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How To Manage Cybersecurity In The Age Of Telematics: Part I

We are moving into an age where heavy-duty commercial motor vehicles are increasingly connected to the internet, providing advanced web-based solutions and analytics, allowing better fleet management across the trucking spectrum.

With so many third-party options out there for business both big and small, it can be difficult for intrepid fleet managers to figure out how to manage cybersecurity in this age of integrated vehicle management.

Yet, through machine learning and the proper leveraging of multiple data streams, fleets can optimize their fuel consumption, increase safety measures and ensure better regulatory compliance. The new question is how to do it in an age of increased hacking and advanced cybersecurity measures.

Securing Telematics

In Part I of this two-part series, we are going to discuss a certain aspect of trucking that we’ve touched on before: Telematics. The fact is telematics generates a huge amount of data, whether it be a detailed history of truck driver or vehicle activities or fleet operations. Advanced telematics can even be used to reconstruct an accident or benchmark specific aspects of equipment performance.

The key is to ensure this data is protected. If your fleet’s data is accessed by a malicious third party, you could be looking at serious consequences, whether it be jeopardizing customer data or giving away your shipment or schedule information to the highest bidder. From cargo securement to identity theft, your company’s information provides a wealth of opportunity to bad actors.

This is why your fleet’s cybersecurity matters so much. As a small business or fleet owner, it’s vitally important that you keep tabs on how you handle and secure your telematics data. Fortunately, there are proven methods you can employ.

The Telematics Ecosystem

When it comes to telematics, what should you be looking for? There is a proven telematics ecosystem that relies on the Internet of Things (IoT) to connect vehicles with separate devices, all through one managed, centralized computer system.

A number of third-party devices can be connected to the system, including:

  • Bluetooth sensors and beacons
  • Temperature and tire pressure sensors
  • Salt, sand or de-icing spreading sensors and monitors
  • Verbal feedback monitors delivered from within the cab
  • Collision avoidance and automatic steering and braking systems
  • Internal and external camera systems

When you have so many connected devices, it can be hard to figure out how to secure each piece, whether when connected or individually. Now it’s time to look at best practices for cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity Best Practices

As your business migrates from hardware to software-based solutions, your telematics data security will become even more important. These systems are often multi-tiered and interconnected. Since there are so many components and systems all talking to each other, with a combination of both hardware and software, there are a lot of potential vulnerabilities.

Such vulnerabilities include:

  • Theft
  • GPS jamming
  • Cellular sniffing
  • Firmware manipulation
  • Server exploits
  • Software phishing
  • Trojan viruses

Ensuring your systems are secure from these threats takes a multi-pronged approach. You must be both comprehensive and proactive in how you handle potential threats.

Addressing these problems also takes more than just installing new products designed to protect your internal systems, it also requires you to address how the entire company handles cybersecurity. Keeping your data protected involves your people feeling it ingrained within the culture of your company.

In the end, the best way to create resiliency against malicious attacks is to both protect the data on the hardware and software level, but to also ensure everyone who touches said data is aware of the safeguards and vulnerabilities.

But how do you address those safeguards and vulnerabilities? Join us in Part II of our series where we answer just those questions.

What Makes A Good Patch Truck Driving Job?

If you ask any truck driver what road problem they feel is the most annoying, yet one they constantly deal with, likely the first thing that will come to mind is a flat tire. Beyond trucking, a flat tire is the nemesis of any driver, going back to the beginning age of the motor vehicle.

During the early days of automotive and trucking technology, vehicle tires were essentially nothing more than large versions of early bicycle tires. Yet, it wasn’t long before they were modified to meet the rigorous demands of early roads.

And although the tires of today make failures on the road less of an issue, flat tires remain a threat for any enterprising fleet of the day. One of the main reasons for this lies in the complex nature of a repair. For motor vehicles, repairing a tire is far simpler than it is when dealing with a large commercial motor vehicle.

Compound that with how expensive tires are and it isn’t surprising that smart fleet managers try to get every last ounce of life out of their truck tires. When a failure occurs, in order to keep uptime and profitability from suffering, it is vital that tires get fixed quickly and properly.

Watching for Bubbles

The first line of defense in catching a bad tire should be during a truck driver’s pre-trip inspection. The best – and most effective – way to discover if there is a slow leak in a tire is by checking the tire pressure using a properly calibrated tire gauge.

Unlike days of old, one should never hit a tire with the handle of a tool. Hitting the tire with a stick does little more than let the individual know that there is air in the tire, but it does little else.

Outside of taking the pressure reading with an accurate gauge, truck drivers or maintenance technicians should focus on specific signs of impending tire failure. One specific sign is called a “balloon.”

Balloons are protruding areas of the tire interrupting the smooth surface layer. If something is protruding, check to see if air is leaking by putting liquid around the area, whether it be soapy water or water by itself.

Per the Rubber Manufacturer’s Association Truck and Bus Tire Repair Guidelines, there is a specific way technicians should inspect a tire. First, prior to a cursory physical examination, the tire should be put into a safety cage, inflated, and then the liquid can be applied to spot an air leak.

