Quick Transport Solutions Inc.

The Lowdown On Idling And Fuel Saving Technologies For Trucking Companies

It’s the never-ending debate: How do fleets cut fuel costs even further? As manufacturers, aftermarket suppliers and other industry players look for every possible way to cut costs, save on fuel and pad their bottom line, they’ve got to turn an eye inward.

Emissions and engine technology companies say the clean fuel revolution and subsequent technological shift is just in its infancy. Perhaps there’s more fleets can do to shave a little off of the fuel gauge. One such area where truckers and trucking companies can make a big impact is in idling.

Although there are anti-idling laws and lots of anti-idling technology to go around, if you visit a truck stop just about anywhere and you’ll see more than just a truck or two sitting idle.

Consider that in California – a state with some of the strictest emissions laws – new trucks can still be labeled as having “Clean Idle” systems. So, rather than eliminate the problem, California stamps that it’s clean idle certified and the tractor is good to go.

Factor in diesel prices and the problem becomes even more disconnected. While oil prices remain low, clean technologies are adopted at a slower rate. There’s less incentive to spend the money up-front for expensive new technologies when you can just wait out the price drop.

Beyond Fuel Prices

Even when you factor in lower fuel prices, there is still a huge incentive to ensure you are taking fleet-wide measures to reduce idling. Consider this report, which showed that engaging in idle-reducing measures, a fleet could gain up to $2 per gallon/per vehicle back in efficiency. That’s a huge gain!

And not only does reducing idle time save on gas, it can also help you in reducing long-run engine maintenance costs through simple wear-and-tear reduction. What’s not to like about that?

Auxiliary power units are designed to provide onboard power. These systems are used for both climate control and to power and charge specific electrical devices. While these devices had been primitive in nature, advances in the technology have made way for advanced units powered by battery or natural gas or other alternative fuels.

Truckers enjoy the comfort conveniences provides by the APUs because they can park wherever they please, turn the generator on and have power in your cab, for whatever reason you may need it for.

This doesn’t mean APUs don’t come without drawbacks. There is an additional weight component that must be factored in when you spec the truck. If you are trying to shave weight off, many fleets may look to the APU to take off a few pounds quickly without negatively impacting performance. Indeed, we would argue that removing the APU would impact fuel efficiency performance. There is a case to be made for utilizing APUs and the long-term benefit you gain from their usage.

Types of APUs

That’s why many fleets and truck owners have turned to auxiliary power units (APUs) to keep idle time low while they are sitting and waiting. There are both diesel and battery-powered APUs and when fuel is at its peak price, your fleets could see the devices pay for themselves in under two years.

 

There are either diesel or battery-powered APUs. If you chose to go with a battery-powered APU, you can expect things like heating, cooling and ventilation when the vehicle is parked.

Battery-powered APUs have few moving parts, so they cost less to maintain. One drawback, of course is that the batteries will need to eventually be replaced. Their cost in the long-term, however, doesn’t cancel out your short-term gain.

Beyond the gains you reap from potential fuel and truck driver satisfaction benefits, battery-powered APUs generally operate quietly and produce no emissions. One thing they do not do, however, is offer the cooling capacity required on extremely hot days, like those of a summer haul through Phoenix in July.

One could even go so far as to add an inverter to the HVAC system or build in a fuel operated air heater atop the inversion device, as this option would save the most fuel.

Some APUs also come with their own diesel particulate filter – such as in California. When you add more components, you increase the chance for maintenance requirements down the road. That’s why – if you do invest in an APU – you want to invest in one that will serve you technologically and reliably for years and years to come.

Considering Other Types of Cooling and Heat

Truck drivers aren’t wedded to one type of technology. Diesel-fired heaters offer themselves as an inexpensive alternative to battery-powered variants and have the added benefit of being easier to maintain.

Bunk heaters are cost-effective, but they are a one-note solution. They don’t address the other electrical or cooling requirements that a traditional APU might address.

Thermal storage systems could be an option. These are devices that capture cooling air while the truck is in motion then use that very same air for air conditioning the sleeper later.

Essentially, a core is frozen within the device while the truck is in motion, then cool air is siphoned off of it when the vehicle is at rest and cool air is needed for the cab.

It is important to think beyond fuel prices because at times when fuel prices are low the ROI argument can be harder to justify. Yet using an APU also provides for better trade-in value since the engine hours on the block have a far larger reduction in run-usage than vehicles operated without such units.

