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Mining the Trucking Digital Data Dump

The trucking industry, and transportation sector at large, are going through big changes. The adaptation of advanced technologies allows transportation companies to operate in a way they never have before. Yet, as all this new technology seeps into the industry, trucking companies are also drowning under a deluge of data.

The questions now are:

  • How can data be influenced using blockchain?
  • How can your fleet better utilize the data you’re collecting?
  • What kind of timeline can you expect when it comes to data implementation?
  • What methodologies can you use when gathering data and making an analysis?

The fact is, data has been one of the biggest buzzwords in the past five years. Yet, data on its own, without context, means very little. Data points are nothing more than self-contained bits of information. In order to get something out of the data motor carriers need software, people, and a strategy to turn these bits of information into something that can be used for the greater good of the fleet.

So Much Data

Each new generation of truck is more advanced then the last. We have now reached an inflection point where commercial motor vehicles are now akin to computers on 18 wheels. Yet, the question remains: Why aren’t fleets doing more to implement data-driven solutions? Consider that a single fleet can produce billions, if not trillions of data points per year. Without a plan, all this information can be disorienting.

The task for your fleet should be to put systems in place that do more than just collect data for the sake of doing so. They must be able to analyze the data points and put them to good use. Systems, whether they are built-in, outsourced, or otherwise, need to help fleet managers make more informed decisions. Fleets should expect to get actionable items from the technologies they are using.

Fleets must also consider the use of IoT devices. There should be three categories. The first data-driven category should be information gathering. Your fleet needs to be set up to gather a wealth of data from a variety of sources. The second category is in information sharing. Whether it is through Wi-Fi, cellular networks or otherwise, you need immediate access without distortion or manipulation. The final category is in decision-making.

Fleet managers and other decision makers will be able to respond more quickly and make better informed decisions about the nature of the fleet. They should be able to use the result from the data gathering to create better outcomes for truck drivers and others within the company. This is what is referred to as a feedback-based process and it allows trucking companies to adapt and optimize their operations with little hassle.

All the Benefits

Data can be used in many ways, but one of the best ways is through controlling costs. Take tire pressure monitoring as one example. If a fleet is using a tire pressure monitoring system to record temperature and pressure conditions in real time, money is saved. Sensors and the data gleaned from those sensors can be used to monitor wear and performance on both tires and other vital pieces of equipment.

Data can also help truck drivers find parking. In fact, several states are already rolling out a data-driven parking solution. The system will monitor over 150 parking areas and relay free information to truckers on where there is available parking. This represents a significant step towards helping truck drivers find a safe place to park using data as the solution.

Another area where data comes in handy is in weather detection. Did you know that inclement weather costs fleets over $8 billion per year? Real-time weather data can be gathered and combined with traffic information, road closures, construction zones, and more. This paints a comprehensive picture of what is happening on the road before the truck driver gets behind the wheel.

Remember the days gone by when all we had to use was a color-coded map? Data-driven systems have moved the needle forward in a big way. What we should see in trucking will be like what we see today in aviation. A lot more data will provide access to a lot of more efficient routes and better planning. Yet even more is the matter of safety. The simple fact is that the efficient use of data makes fleets safer.

Fleet managers can monitor truck driver behavior and act if necessary. Truck drivers can receive real time alerts if they are heading into heavy congestion and take another route if necessary. Outside of the tangible benefits this offers, fleets can also get better information related to weather and road safety. Time is saved with better route prediction.

In 2018, the DOT announced that it would be launching some research programs designed to use data to improve safety on our nation’s roads and highways. The first of these projects was to track the speed of a vehicle and see how closely speed and road conditions correlated to an accident. The second project was in partnership with the crowd-sourcing navigation app Waze. The government in this study wants to asses whether there was a risk of a crash if something was reported by Waze users.

But if there is one area where fleets hope to get the most out of the data dump, it is in the area of efficiency. Whether this is greater fuel efficiency or more efficient maintenance outcomes, data can be used to streamline operations, create better efficiencies, and, above all, save money. Let’s take maintenance as once example.

Data gathered from telematics devices and sensors can let a motor carrier know which vehicles or which equipment is at risk of failure. Fleet technicians can use the data to anticipate routine problems. Fleet managers can decide whether they need to make a repair or not before the truck ever goes out onto the road and puts itself at risk for breakdown.

Considering unscheduled maintenance costs trucking companies an average of nearly $80 an hour, this is no small thing. By smartly utilizing data, these systems can quickly pay for themselves. And the same goes for fuel savings. When all the data points link, fleets are awarded greater insight into overall fleet performance.

What Does Blockchain Have to do With It?

We have written before about how blockchain is increasingly becoming incorporated into trucking and transportation applications. In fact, if data was the big buzz word of the past five years, for 2019 and beyond, it has got to be blockchain. But why are we even talking about blockchain? Well, because we are talking about data. The blockchain is nothing more than an immutable record of data. It is most important to point out that blockchain is not bitcoin or cryptocurrency, even though it underpins cryptocurrencies.

The point is, blockchain is not limited to bitcoin-related applications. Rather, blockchain is what is referred to as an “instrument of trust.” The blockchain records data, whether it is transactional or otherwise, and shares it across the network. The data is not controlled by one centralized authority, but rather by the users of the blockchain themselves. This is one reason why blockchains are nearly impossible to hack.

But how might trucking be changed or influenced by the blockchain? At its very basic core, blockchain is a methodology for establishing trust between parties. And trucking is an industry basically built on trust between parties, whether it is between shippers and brokers or carriers and load boards. The blockchain merely builds on this premise.

When data can be trusted because the network is enforced by the users, there is less guessing about who needs what or what is going on. Beyond establishing secure contracts that are immutable and clearly lay out the terms, the blockchain also lets cooperating parties verify that each has the money they say they have.

The use of blockchain in this manner can essentially replace the need for a ton of lawyers and complex, tamper-proof contracts. There are three different critical areas that impact the transportation sector: Visibility, optimization, and demand management. When you have a trusted record among parties, all three of those issues are addressed.

Finally, the blockchain can assist trucking companies in the area of process management. If a particular task creates a data set, then that data can be used to build a smart contract. A ledger of where a truck operated can be gleaned from onboard telematics and then fed into the blockchain. When the data can be tracked, communicated, and shared across the fleet, everyone benefits. Freight factoring is just one area where the blockchain can be used to this effect.

We live in the era of big data. Companies who do not learn how to harness data to create better opportunities and more efficient operations will fall behind their competition. Others within the transportation sector are jumping on the data bandwagon. Are you?

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