Business

New Technologies Changing Trucking Industry

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Innovation appears to be the name of the game as the trucking industry prepares to enter the third decade of the 21st century. New technology companies are sprouting up every day producing any number of helpful gadgets which can make the lives of truckers easier and more efficient. In today’s highly competitive markets with razor thin margins for profit, fleets and shippers must choose wisely as to how to spend capital on products which will hopefully assist in increasing their bottom lines.
Because new technology requires an upfront investment it is imperative that tech companies demonstrate “before and after” savings to potential customers who may have a variety of new equipment to choose from. For their part, fleets need to be wary of the dizzying pace of technological advancement, lest they equip trucks with expensive devices which will only become obsolete within a year or two.
Instead, they need to choose from technologies which have been around for a while and have shown their effectiveness. Examples of technology that has shown its resilience include dynamic routing software, forward-looking camera systems, driver scorecards, collision mitigation technology, electronic logging devices, trailer tracking, and temperature tracking.
Once upon a time, truckers relied on a static GPS unit to find their way in unfamiliar territory. In reality, early GPS was simply a glorified road map which knew where the trucker was, but had zero information about traffic, weather, road conditions, construction or a variety of other issues that could delay a delivery. At a time when consumers are demanding light-speed shipping, it is critical that truckers have the absolute best route to any location.
Enter dynamic routing, which can not only find the optimum route, but can also help avoid traffic jams, collisions or construction delays. There are a slew of companies producing route software for truckers, among them Verizon Connect and OptimoRoute which use cloud-based software to plan the most efficient routes for delivery drivers. OptimoRoute boasts that their software can provide a 15-25% increase in efficiency.
Advancements in photographic technology have been fast-paced in recent years, making it essential that trucks have the best forward-looking camera systems available. Not only have video systems increased clarity with increased megapixels, they have also improved in capturing low light or nighttime situations.
The primary reason for employing the best camera possible is in the likelihood of collisions, which are more than 70% caused by passenger car drivers, yet truckers often tend to get the blame in the eyes of the public. New camera systems can not only focus on what’s happening in front of the truck but can also provide valuable information about the driver such as problems with fatigue or distracted driving. SmartDrive’s new SmartSense system and Lytx Video Services perform many of these tasks and much more.
When monitoring drivers, fleets can turn to what are called driver scorecards which, at their best, can inform both driver and fleet about ways in which a driver’s behavior can positively impact fuel usage and costs. Experts estimate that bad driving can cost as much as 20-30% in miles per gallon. Driver scorecards focus on several elements of a driver’s performance. Vnomics takes into consideration several variables such as the truck itself, types of loads and transmission shifting data. Other technologies can combine both video data with driver performance. For example, Netradyne, a truck video system provider, has a 360-degree HD camera which uses artificial intelligence to automate driver scoring.
Because heavy trucks find themselves involved in collisions and fatalities at a high percentage—for a variety of reasons—advanced collision mitigation technology systems would appear to be the next step for both independent owner-operators as well as large fleets, especially if they are dealing with fuel or other toxic materials. Having overcome the issues which plagued early prototypes, new systems are allowing for the employment of more sensing technology to monitor for crashes and take proactive steps to avoid them.
Using radar and video monitoring of roadways, the popular Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems Wingman Fusion device includes an electronic stability program to protect against rollovers and loss of control accidents. Likewise, Meritor WABCO’s OnGuard system has similar abilities utilizing short range radar features to assist in crash avoidance.
No longer an option for interstate commercial operators, electronic logging devices (ELD’s) are now required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. ELD’s provide evidence that truckers are fulfilling hours of service (HOS) requirements through electronic tracking and recording. While some small fleet owners have chafed against the requirement, industry experts claim that ELD’s have actually made trucking companies more competitive and profitable.
Another tool that helps truckers stay competitive is trailer tracking technology which makes it easier to locate and coordinate a company’s most important assets. Adding a GPS tracking system to keep tabs on trailers reduces the likelihood of mis-management or theft in places with high crime rates. Trackers can also serve other functions such as finding shipping containers and assisting carriers in managing trailer utilization, maintenance and more. In fact, maintenance has become a core task for trackers. Spireon’s FleetLocate system can digitally attach maintenance data and records to any trailer to assure more consistent maintenance and inspection.
Proper refrigeration has always been a priority for shippers hauling human or animal food, so temperature tracking technology has become an essential part of the equipment for trucks and trailers dealing with shipping temperature sensitive products. New technology allows for truckers to monitor not only the standard temperature in their trailer but also gives information for any separate compartments. This is especially useful for trucks which carry some products that simply need refrigeration and those that may need alternative compartments with lower temperatures for freezing. Ever since the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act in 2011, temperature tracking and record keeping regarding the transport of perishable items have become standard procedures for truckers.

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