When an engine has less hours run on it, the shop can also increase service intervals, which saves the fleet in both time and money. A buyer looking at this truck will know that the engine has less wear-and-tear because of the APU installation

Whether your fleet is operating on a three- or five-year trade cycle, there’s no doubt you’ll see the ROI on your initial purchase and installation once trade-in time arrives. And yet, beyond how much you save when it comes to money, let’s also consider the impact this is having on your truck drivers.

Truck Drivers Keeping Their Cool

Of course, there’s someone we’ve been leaving out of this conversation. They are the ones who are at the front-lines of utilizing these technologies day-in and day-out.

As with so many other new technologies the industry pushes onto truckers to use – whether they like it or not – there are mixed opinions when it comes to the type of APU technology trucking companies employ.

To a truck driver, especially long-haul truckers, the cab needs to basically feel like home. Whether it be microwave ovens, televisions or warmers for those cold winter months, or perhaps a CPAP machine for a trucker diagnosed with sleep apnea – there could be a good number of devices that utilize the APU, let alone using it to reduce idle time.

This is where buying the right equipment and properly educating the truck drivers using your vehicles on how to use this equipment is vital. Take one example, a trucking company that uses fuel bonuses for their truck drivers. When you show a truck driver a graph where idle time could impact their fuel usage – and thus their bonus – often you’ll find (pun intended) the needle will move.

As we’ve mentioned before, this is where truck driver training can come in. Obviously, truckers don’t idle intentionally just to waste gas. Likely, it comes from years of operating vehicles that didn’t have idle-reducing technology.

How a Truck Driver Does It

Let’s say you utilize online truck driver training to help reduce a truck’s idle time, keep in mind you aren’t doing so in a vacuum. Training must be provided in a bigger context. This is where coaching and data analysis come in.

First, many of the new systems available on newer vehicles – and to back office decision makers – record everything happening on the truck, which includes idle time. When a truck driver can see that they aren’t intentionally wasting resources, yet that’s what their idle time does, a change in behavior often follows.

In some cases, manufacturers are even researching hybrid-style systems like those on the Toyota Prius, where the system shuts down the engine when the vehicle comes to a complete stop. Systems like these – which require no input from the truck driver – are the holy grail of trucking technology hybridization.

New Engine Technology

The seeds of this research have already hit the market, in the form of new electronic idle-reducing engine technologies, where parameters are set to limit idle time.

Engine electronics can shut down an engine after a specified temperature is met. Where trucker comfort comes into play is at what temperature the system is set at.

Automatic engine starting and stopping systems turn the engine on and off as needed for cooling or heating purposes. It’s also used for warming and charging the batteries. The act of turning the engine on or off can disrupt a truck driver’s sleep. It’s most important to keep the needs of the truck driver in mind.

In the end, no matter what trucking companies or manufacturers do, the needs of the truckers must always stay at the forefront of the trend. These are the men and women at the forefront of our industry. Whether we’re talking APUs or Hours of Service, we take your side, the people’s side, the trucker’s side in mind!

A Sneak Peek At The Latest In Trucking Engine Technology

We recently took a closer look at what some of the oils of the future might look like, but what about the technology underlying the engine that requires the oil? The fact is, there’s a whole host of new engines and engine technology hitting the scene as fleets and governments alike expect better fuel economy and higher levels of reliability from future big rigs.

As a result, manufacturers have answered the call. There’s a whole new crop of engines being released that burn cleaner, use less fuel and last a lot longer than older models.

It was last year that most heavy-duty diesel engine manufacturers began unveiling new models, substantially revamping the current crop to meet new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) GHG17 emissions regulations. GHG17 was the final step as part of the EPA’s CO2 reduction plan.

And although a new administration has taken office, with a new head at the EPA, engine makers are moving forward, using the next few years to figure out how to get even greater efficiency out of model-year 2020 vehicles and beyond. After all, that’s only two-and-a-half years away now.

Time flies, doesn’t it?

Behind the Numbers

When it comes to 2017 heavy-duty diesel engines, what can we expect from this model-year? Limits on 2017 engines come in at 460 grams/bhp-hr. For a broader sense of what this means, it’s around 4.52 gallons/bhp-hr.

