The Future of our Highway Infrastructure

According to the following opinion piece published in Transport Topics, America was number one in infrastructure back in 2005. However, today, we are ranked number 9. The question now is: How are we going to bounce back?

In an opinion piece, Ed Rendell and Ray LaHood | Co-Chairs, Building America’s Future, write in Transport Topics:

The expansive infrastructure networks that were built in the 20th century have served our nation well. As America’s economy grew, people and goods continued to move across the country, and the quality of life for all our citizens continued to improve. But in recent years, our infrastructure has been neglected and underfunded as policymakers in Washington have ignored the decay and disrepair of our roads, bridges and transit systems.

For decades, America’s roads and bridges were paid for by the users of transportation systems through modest fuel taxes. The system worked well for years, but as vehicles became more fuel efficient and cars that use little or no fuelat all became more prevalent, less revenue from this user fee flowed into the Highway Trust Fund.

Since 1993, the fuel tax rates of 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel and 18.4 cents per gallon for gasoline have not increased, and have due to inflation lost a good deal of their purchasing power. Congress has declined to take any action to approve even a modest increase in these rates or even index them to inflation.

Unfortunately, inaction has severe consequences. Since the Highway Trust Fund has not kept up with our nation’s growing needs, the result has been clear: Our roads are cratered with potholes, our bridges no longer handle growing traffic volume, and traffic congestion has grown to unbearable levels in many of our cities. And we are falling behind our global economic competitors. The World Economic Forum ranked our infrastructure No. 1 in the world in 2005, but after years of inaction we have fallen to No. 9 — a significant step back.

It’s time to forge a new path forward. Competing in the 21st century requires 21st century infrastructure and a 21st century way to pay for it.

Congress should look no further than the states that have been testing the feasibility of replacing the system that charges drivers by how much fuel they consume with how many miles they drive. States like Oregon and California have been at the forefront of this testing, and Washington, Colorado, Utah and Minnesota have also been exploring this concept.

A road user charge would address the growing fuel efficiency of vehicles while at the same time ensure that hybrid and electric vehicles that currently pay little or nothing contribute their fair share. In addition to generating needed revenue, such a program could also be used to better manage traffic congestion by using variable pricing based on time of day and traffic volume. Variable pricing is already widely used on highways around the country. The 495 Express Lanes in Northern Virginia, the I-15 Express Lanes near San Diego and 95 Express in Miami are three examples.

Full-scale implementation of a national road user charge is several years away. In the interim, we must continue to rely on fuel taxes, but it is imperative that they be increased and indexed to inflation.

The Highway Trust Fund is projected to go bankrupt in 2020. If something isn’t done to increase funding — be it an increase in fuel taxes, transfers from the general fund of the treasury or something else — it will have a $138 billion shortfall over the next 10 years. And if that shortfall is addressed with an increase and indexing of the gas tax, there would be no impact on the federal deficit. This would not be the case if money is transferred from the general fund.

We believe this proposal is the bridge to the 21st century that is needed to get America’s infrastructure back to No. 1. It will require vision, courage and action from our policymakers.

With the close of the recent 6th annual Infrastructure Week, now is the time to act. The future won’t wait. Neither can we. It’s #TimeToBuild.

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Technology Helping to Detect Risky Drivers

Most trucking companies today have implemented technology in some facet. One thing that is and forever will be crucial to monitor is safety. There is technology today that many many companies have launched to monitor driver behavior and quickly detect and mitigate risk.

Aaron Huff of CCJ Digital writes:

In October 2017, a top-performing driver for Oakley Transport crossed the centerline of a bridge at approximately 4 a.m.

A windshield-mounted Bendix AutoVue camera system detected the lane departure and instantaneously shared event data with an in-vehicle SmartRecorder device from SmartDrive.

The SmartRecorder captured and transmitted a 20-second video clip of the event to Oakley Transport for review using the SmartIQ web portal from SmartDrive.

“It was a scary moment to watch,” recalls Craig Stevens, Oakley’s vice president of operations and strategic initiatives. He saw the driver shaking himself to stay alert.

After the technology identified the fatigued driver, Oakley Transport’s safety department intervened and provided treatment for what had been a previously undiagnosed sleep apnea.

Fatigue is one of many risky driving behaviors that can be detected using advanced technology. New developments are leading to a convergence of driver-assist technologies and safety data to identify more complex patterns of risk that traditionally have been hidden from view.

Breaking down the technical and competitive barriers of safety technology has made it possible for fleets to more effectively mitigate risks by having more comprehensive and real-time management of vehicle and driver performance.

A single subscription

One of the forces driving technology convergence is the prevalence of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). Eventually, ADAS technology will power autonomous trucks, but in the meantime they are expanding the possibilities to mitigate risks.

Today, fleets may be cobbling together data from multiple ADAS technologies and Internet of Things devices and sensors. For example, a telematics system may report speeding and sudden braking events while a separate video event recorder is used to identify more complex behaviors that triggered the events like fatigue and distraction.

