Written By: Kelly Frederick, Marketing Manager for Transport Pro
Many argue that fuel and safety are the biggest concerns in the transportation industry. However, other components such as DOT compliance and EPA standards are not to be overlooked. How can the industry improve practices in these areas? Technology.
Fuel accounts for about 40 percent of operating expenses for trucking companies, which results in spending approximately $100k per year on diesel fuel. Technology has improved engine performance by increasing miles per gallon dependability. Peloton Technologies has spearheaded a platooning strategy for trucks, which can save companies up to 10 percent on fuel. This method controls braking and stabilizes acceleration, reducing aerodynamic drag and increasing fuel economy.
Peloton’s platooning technology incorporates a radar sensor more powerful than the human eye. The sensor can see at a distance of 800 miles and detect obstacles. If the sensor detects an obstacle, it applies the brakes to both trucks. In comparison to the human reaction time of one to two seconds, this sensor can respond in one-hundredth of a second, decreasing risk of an accident.
Hours of service logs also play a large role in safety, and are essential to DOT compliance. Tracking paper logs is difficult, which is why Keep Truckin launched an electronic logbook app. The app allows drivers to update their duty status, and an alert will appear if a driver has any HOS violations. Within minutes drivers can email logs in lieu of mailing or faxing documents. This provides greater visibility and makes driver management easier. If a company reviews a driver’s logs and identifies violations, that driver may be suspended. Keep Truckin has made the app accessible via the Apple and Android App Stores. Those using electronic logs are ahead of their competitors using paper logs.
Drivers have seen drastic improvements in communication with various technologies. For example, Qualcomm allows drivers to communicate electronically with their office contacts. Drivers use cell phones with Internet access and texting capabilities, which improves communication and performance. In-cab onboard computing also helps companies diagnose maintenance problems and monitor driver behavior.
According to a Forbes article, big data is greatly impacting the trucking industry. Telematics and EOBRs can collect data in real time. If a truck is carrying food items that need to be temperature controlled and the temperature becomes too warm, the truck can send a message to office personnel, who can tell the driver how fix the problem. These devices also help track hours and locations.
Measuring safety, compliance and fuel metrics is important. However, it can be difficult to monitor these items without a core software. That is why transportation management systems play a large role in the way companies do business. A reliable TMS integrates with major fuel cards, load boards and tracking units to streamline daily operations. Modern systems interface with companies like Transflo to incorporate electronic image indexing, which eliminates paper waste and keeps required documentation organized. Adopting electronic practices simplifies processes for transportation and factoring companies.
Using a TMS helps businesses solidify loads and increase revenue by generating quotes and finding loads for backhaul. Transportation software speeds up the billing process due to integration with other programs such as Quickbooks. Without this capability, companies run the risk of a skewed billing practice, which can result in unsatisfied customers and loss of business. A TMS creates greater visibility for customers by accommodating real-time information requests, and enforces better communication.
Technology extends beyond office tools, and affects the way trucks operate on the road. Wal-Mart has rolled out a prototype for a fleet of advanced trucks. Designed by Peterbilt, the model features dashboard monitors and a centered seat. Drivers will be able to customize in-dash displays, which manage the truck’s performance in real time. The trailer on this prototype is nearly all carbon fiber and hybrid, making it extremely aerodynamic and safer in unfavorable weather conditions.
This new prototype is about 4,000 pounds less than Wal-Mart’s current trucks. There have been talks within the transportation industry of creating and implementing autonomous trucks that would have the ability to communicate with other fleets to improve safety practices.
Technology is the only way that the shipping industry can meet demands and expectations of consumers. Companies like Amazon and Google are working on future plans for aerial drones to deliver goods. According to a Transport Topics article, Dave Vos, Head of Google X’s Project Wing, stated that the use of drones is a possibility in a few years if the government works cooperatively. The FAA, NASA, Google, and Amazon are in the process of developing low-level air traffic systems to accommodate this technology.
While many agree that technology investments have paid off, smaller companies tend to wait three to five years to adopt the latest technologies. Since the average profit margin for the trucking industry is only about 3.6 percent, companies typically only invest in technologies with an immediate ROI.
A new rule adopted by the FMCSA states that commercial and bus industries are required to use ELDs. This rule allows the use of mobile devices if they meet standards set by the FMCSA. Implementation of this final rule is estimated to save 26 lives, prevent 562 injuries and result in an annual net benefit of $1 billion.
The roots of transportation run deep, and the many branches of the industry grow with the evolution of technology. Although technological integration is costly, it is necessary to stay in the game.
Author Bio: Kelly Frederick is the Marketing Manager for Transport Pro. She has over ten years of writing and editorial experience, and holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Wayne State University.
Transport Pro is a cloud-based transportation management software company headquartered in Nashville, TN.