You may be reading that but still wondering what exactly it means. Essentially, it means that engine makers will need to increase efficiency by anywhere from 7 to 20 percent compared with where the engines were just seven years ago, during model-year 2010.

While engine makers have had to squeeze greater efficiency out of their engines, they have also put a renewed focus on reliability, especially considering who their customers are. We are talking about the largest fleets in the country.

But how did they do it?

Analyzing the Technique

Meeting the new goals required a new level of technical expertise, one in which engine manufacturers were up to meeting. Whether they began employing more advanced electronic controls or making hard mechanical changes to the engine itself, the engine of today does not look like the engine of yesterday.

Whether we’re talking about new injection systems, novel new piston designs, higher compression ratios or even aftertreatment systems, there are a ton of different ways new big rig engines have evolved.

Fleets and truck owners benefit from lighter engines that use less fuel yet offer more horsepower. All of this combines for a better experience for everyone, from the engine manufacturer to the end user: the truck drivers themselves.

And while the jury is still out on which variant is the best, we want to take some time to speak to the fleet technicians in our reading audience today.

Are you ready to get wonky with engine technology?

Cummins Moves the Line

If there is a name usually associated with innovation in truck component design, it’s Cummins. Last year, Cummins rolled out a couple different GHG17-compliant engine variants.

The two variants focused on two things specifically: Fuel economy for one and performance for the other. Although they are technically almost the same engine, the version focused on fuel economy has several different upgrades to give it that extra boost in fuel consumption.

One specific change was to a wiring harness. Past models had left the possibility for water ingress, while the new one does not. Cummins also modified the turbocharger actuator and did a complete redesign on the recirculation cooler.

Aftertreatment systems used to vary greatly since OEMs used to package them all differently. Now, engine manufacturers can count on a simple, straight-down-the-pipe design that’s the same for every vehicle.

Much of the changes Cummins has made are internal, even if the aftertreatment system steals the show. They’ve even changed the hydrocarbon injector they connected to the diesel particulate filter.

The fact is, Cummins is innovating at the edge of engine design the same as they always have.

Detroit Diesel Double D Series

Owned by Daimler Trucks North America, the Detroit Diesel business unit has been hard at work on GHG17-compliant engines, and could even be said to have had one in production before the requirement was ever put into place.

Some changes to new variants include a longer oil drain maintenance interval stretched out to 50,000 miles. Detroit Diesel has also upgraded the capabilities built into its Integrated Power Management System (IPM). Now with its own acronym, IPMs are common on newer engines.

Detroit Diesel has modified their IPM to make it more tightly integrated with new transmissions. This is where powertrain upgrades also come into play. Upgraded transmissions help keep RPMs low and fuel savings high.

More savings come in the form of advanced predictive cruise control system and an integrated collision mitigation system called Detroit Assurance. There’s also a new electronic interface called Detroit Connect that can be built into the vehicle or accessed through an app on a mobile device.

Anyone using the app or viewing information in the panel can access a full diagnostic analysis of the truck via a virtual technician that lives inside the computer itself. Isn’t it amazing how far remote diagnostic systems have come in such a short period of time?

An International Flair

International, the company behind Navistar engines, recently unveiled a new 12.4L engine, basically saying they designed this thing from the ground up; or what the industry refers to as a “clean-sheet” design.

The main appeal of the new engine, labeled the Navistar A26, is weight. Not only is it 55 pounds lighter than its predecessor, the N13, but it comes in almost 700 pounds lighter than engines with only a couple more liters. There’s a big trade-off there, but without a performance sacrifice.

The A26 is rated for a 1.2-million-mile life and some models can get up to 475 horsepower and up to 1,750 pound-feet of torque. The best part? The engine retains its performance edge without sacrificing on fuel economy.

According to the company, the A26 is at least 5 percent more fuel efficient than the N13, even before you add on things like predictive cruise control and a variable geometry turbocharger. Engineers also took their hand to the mechanics of the engine, reducing friction between moving parts by utilizing an advanced new cylinder head and cooling module.

Paccar Hard at Work

Paccar – never one to rest on their laurels as their competitors innovate – has introduced a 2017 vehicle lineup that includes a whole slew of new displacement, horsepower, fuel efficiency and torque readings.

A big difference about Paccar’s new MX line is that they now deliver peak torque around 900 rpm, which is far better for situations in which the trucker downspeeds the driveline. Considering how big a topic downspeeding has become in recent years, this development comes as no surprise.

