there are several technologies that are revolutionizing how business gets done in the trucking industry. Let’s take a closer look at how the marriage between trucking and technology is progressing.

New Telematics

Telematics are defined as services that enable other technologies. Intelligent transportation systems and automated safety controls all represent critical factors in this facet of emerging truck technology. The next vanguard of wireless technology lies in digital short range communication features, which use roadside receivers and transmitters to send data between vehicles.

Where telematics falls short is in the proliferation of copycat apps and the search for actionable data. As we look to the future with these technologies, expect OEMs to begin installing embedded hardware onto their vehicles. Seamless communication between said hardware and advanced software components will be crucial.

One question still dogging telematics adoption surrounds the use of multiple brands of trucks. As multiple brands of trucks go, so do different variations of necessary software components. Still, expect to see telematics acting as the middleman between such aspects of trucking technology as automated service scheduling and inspection management.

Safety Technology

The trucking industry has been implementing advanced new safety measures for a long time now. And it wasn’t just the instigation of impending regulation that spurred such action. As advanced technologies become available, motor carriers have real incentive to ensure their fleets are operating to the highest standard of safety. After all, their business is at stake.

Currently, there are eight major safety technologies either being used now, or under development, in the trucking industry. They include:

  • Antilock braking systems;
  • Stability control systems;
  • Lane departure warning systems;
  • Collision avoidance systems;
  • Blind spot warning devices;
  • Interior cameras;
  • Rear view cameras;
  • Side mirror cameras;
  • Various vehicle sensors.

The fact remains: The cost to your business if one of your truck drivers damages property (approx. $150,000), causes injury (approx. $250,000), or causes a fatality (approx. $1 million), is far more than the $750 spend on a lane departure warning system.

As we speak, the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration is looking into drafting rules governing the installation of collision avoidance systems on commercial vehicles. They are even looking into how the use of cameras could eliminate the need for mirrors, which represent a not insignificant drag coefficient.

The Powertrain

We are rapidly transitioning from an era of big, dirty engines to one of clean refinement. The big trends in the world of truck powertrains come in the way of downsped engines, alternative fuels, and fully electric vehicles. The primary driving force in all of this remains fuel savings.

Expect to see a lot more component and subsystem electrification starters. Ultra-capacitor varieties are also expected to make a big splash. Even natural gas powered vehicles represent a vanguard of the future. The United States sits on vast natural gas deposits; some estimate a 200-year supply.

As natural gas and hybrid vehicle development accelerates, expect to see continued innovation in the area of engine and powertrain design. From embedded software to aerodynamic improvements, the era of the marvelously efficient truck is upon us.

In some quarters truckers are even being treated to training via augmented reality. Imagine how streamlined costs could be if all of your operators could use one centralized tool for training. Gone would be the days of costly training programs and difficult tracking.

Welcome to the continually evolving marriage of trucking and technology.

Trucking Software: Applications And Outcomes

That’s right, folks, you’ve heard it before. Trucking and technology are close bedfellows. As the regulatory and m­anufacturing environments continue to change, technology is increasingly the answer to a vexing set of problems.

As a result, fleets are significantly investing in complex software systems. In many cases these new systems must communicate with legacy systems built before the internet era began. Even so, these systems are necessary to making operations safer, more efficient and more profitable.

There are a wide variety of applications for new advanced systems, and many fleets aren’t even scratching the surface of the technological applications available to them. So, how does a fleet manager decide what’s best for his or her operation?

Look at All Aspects

There are a number of software solutions available to address a different number of needs. But does that mean you should only use one? Broaden your horizons beyond immediate need.

For example, take a fleet choosing to implement a new software option for compliance purposes only. They are burdening their IT department with a complex new install that only does one thing. Can you find an option that handles compliance, but also assists with recruiting or human resource functions?

A fleet is constantly generating data across all operations. Instead of having single-minded focus on one problem, figure out a solution that can be leveraged across all channels. Instead of letting a department make a huge technology purchase in a vacuum, figure out how different departments can benefit, and adjust your purchase accordingly.

It’s important to talk to everybody and get a consensus on what multi-purpose option can help the whole organization. Remember to consider the pig picture and don’t end up with a single-purpose software solution

Consider Good Planning

Good planning is just common sense, right? Well, not really. When you’ve got multiple layers and different departments weighing in on a proposal, things can get rushed.