SmartDrive’s latest SR4 platform has expanded possibilities for data integration for reducing costs and giving fleets a “single source of truth” for driver and vehicle performance, says Steve Mitgang, SmartDrive’s chief executive.

Oakley Transport, based in Lake Wales, Fla., is installing the SR4 in its 500-truck fleet.

Oakley Transport orders its Volvo trucks with Bendix AutoVue lane departure warning and Bendix Wingman Fusion systems installed at the factory. The Wingman Fusion system combines adaptive cruise control with active braking and collision mitigation technologies.

The Bendix ADAS systems integrate with the SmartDrive platform to trigger capture of video records based on lane departures and following distances.

Kelly McDowell, Oakley’s director of safety and compliance, says everything managers want to know about driver behaviors and risk is available through the SmartDrive program, which brings data together into “one package to measure safety.”

Vehicle integrators

Truck manufacturers are helping drive the integration of ADAS technology with telematics, video and other safety technologies with connected vehicle platforms.

In 2013, Navistar began using data from telematics systems that its fleet customers were already using to power its remote diagnostics and predictive maintenance service, OnCommand Connection.

In 2017, Navistar launched its own aftermarket telematics hardware and software platform under the same name, OnCommand Connection, with fleet management and ELD applications.

Starting this year, Navistar will be installing OnCommand Connection in all International Trucks at the factory. The technology will serve as an integration hub for ADAS and other connected vehicle technologies that its customers use.

“We have been successful for a long time pulling data from different trucks into one screen. Most fleets don’t own one truck (brand) so we do not have any reason to not continue the same strategy,” says Terry Kline, Navistar’s senior vice president and chief information officer.

By integrating with ADAS systems on a vehicle, Kline can “easily see a future” where OnCommand Connection will alert fleets if a driver has a lane departure event caused by fatigued or distracted driving “so that someone can intervene.”

OnCommand Connection will be able to capture video and data from ADAS and camera systems on vehicles, he adds, and give users to event data and footage through an online portal.

“We view OnCommand Connection as the connection to the vehicle for those data points on safety, lane departure and collision avoidance,” he says.

Bringing it together

With an ever-increasing amount of information that is available on driver safety and performance, it has become difficult for a single vendor to supply everything through a single subscription package.

Some vendors have decided to instead focus on their core strengths, which may be to package information from a multitude of sources for fleet managers and drivers to modify behaviors.

Fleet mobility provider PeopleNet, for instance, continues adding more sources of information to its Onboard Event Recorder (OER) application. OER captures data from the vehicle and various ADAS sensors when critical events occur like speeding or sudden deceleration.

PeopleNet’s Video Intelligence product adds video footage to OER events from cameras around the vehicle. The data it captures on driver safety also includes hours-of-service and driving habits and brings everything together into a net score. The scores are managed using an online Safety Analytics dashboard.

Samsara, an enterprise IoT systems company, offers what it describes as “a complete data platform” for transportation operations that combines real-time GPS tracking, wireless sensors, video, and mobile applications.

The platform flags harsh events as they take place for fleet managers to review the footage from those incidents. Samsara doesn’t employ people to review the footage to make risk observations, which helps to keep costs down and gives fleets immediate access to data and video records, says Saleh ElHattab, product manager at Samsara.

Samsara is developing new machine vision technologies that will automatically identify risky behaviors, like distraction, that contribute to critical safety events, he says. Fleet safety scores are shown to drivers via the Samsara Driver App.

Mix Telematics is “always looking for different data streams to integrate with,” says Pete Allen, chief client officer. The company offers an integrated camera for its telematics platform and has integrations with Mobileye’s forward collision warning system and Seeing Machines’ fatigue detection system.

Alerts from the Mobileye and Seeing Machines systems can be part of MiX Telematics’ data stream, he says, to identify correlations with driver behaviors caught on camera such as distractions.

“Driver behaviors are precursors to other events happening,” he says.

Teletrac Navman is in the process of deploying a forward-facing camera for its telematics system, Teletrac Navman Director. The system will record video footage when triggered by behaviors such as harsh driving and speeding, says Marco Encinas, marketing and product manager of global platforms.

The company is also working on next-generation cameras to incorporate a 360-degree view around the vehicle to detect risky driving behaviors and event records.

As a mobile workforce platform, Verizon Connect has not introduced a camera. Instead, the company integrates with a number of third-party camera systems.

Verizon Connect is focused on creating value for its customers through scorecards rather than adding more IoT devices. The platform comes with a built-in driver scorecard that can utilize event data, such as lane departures, from third-party systems.

Verizon Connect also offers a Coach mobile app that shows drivers how their performance compares to their peers, says Mark Wallin, vice president of product.

Machine learning

As motor carriers continue to adopt ADAS and other forms of safety technology, some companies are using artificial intelligence to detect new patterns of risky behaviors as the volume of data increases.