In addition to adjusting the peak torque level, Paccar has also modified the fuel injectors and engine pistons for greater fuel efficiency. But beyond physical changes, Paccar is also focusing on what kind of turbocharger they use – if any at all.

Depending on whether an engine comes in above or below 485 horsepower, some variants may not come with a single cylinder air compressor. When combined with a controlled variable displacement and cooling pump, this change goes a long way in eliminating internal engine drag and component friction.

Like so many others, Paccar is expecting these new models to be paired with GPS-based predictive cruise control, as Kenworth announced earlier in the year when they decided to upgrade to the new MX series engines.

Volvo Group Making Moves

On the final stop on our tour of the latest engine technologies, we come to Volvo, partnered with Mack. For 2017, they have released three new heavy-duty engine variants, all with an MP designation. They range from a 10.8 liter in the MP7 to a whopping 16.1 liters in the MP10.

Not only is each variant GHG17-compliant, but they offer a few interesting new innovations, the first being the addition of a rail fuel injection system. By using this system, precise injection timing allows for a complete burn with virtually no soot as a by-product of the combustion process.

Certain engine ratings on the MP line also come with a two-speed clutched coolant pump to lower parasitic engine loss. An optional turbocharger could also deliver an additional 30 – 50 horsepower through a fluid-coupled gearing system unique to that engine design.

The company sees this more through the lens of fuel efficiency than performance. Sure, you’re adding more horsepower, but what you are really doing is taking 30 – 50 horses of pressure off of the engine. With less work to do, more fuel is saved.

The Final Word

The fact is, no matter who holds the presidential office or what bills are passed in the halls of Congress, trucking companies will continue to innovate. After all, the market demands it.

Fortunately, fleets have more choice than ever in what truck they buy and what engine they spec for it. No matter what kind of route you run, newer, more efficient engines are here to stay.

Has your fleet jumped on the bandwagon yet and upgraded to more efficient engine technologies? If not, now is the time. Save on fuel and increase performance. Now that’s a win-win!

A Technology Boom Is Changing Last-Mile Delivery And Opening New Opportunities For Parcel Carriers

While much of today’s trucking news surrounds over-the-road and intermodal deliveries and how they are changing under the onset of technology and transport efficiency, one area that’s received little attention is the boom in last mile delivery services.

The fact is, e-commerce is changing the way last-mile deliveries are managed. As data miners look at past trends on delivery data by shipment size, they are finding that a large portion of deliveries are happening by way of small shipments on less-than-truckload carrier vehicles.

Many smaller trucking companies are now offering same-day service in a number of metropolitan markets. These deliveries – sometimes referred to as ‘the final mile’ – are rising thanks to an increase of e-commerce and multi-channel marketing techniques available now only because of internet marketing.

The boom in e-commerce has hugely increased the need for final-mile deliveries. They’ve also caused both headaches and new opportunities for companies throughout the supply chain, whether it be for well-known couriers like UPS and FedEx or regional delivery fleets and big LTL providers, who are adding last-mile operations to their transportation portfolios.

Developments in e-commerce and the ability for shippers to find transport options at scale has created a tidal wave of demand for these final mile operators. And there are two types of motor carriers who are filling the need.

As smaller players try to increase their appeal in a more competitive market, “white-glove” services are being looked to in order to provide that competitive edge, which could involve not just delivering the shipment, but also offering assembly, setup and installation services.

At one end – for small packages shipped in niche markets – small carriers are even looking into drone and robot technology, an area once reserved for the big players. On the other side of the spectrum there’s an increasing need for larger items at lower amounts. When an LTL truck can fill the void, shippers need to rely on the smaller, LTL outfits to get the job done.

So, what’s behind the boom? Quite frankly, technology is making the complex requirements of last-mile delivery much more profitable, so why not enter the fray?

How Drones and Automation Are Changing the Game

Remember that one time now-so-long-ago when Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos made a bold prediction? He once said that drones delivering packages to your door could one day be as common as the mail truck pulling up in front of your house.

Last December, Amazon beta tested something called Prime Air Service in England, where packages weighting 5 pounds or less were dropped to a customer’s door step within 30 minutes.