It’s important to create a comprehensive “roadmap” of how you plan on implementing the new system, and why. If you are transitioning from completely manual ways of doing things, then there are even more considerations, from interoperability to data transfers, security, buy-in and training.

Everyone throughout the organization may be using this new system, so making sure they are on the bandwagon is key to ensuring a successful rollout. Once they’ve said “I do,” you’ve got to be ready with training at hand.

Buy-In and Training

There are few things employees enjoy less than having a new system pushed on them without any prior warning or input from the higher ups. It’s simply not enough to create a good roadmap. You’ve got to make sure your staff is supportive of the project from the get-go.

Sometimes cultural changes are required. Trucking companies have been operating in a paper-filled file cabinet farm environment for decades. A full transition to screens and wireless requires a shift in thinking.

Once you’ve got everyone on board, you’ve got to make sure a program is in place to get them prepared. Up-front training is critical to proper uptake. It must be broad-based and go into good detail about how the system will be used.

Training must also be tailored to the person being trained. Obviously a truck driver will receive different training from a technician. The software has different uses, so focusing on outcomes is important.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

Once you acquire a big piece of software, you will have made a serious investment. The vendor you purchased that software from should be readily at hand as a resource if you have problems. Even vendors who operate on a smaller scale can generally provide a reasonable level of support, and if they don’t, perhaps you should look elsewhere.

Does the company have a hotline where you can immediately get someone on the phone? How accommodating and responsive is the sales rep? These are questions you will want to ask yourself before you make a final decision.

Upgrading to a complex software system that touches every aspect of the business is no small matter. Whatever you end up doing, pay careful consideration to the applications and outcomes.

Are Enhanced Telematics The Digital Answer To A Paper Problem?

Remote diagnostics are nothing new. In fact, they’ve been around since the late 1990s, when manufacturers began building electronically controlled engines. The arrival of these engines allowed the advent of telematics systems that could link up to the engine and transmit faults codes back to the office.

While the theory was that telematics would prevent breakdowns and expensive repairs, in reality the data was difficult to decipher by fleet managers. The industry was still new and in the end carriers found it difficult to justify the expense.

Then, everything began to change.

Telematics in the Modern Age

One decade into the 21st century, Daimler Trucks of North America teamed up with a company that made telematics and fleet management software. Together, they created a propriety system that would become standard on all Freightliner trucks with EPA 2010 Detroit and newer engines.

This new system was built so that if a fault code light appeared, Detroit’s Customer Support Center would be alerted. They would then review the problem and provide information to the vehicle owner.

Shortly thereafter, other heavy and medium-duty truck and engine manufacturers got into the telematics game. Just two years ago, Volvo Remote Diagnostics teamed up with another software provider to enhance their own telematics and service event management systems.

Trucking has been slow to adapt to the changes forced upon it within this newly mobile marketplace. Might enhanced remote diagnostics and mobile apps be the digital answer to a paper problem?

The Market Explodes

While remote diagnostics might sound appealing from a mechanical standpoint, the return on investment actually comes from the operational side. In reality, it’s not about what fleets save in maintenance costs, it’s about how they are using this information to revolutionize their core operations.

Companies utilize the most popular platforms to deliver solutions that wouldn’t have been thinkable a short decade ago. Rigs now support proprietary systems that communicate directly with Android or Apple devices.

As new products come online, fleets can utilize telematics to manage every aspect of the operation. Advanced applications interface with payroll, fuel purchasing and work order management systems.  Businesses have visibility across the enterprise and run seamless operations.

Present Day Applications

The fact remains: fleet managers operate different types of vehicles and they don’t want to be forced to manage them through three different interfaces.

Considering most fleets operate a mix of vehicles, custom tailored applications have been exploding onto the market. After all, carriers need systems that work equally well no matter what make or model they are installed on.

To answer this need, software providers are offering fault monitoring applications that provide diagnostics and repair information for a variety of vehicle models and types. Within a short period of time, single interface platforms have become the norm.

Factory-installing telematics hardware provides additional options as more applications come online. Fleet managers are able to turn on tracking, messaging, and e-log applications as the need arises.