Basic Repair Technology

Basic tire repair technology has been around for a long time. But as the emphasis has shifted from the tire to the technician, a few things have changed.

Once a technician has spotted a problem with the tire, it will require both patching on the inner casing and a void filler where the puncture is located. Filling the injured area of the tire with string plugs should not be considered a viable repair.

To get the most life out of an injured tire, the casing must be restored to its original condition. By using a patch and a spreader, you can open the tire, access the inner casing and remove any foreign objects, buff the area around the injury and then use a proprietary mix to fix the damaged casing.

An important consideration is that fleets rarely use one type of tire. Repairs should vary depending on the tire type and application. And even though repair methods have changed, allowing tires to be brought back to life more quickly and efficiently, good training and attention to detail is important in ensuring tires are brought back to service at a fraction of what it would cost to purchase a brand new tire.

Truck Driver Wellness Starts At The Home Office

The fact is, when fleets help their truck drivers stay well, through either comprehensive wellness programs or other health-related initiatives, it not only benefits the operator, but it benefits the fleet as well.

A healthy lifestyle yields major dividends and especially important in jobs like truck driving, office work and other profession where the worker spends a large portion of their time sitting in one place.

Easier Said than Done?

Still, creating a nurturing and healthy lifestyle is not easy. For truck drivers specifically, who are always on the go, it can be especially hard. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be aspired to.

From increasing road safety to lowering health insurance and medical costs to providing a better quality of life for truck drivers and their loved ones, there’s a lot to like about paying close attention to employee wellness.

On the fleet side, better truck driver health lowers company operating costs and limits liability exposure. Also, as truckers get healthier and enjoy the benefits of a comprehensive wellness program, satisfaction goes up, turnover drops and recruiting new talent becomes far easier.

Of course, people don’t start trucking companies to get into the medical business. Still, a truck drivers place of employment is the logical first start in reaching out regarding medical or lifestyle issues. Whether it be sleep apnea or other situations that impact the truck drivers job or family life, there’s no harm in reaching out.

When addressing trucker wellness, it should be viewed as a starting point; a place where education occurs. The last thing you want to do is scold drivers over their health decisions. Even better, providing incentives and recognition for reaching certain health milestones goes a long way in motivating your people to reach for better health outcomes.

Sifting Through the Data

There’s a lot of data to sort through regarding health and wellness, whether for truckers or otherwise. With so many unbiased studies to choose from, it can be hard to pinpoint the one specific factor that may be the gamechanger in a wellness program.

One study done by the University of Utah School of Medicine pinpointed two specific indicators of bad health management. One was high blood pressure and the other was fatigue. They then were able to assign a “high association” with these conditions to a truck driver’s overall crash risk.

The research also highlights an unfortunate problem: Fleets are not that great at managing truck driver health. Out of the 797 long-haul truckers surveyed, almost a full fourth of them exhibited signs of high blood pressure and yet were under no current treatment. Nor had the condition been treated before.

To the researchers, this was surprising, considering truck drivers must complete a medical certification every two years. If anything, this research was another sign that the health needs of truck drivers are not being adequately met.

What’s the Solution?

At the very least, wellness programs should educate and inform truck drivers on what their health risks are. Whether it be through an email, a newsletter or some other digital method, fleets must stay engaged with the wellness of their workers.

Some fleets have even gone so far as to install gyms and on-site medical clinics at their home office. While these methods incur added cost in the short-term, the long-term benefits they yield are quite substantial.

Some estimates on the return on investment for employee wellness programs range anywhere between $2.00 and $5.00 per employee. The impact on productivity and employee retention alone is worth the initial investment.

In the end, workplace wellness programs must be voluntary, non-discriminatory and designed to specifically promote certain health outcomes or prevent disease. By focusing on the important factors, and showing your truckers you care about their health, you do only good for the overall health of your organization.

Innovation In The Trucking Industry

As the economy continues to improve and freight demand expands, trucking companies of all stripes are innovating at a very high level. Whether it’s through cross-border logistics or catering to specific industry, fleets are finding new ways to get by through innovation and niche marketing.

Let’s take a look at a couple examples of where this targeted approach is yielding big dividends for particular market players.

A New Take on Cross-Border Logistics

Every single day, over $1.4 billion in commercial trade takes place between the United States and Mexico. The United States is Mexico’s largest trading partner, and second-largest export market.

As manufacturing growth increases across Mexico, the burgeoning middle class is consuming more goods, resulting in a higher level of intermodal, cross-border trade. Logistically, this can be a challenge.

Fortunately, big players like UPS are establishing a new standard of excellence where cross-border trade is concerned. As a result of their renewed focus on cross-border trade, UPS has reported 20 percent increase in requests for Mexico-to-US or US-to-Mexico shipments.