Still, we’re a long way from drone delivery, but more large operators are beginning to test the model. No longer is Amazon the only player looking at drone delivery as a way of getting that final mile package to your door. Now UPS is also testing drones for commercial package delivery.

In February, UPS partnered with a third-party company to incorporate drone delivery into their day-to-day operations. The drones are designed to launch from a ground-based vehicle – in this case an electric-drive car – and autonomously deliver the package to a customer’s doorstep before returning back to the vehicle. The vehicle operator isn’t out of a job either, since they still need to drive it from destination to destination.

UPS admits this is different from anything they’ve done to-date, but that it also has excellent implications for deliveries to rural locations where package cars may need to travel many, many miles just to make one delivery to a house in the middle of nowhere. In this scenario, the package car can sit stationary somewhere in town while the drone travels the extra miles to make the delivery.

Even Daimler is getting in on the action by designing an electric-driven concept van that launches drones from the roof loaded and launched without the operator having to get involved at all. The drone takes off, makes the delivery and returns to the vehicle completely autonomously.

Since drones weigh less, are more powerful and offer better levels of reliability than they used to, their payload-to-weight ratio and energy consumption allows them to better fill this niche needs without eliminating truck driver jobs.

Last-Mile Robot Deliveries

A company called Starship Technologies has designed a six-wheeled robot that can make short deliveries within a particular radius from the company’s headquarters. These robots can also operate in tandem with – or be launched from – traditional delivery vehicles.

Daimler has also gotten into the robotics delivery game. Early tests of their new robotic technologies involve delivering groceries or takeout food. Daimler has provided the traditional delivery vehicles for Starship’s budding technology, developing what they dub the “Robovan.” Much like the UPS example, this configuration allows the van to approach, then a robot exits the van and makes the delivery before continuing on.

A racking system back at fleet HQ loads 400 packages over a nine-hour shift. Compare that to prior loading and delivery methods – 180 packages over an 8-hour shift, and you can see where the 100% efficiency increase makes a huge difference.

What we could see, decades down the road, if all of these technologies come together are semi-autonomous electric vehicles deploying drones and robots to complete final mile deliveries.

The Sea-Change in Consumer Buying Habits

Sure, we’ve been talking a lot about small to mid-size regional last-mile fleets utilizing advanced technologies to get packages delivered in innovative ways, but a larger conversation surrounds how larger item delivery and customer service advances will change the game at the other end of the spectrum.

As UPS and FedEx feel the strain of the capacity crunch – a topic we’ve brought up before – smaller parcel operators have been filling the void, taking on business handling big, heavier items than would normally fit their automated loading and delivery systems.

What’s an example of this? Think omni-channel purchases

Why In-Cab Cameras Are So Beneficial For Truck Drivers

We are going to tell you a story. This isn’t a real story, but the story itself will help us get a crucial point across about today’s topic. So, let’s get started:

Something wasn’t quite right about the vehicle as it pulled up and into the turn lane next to Johnson’s tractor-trailer. As an owner-operator, Johnson is always on the lookout. His truck is his income, so he’s always got to keep his eyes open.

Either way, as Johnson watched, he had a feeling that the driver of the vehicle next to him was just a tad closer than normal. But as the light turned green, the other vehicle slowly entered the truck’s lane and as Johnson turned, the vehicle continued towards the truck until – almost gently – it brushed up against the left fender of the truck.

Of course, both vehicles immediately pulled over and before Johnson’s feet had even hit the ground, the driver of the passenger vehicle was already out in the street, rubbing her neck, and very loudly complaining that the tractor had run into her.

Before Johnson could even reply, the woman made a quick phone call, just out of earshot, then continued telling onlookers that the truck had run into her and she feared she might have suffered a terrible neck accident. As soon as she finished, she turned to Johnson and asked, “Do you have nothing to say for all this trouble you’ve caused? You injured me! This is going to cost you big time,” she stated dramatically.

Finally, and with all the calm of someone who has seen this a time or two before, Johnson jerked his thumb back towards the cab and pointed to a small device just on the other side of the windshield planted firmly in the center of the dashboard.

“Do you see that?” He asked.

“Yeah, of course I do, what is it?” The driver of the passenger car replied, suddenly sounding unsure.

“Well,” Johnson replied, “that’s a forward-facing camera that recorded everything that just happened.”