Fleets use diagnostic feeds from various sources to supply their own uptime service management systems. In a twist of irony, competing companies are now almost dependent upon one another to ensure the success of the fault code sharing system.

The Next Frontier

Social media has transformed almost every aspect of our lives, including trucking. GPS telematics had operated in a static phase for more than 15 years before change arrived.

Rigs can now be installed with what are essentially “plug and play” devices to allow monitoring of truck driver operating trends. Cloud-based software systems analyze the data and provide real-world applications that basically gamify the reward and recognition programs used within fleet operations. This brave new world of software optimization is called social telematics.

Another advantage lies in the low price fleets can expect when investing in these platforms. Because these companies operate their most prized asset in a virtual environment, interoperability and networking costs are low.

As to where these advanced applications lead, only technology can tell. Advanced applications seem to be coming online by the day. With superior telematics and built-in hardware, the proverbial sky is the limit.

Truck Driver Training Goes Online

Earlier in the week we reported on how video-based technological advances are changing truck driver training. Today we’re going to take a look at another innovative way fleets are quickly training perspective truck drivers.

Just as video is revolutionizing feedback, online resources are revolutionizing hiring and orientation. They cut back on the need for volumes of books and paperwork, while delivering on the convenience, low cost and meeting economies of scale. Let’s take a look at two case studies on how online training is reshaping fleet policies and procedures.

Increasing Efficiency and Effectiveness

Holly Caskey, department manager for a mid-western fleet, used to hold a weekly conference call for new hires that would last several hours. As she puts it, “you couldn’t tell if they were listening or paying attention.”

In order to increase efficiency and ensure effectiveness, Caskey’s company rolled out an interactive training program that allows new truck drivers to learn at their own pace, online. In order to proceed to the next training module, participants need to have answered the test questions correctly.

“We know there is comprehension, plus they’re able to view it as many times as they’d like,” Caskey says. “Before they only had one shot, now it also provides a consistent message.”

The online interactive training program has allowed the company to shorten its orientation period by a week or more, in some cases. Under the older system, new hires would have to complete their drug test and pre-employment work by Thursday, and then wait until the following Wednesday to attend training; even longer before they could be dispatched on their first run.

Their new program not only shortens the time spent in the hiring process, but it also delivers training content straight to the new hire, overcoming time and geography problems. Instead of having to schedule time and office space, new hires can access their material right from the comfort of their own home.

Custom Training Content

Last March, a Canadian company was recognized at the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) annual convention as the safest carrier in its division. They also received first place in the National Fleet Safety Awards.

By their own words, the company states that the extensive training program they’ve initiated has been crucial to their award-winning success. The program is based on a 2.5-day orientation and then five additional courses led by an instructor. The instructor-led courses also include access to a full-scale simulator.

The orientation and instructor training are then followed up with 17 online courses throughout the year. The online courses can be accessed through the company’s intranet site and computer lab. Access is made available through a swipe-card, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

During their second year of employment, truck drivers get another instructor-led refresher course and four customized online courses. This continues in subsequent years, just to make sure their fleet employees are fresh. Each year the new online courses are reconfigured to fit the needs of the day, no matter the carrier or area of operation.

The company also provides safety counselors three times a year. Truck drivers can bring any comments, questions, or concerns to these neutral third parties for quality feedback and advice. Issues that arise are then brought to management’s attention while allowing concerned parties to remain anonymous.

Finally, the company collects all the data regarding how well their truck drivers are performing, combines then with online resources, and then ranks them on a scale of risk, from low to high. The company is also planning to roll out video recorders in an effort to further enhance their training programs.

How Much Adoption?

According to recent estimates, fleets need to immediately fill 35,000 to 40,000 truck driving positions, and that’s not counting job losses due to turnover. With the need for newer, faster ways of recruiting and training truck drivers never higher, carriers are increasingly trying to find the technological edge.

As fleets across the nation begin to make these technologies more common-place, the entire fabric of the trucking industry will change. With such buzzwords as “automation” and “regulation” on the horizon, it’s hard to see how all the pieces will fit together. One thing is for sure, however, time doesn’t wait for technology, and the fleets of tomorrow will need to adapt to the needs of today.