This represents a new phase in cross-border shipping. Previously, individuals and companies moving freight to Mexico never had an option for express or expedited shipping. Today, UPS can guarantee LTL and package shipments in a timeframe that would have been unthinkable even ten years ago.

The industries most benefiting from this increased efficiency run the gamut from automotive to manufacturing and aerospace. As the Mexican middle class grows, shipments related to healthcare and retail will flow both ways.

UPS has gone out of its way to make a cross-functional shipping architecture that combines freight, small packages, air and ocean forwarding and even brokerage services. Rather than looking at specific business units, they are addressing shipping from a geographical standpoint.

As cross-border shipping evolves, this is just another example of how innovation is leading the movement of freight and ancillary industries. But still, there’s more.

Catering to a Niche Market

Whereas the UPS example follows a tried-and-true big box shipper, smaller companies are also getting in on the innovation game.

One such fleet, based in New York, runs a diverse fleet of trucks and equipment that caters specifically to the film industry. Today, the New York film industry brings in $9 billion per-year.

With a fleet of 50 trucks, this small carrier utilizes everything from box trucks to water trucks, along with accessorized equipment like generators and lifts.

One example is a giant water truck with a 4,000-gallon water tank. These trucks are used when a movie or television director needs a street to look freshly rained-on.

Box trucks are used to haul film equipment around for the crew. To accommodate tunnel height in the big apple, box trucks are kept at a max height of 12-feet.

Aluminum tailgates ensure a lighter ride and can cover the entire rear end of the truck when they are closed. These tailgates also provide a good level of safety when a member of the crew is standing on the tailgate with lots of equipment.

Due to the on-the-go nature of the film industry, on-demand maintenance is utilized to keep the vehicles in tip-top shape. An on-site shop is set up on location to handle routine maintenance like lube and oil changes or tire repairs.

This type of equipment was also used after the 9/11 terrorist attacks when heavy equipment was used to move large pieces of debris and provide specialized lighting for emergency workers. The same hoses that are used to give streets a wet look were utilized in dust suppression efforts.

Stories like these prove that a fleet’s work isn’t just about getting a load from Point A to Point B. Modern fleets, whether they are huge shippers or niche outfits, continue to innovate in the space and provide the trucking industry with a wide variety of jobs and duties.

Welcome To A New Age Of Trucker Health

We’re going to provide you with an example of something you may experience in the not-too-distant future. Join us as we step into a new age of trucker health.

The Future is Now

John is a trucker who has been on the road for some time. It’s time to rest. Has he shuts down his vehicle and sings out of his e-log, a soothing voice suddenly emanates from speakers within the cab.

“John,” a calm female voice says, “your body temperature is 100.2 degrees. Blood pressure has dropped a bit in the last 30 minutes and you are experiencing elevated breathing levels. You may want to consult a doctor.”

John, sensing something may have been amiss, removes himself from the ergonomic driver’s seat that contours to his body throughout the day to help reduce joint and back pain and climbs into the back of the cab where his bunk awaits.

He taps a wall panel above his sleeper bunk and immediately a video screen appears. “Please call the doctor,” John says.

Instantly, an onboard computer dials up a virtual physician – after all, it is 2:00am – built into an interactive website designed to help truck drivers deal with specific health problems when a human doctor is unavailable.

John describes his symptoms to the virtual doctor and answers a few follow-up questions by tapping the same video panel. John’s entire medical history is made available to the virtual physician, as well as the biometric data provided by John’s advanced driver’s seat.

John presses his palm to the screen and opens his mouth so that the built-in camera can get a view of his throat. In a short few minutes the “doctor” comes back with a full analysis of John’s condition.

“Hi, John,” the virtual physician says. “Although we are unable to obtain a throat culture, I can see you have a few white, ulcerated patches at the back of your throat. This indicates that you may have a case of strep throat. An antibiotic prescription will be transmitted to you. I recommend you see Dr. Smith at your earliest convenience.”

Within seconds of the call ending, a text arrives to John’s phone with a pass code in it. A wheeled drone then pulls up outside his truck with an antibiotic prescription filled at the truck stop. He taps the screen to authorize payment and receives his medication.

It’s Not Science Fiction

Even five years ago, this story would have seemed like science fiction. And yet today, even those who are tech-skeptical would agree that this is something conceivable in today’s, and tomorrow’s, environment.

In an age of big data, drones and advances medical technology, it’s only a matter of time before these types of advanced diagnostics bring capabilities like these to the forefront.

These changes will be so profound that they will alter the way not only people access medical information and address their health. But they will be particularly effective in the trucking industry, where truck drivers have historically had little access to advanced healthcare options, simply because of the type of job they work.

Still, don’t automatically assume that machines will override human judgement. The adoption of these technologies will follow a similar curve as other advanced technologies, safety and ELD tech as just a couple examples.

As these types of systems become increasingly commonplace in the cab, truck drivers’ health and wellness should increase dramatically. These types of advancements can only mean good things for the people they impact, all the way down the line. How long until we see them commonplace is something only time can tell.

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