Instantly, the passenger car driver stopped rubbing her neck, merely staring wide-eyed at Johnson for a couple of seconds before she turned, ran back to her vehicle and fled the scene.

Johnson merely smiled, knowing that his forward-facing camera had saved him before. Once, as he rolled through a traffic light, Johnson’s truck was side-swiped. While the passenger car driver and several witnesses told arriving officers it was the truck’s fault. Yet, when the in-dash camera video was reviewed, it showed that Johnson had the green and it was – in fact – the passenger car who ran the red light.

Cameras Don’t Lie

While this story may be fictional, we can pretty much guarantee you that it is a story told by more than a few fleets. In fact, it is the primary reason many motor carriers completely revamp their safety programs to include in-dash forward-facing cameras.

The fact is, cameras don’t lie. Many carriers will begin with the basics and eventually upgrade to a fleetwide program. Good, in-cab video systems not only help with truck driver safety measures, but they also keep accidents from harming your bottom line because you had no evidence to prove, well, it wasn’t you.

Still, it’s important that you do your research to ensure you are investing in a system that is both reliable and will stand the test of time and hard use. Some systems don’t have functionalities you need, like cloud-based video storage or superior video quality. But even if you don’t invest in the most expensive unit, one thing you can count on is that cameras tell the truth.

Beyond Simply Finding Fault

Even better, in-dash camera systems have evolved considerably over the years. Today, newer systems do much more than simply determine who is at fault in an accident. Beyond capturing vital footage, they can also record things like vehicle speed, type of motion and other truck driver specific actions that were taken at the time of incident.

While many fleets do their best to ensure a proper safety culture is put in place, everyone knows that once a vehicle leaves company HQ, the age-old rule ‘out of sight, out of mind’ comes into play. Yet with in-cab systems recording everything it isn’t hard for a fleet manager to know exactly what’s going on with the truck at all times.

That’s why in-cab video technology systems have gone from nice-to-haves to must-haves. As a matter of fact, signs point to the possibility that the FMCSA could one day mandate that these devices be installed in cab in all big rigs on the road.

Still, fleets find that installing these systems are about more than just a mandate. Many fleets who install in-cab video systems also see their collision and litigation costs plummet. Not only do in-cab video systems invalidate fraudulent claims, but they also dramatically improve the driving skills of fleet vehicle operators.

Video systems can also add solutions beyond avoiding fraudulent accident claims and helping improve truck driver skills. They can also assist fleets address things like cargo security and workers’ comp claims outside the cab. Fleets can better understand the video being produced and integrate video systems with other technological solutions that help them better understand the data.

Distinguishing Between Raw Data and Video Integration

There’s a big difference between gathering video and then being able to offer clarity on the information it provides. In-cab video solutions should be used to integrate data with vehicle sensors, analyze truck driver behaviors and offer feedback and coaching sessions based on said behaviors.

Let’s face it, it’s impossible to optimize your operational costs and measurably lower claims with just video alone. Video clips of operating events that mean something are quite different than unmanaged video streams that don’t include data from telematics sensors and other, equipment control modules and other systems – such as safety control systems like roll control.

Utilizing the proper video system allows you to do a thorough review of the video clips and fully analyze what went wrong – or what went right in coaching situations. Algorithms built into advanced in-cab video recorders can tune in on millions of miles driven and – in tandem with other systems – help fleets predict risk and offer up actionable solutions. Video systems become an active part of a fleet’s risk management and mitigation program.

This is why it is so important for a fleet to understand what they are purchasing. In-camera systems can run anywhere from $650 – $1,500 per unit. When you multiply that across an entire flee, that’s no small amount of money. If the system is working through an existing telematics provider or delivering information through a cellular or satellite link, you may be also looking at a monthly subscription charge.

But what exactly are you getting for all these extra capabilities? And furthermore, how much can you expect from the future tech built into your in-cab video system?

Advanced In-Cab Video Solutions

There are mainly two types of video systems in development today.

  1. Works in conjunction with the driver, where the data is used to generate positive driving habits and help create coaching sessions. These systems offer truck driver assist technologies, whether it be by removing blind spots or providing things like lane-changing warnings to the trucker.
  2. Legacy video systems that trigger only when certain events occur, whether it be sudden breaking or a swerving event. These cameras generally record for about 15 – 30 seconds of video, which is analyzed by the operations center hours later. They are often only one- or two-camera setups.

Yet, as technology continues the long march, even the legacy systems are coming online with far more capabilities built in.

Some are so advanced that they can be seen as superfast computing systems that analyze video using ‘deep learning’. Essentially, these systems record real-time and offer immediate suggestions, rather than recording now for analysis later.

These systems can even go so far as to analyze the types of vehicles driving in front of the truck, their speed, relative motion and more. It can spot traffic lights up to a half-mile ahead and even identify road signs, weather conditions and more. When put together, the computing power at the center of the system offers immediate situational information to assist both truck drivers and those back at fleet HQ to respond to circumstances before they’ve even happened.

This ability to watch and analyze what is happening on the road provides for immediate calculations that can potentially save lives. The fact is, in-cab camera system technology will continue to improve and provide the ability for truck drivers to operate in a safer environment.

Has your fleet invested in technologies such as these? Consider that your competitors may be already researching and outfitting their fleet with in-cab video systems then ask yourself, “Do you want to be left behind as another fleet steals your business because their technology outstrips yours?”

Consider these questions as you shop for big rigs equipped with in-cab video systems, or set about outfitting your fleet yourself.

Are Your Technicians Staying On Top Of These Fleet Maintenance And Technology Trends?

One of the most pressing issues facing modern fleets is how to deal with fleet maintenance and increasing technological disruption. As methods, technologies and vehicle construction change on near constant basis, how does an enterprising motor carrier keep up?

Today, fleets of all shapes and sizes are dealing with the unfortunate side effects of increased vehicle maintenance and service costs. As expenses mount, whether it be through new technologies or increased regulations, new methods are required to keep up with the change and keep costs down.

The evolution of the sector also causes planning for future costs that much more difficult. As regulations, technology and a diminishing labor pool make it even more difficult for today’s motor carriers to find talent, it’s especially important for those that are on the payroll to understand the ins-and-outs of fleet needs of today, especially technicians.

In today’s blog post, we will take a look at a number of fleet maintenance and technology changes that are impacting technical trucking trends of today. As motor carriers adjust their strategies to meet new challenges, they will need to stay on the forefront of the technological maintenance revolution. So, let’s dig a little deeper.

Profit Building Through Emissions and Fuel Standards

One of the most significant trends affecting fleets today is the ever-changing level of government regulation. While the new administration has made decreasing regulations one of its over-arching goals, there are still plenty of pending and “in-the-works” regulations today’s motor carriers will have to deal with.

Consider that fleets are still dealing with a change in 2014 engine technology standards and it’s not hard to see where new proposed regulations could cause further headaches, especially around vehicle emissions and fuel standards. The new front is in the EPA’s Phase II regulations, which are designed to remove around a billion tons of carbon emissions emitted from commercial motor vehicles between 2018 and 2027.

Although there’s time to adjust, what can fleets do today to prepare for the impending change? They will need to meet the challenge, but how to do that is an ever-present question.

One way to do this is through forging extensive partnerships with third-party logistics companies. These organizations’ sole focus is on developing methods to improve fleet vehicle fuel efficiency, and they have become quite adept at doing just that.

Here are some ways to lower transportation costs and provide yourself with a strategic advantage:

  • Reduce the number of CMVs on the road through the use of technology and better route planning.
  • Use fuels, vehicles and accessories that generate the lowest emissions per mile.
  • Consider different trailer weight strategies.
  • Spec your vehicles to maximize fuel usage and emissions.

By keeping these principles in mind, not only can you save money, but you can also make sure you stay in compliance with governmental regulations.

Addressing the Fleet Technician Shortage

It’s no secret that diesel engines and their components have gone through a series of upgrades and a major evolution over the past five-to-ten years. This is one of the core reasons why fleet technicians are so hard to come by these days.

The modern fleet technician needs to have a thorough understanding not only of – shall we say – “old-style” components, but they also must be knowledgeable in computer systems, software programs, alert codes, telematics components, sensor and video technology and so much more. This altered landscape makes it even harder to find qualified technicians who can get the job done correctly and efficiently.

If you take a look at the raw numbers, only 3,500 diesel and big rig technicians graduate from technical schools on an annual basis. To be frank, that number is simply not sufficient to meet the needs of our ever-increasing supply chain activities.

Current estimates are that around one million jobs are required, which by 2020 could see that number grow by another 17 percent. That’s a huge number of people; people who simply aren’t there.

Even worse, it’s not just motor carriers who are scrambling to find new technicians, dealers, service centers, independent garages and OEMs are also on a constant lookout.

So, what’s a fleet to do?

One way is to try getting involved with trade schools. By being present and visible to perspective graduates, you put your fleet at the front of their mind when they graduate and begin looking for gainful employment.

You could also establish intern programs, designed to offer potential technicians the ability to work alongside those they will be replacing when future jobs open. This method also provides them hands-on experience working with the methods they will employ in the future when it times for them to step up to the plate.

The Evolution of the Powertrain

Consider that three years ago more than eight out of 10 heavy duty Class 8 vehicles sold in Europe came equipped with an electronic automated transmission (AMT) and it’s not hard to imagine how much higher that number has risen since then. In the U.S., estimates put the current standard AMT option at around five in 10.

Going back to the EPA’s Phase II regulations, you’ll see that AMT-mandates are part of the package. The rule itself specifically states that the use of AMT transmissions will significantly reduce carbon emissions. They mention not only climate change, but energy security as reasons to make the switch.

Beyond EPA regulations and a general trend among OEMs, another driving force in AMT adoption is the fact that many new truck drivers consider operating a manual transmission as more of a choice, rather than a necessity.

Operating manual transmission CMVs has also led to the current truck driver shortage, as fleets have a difficult time finding potential truck drivers able to operate a manual vehicle. Offering AMT-equipped trucks is one way to help mitigate the shortage and pull more operators into the fleet pool.

But the AMT conversation isn’t all sunny skies and roses. The major potential downside to any fleet lies in the cost. AMT installation generally adds a $3,000 to $5,000 upfront cost to the initial vehicle purchase price.

One way to get around this cost is to consider leasing vehicles, rather than owning them. Signing onto a lease prevents you from having to shell out the upfront cost, while you still reap the benefits of operating under such a system.

Trucking Cost of Ownership

Discussing technician shortages and expensive AMT options logically leads us to our next trend, which is your typical truck cost of ownership (TCO). Today, maintenance and repair sits at around 15 cents per mile, per CMV you have operating in your fleet.

Behind fuel and the upfront capital required to purchase the vehicle, maintenance and repair costs are the costliest to a fleet’s bottom line. Still, a motor carrier’s total cost of ownership doesn’t end there.

Hidden costs include ancillary equipment costs, whether it be things like safety or data analytics, regulatory costs, insurance costs, idle time, or truck driver and fleet technician training costs.

The fact is, for a motor carrier to be truly successful and viable in the current environment, they’ve got to complete a thorough TCO analysis. By doing so, fleet managers can make better decisions on how to operate more efficiently and eliminate unnecessary costs.

A major driver in today’s higher cost environment is the increasing complexity of engine development and maintenance. Ensuring these aspects of a fleet’s expenses are included in the final analysis are crucial to keeping the bottom line intact. The best way to do that is to utilize the power of data. Speaking of which…

Utilizing Big Data

We’ve reported on it before in the QuickTSI blog and that’s because it’s a huge driver in today’s fleet management operations: The use of big data. CMV intelligence gathering technology has the potential to change the trucking landscape, and quite certainly, how your fleet does business.

New and innovative technologies enable fleets to better analyze the treasure-trove of information coming in regarding route control, maintenance schedules, employment scheduling and so much more. Just one way of using this information involves reducing the number of diagnostic steps required by at least half.

If a tool can be used to isolate a root cause and address it before it becomes a major problem, then it could be a life-saver in lowering costs and keeping fleet uptime at a maximum. As we’ve mentioned before, if fleets aren’t on the big data bandwagon, they are leaving a crucial tool behind in ensuring their operations are running at optimal efficiency.

And although these systems can be somewhat expensive, consider that they typically deliver a significant return on investment over the long term.

The fact is, the trucking maintenance landscape has been changing for quite some time, yet it’s never been more challenging then it is today. By ensuring your fleet is doing its best to both understand and harness these technologies, you’ll be settings yourself up to operate far above-and-beyond your competitors, who may be slower in adopting these technologies and adjusting to these new trends.

By always keeping maintenance and technological evolution in mind, you’ll be positioned for the future in a profitable, efficient and very beneficial way.

What’s not to like about that?

About QuickTSI

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