SmartDrive is using data it captures from OEM and third-party systems to continuously develop and refine driver-assist sensors and machine learning algorithms that detect risk patterns. The company will soon release sensors that can alert drivers, assess behaviors and trigger the capture of event data and video for lane departures, short following distances, forward collision warnings, posted speed detection, traffic signs and signal violations.

Lytx, whose DriveCam program is used by more 3,000 fleets with 500,000 vehicles, is using artificial intelligence to mine its large database and develop new machine vision technologies that will help its customers better understand and predict risk in driving and non-driving events.

Lytx is adding approximately 1 billion of driving miles to its database every two weeks. The scale of data makes it possible to automatically recognize more patterns in unique data sets, says Brandon Nixon, chief executive officer.

“As long as you have unique data sets, you can train (machine vision) to recognize almost anything,” he says.

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Technology Investments Driving Change in Transportation

Technology has become a driving force behind just about everything these days, and that includes that transportation industry. While technology is often viewed by many as disruptive, it is also necessary to grow in an ever-changing environment.

Daniel P. Bearth of Transport Topics writes:

The combination of technology and innovation is changing the business of transportation and logistics in ways that are both potentially disruptive and critical to improving existing processes.

And the changes are coming from inside and outside of the industry.

XPO Logistics, which rode a string of high-profile acquisitions to become the largest third-party logistics company in North America in 2017, is investing $450 million in technology, and CEO Bradley Jacobs said he sees it as the key to maintaining the company’s position in the market.

“The logistics space is wide open for the development of exciting technologies,” Jacobs recently told investment analysts. “We view our technology as being critical to continuously improving customer service, controlling our costs and leveraging our scale.”

At the same time, investors are pouring money into startups and groundbreaking new technologies that have the potential to radically alter the landscape of the industry.

Firms such as Uber Technologies, Alphabet’s Waymo and Tesla Inc. are pushing the frontiers of self-driving vehicles, for example, while global players such as Deutsche Post DHL and UPS Inc. are testing the use of robots as part of a move to automate warehousing and distribution activities.

Since 2013, investors have poured $14.4 billion into equity financing for new companies in the transportation, logistics and supply chain management sectors, according to data from CB Insights, a New York-based research firm that specializes in tracking investment in technology and new business startups.

In Chattanooga, Tenn., a group of local business executives have teamed up to provide seed capital and mentoring for entrepreneurs with ideas for improving the business of transportation and logistics.

So far, logistics venture fund Dynamo has funded 13 companies, including Steam Logistics, which provides ocean and airfreight forwarding. Another Chattanooga-based fund, Lamp Post Group, has funded Bellhops, Bellhops, an Uber-like on-demand moving company, and Reliance Partners, an insurance brokerage firm.

One of the first beneficiaries of Dynamo’s investment is 20-year-old Jacob Boudreau, who ran a web marketing business while still in high school in Atlanta and who now with his partner, 21-year-old Sean Henry, heads up a company called Stord that helps warehouse operators market underutilized space.

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Blockchain Technology Could Impact the Transportation Industry

Although blockchain technology was initially built for the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, it could make its way into the transportation industry for good. Some people feel that it may actually bridge the gap for companies using different operating systems.

Roger Gilroy of Transport Topics writes:

Freight contracts, document transfers, food safety, driver security, parts management and asset tracking are among the many elements of the trucking business that could become easier and more secure through new applications built around the shared digital ledger called blockchain.

The blockchain concept originally was developed to support the digital currency Bitcoin, but technology experts are exploring a whole universe of possibilities to apply it to other industries, including transportation.

Trucking fleets, transportation software companies and other industry players are studying blockchain, testing it and anticipating it could reach a tipping point within two years.

“If you are looking for some kind of immutable, secure, trackable, incorruptible data, then that is what you need blockchain for,” said Ken Craig, vice president of special projects at McLeod Software. “It is going to have a lot of uses in the trucking industry where those types of applications and functions are needed.”

Simply put, Craig said, blockchain provides another aspect of interoperability and visibility within the supply chain, much like electronic data interchange, application programming interfaces or web services.

However, blockchain without its own truly interoperable standards will develop into nothing more than a new process that mimics the difficulties surrounding the use of EDI, he said.

“We have programmers today [at McLeod] that work on nothing but developing new and very proprietary ‘standard’ EDI transaction sets dictated by various shippers,” Craig said.

The push for standards comes as some companies already have forged ahead with their own blockchain applications.

“Two years ago, I was a centralized database kind of guy, looking at big-data warehouses, and I didn’t see the value of blockchain, at first,” said Tim Leonard, chief technology officer at TMW Systems.

Fast forward to now. TMW has 54 separate blockchain applications, he said. Among those are ones covering truckload, less-than-truckload and dedicated activities.

Leonard described blockchain as “the big visibility,” with the contract information, lanes and proof of delivery all contained within the digital contract itself. “And it is a living, breathing ledger, which means it is constantly going back to the transportation management systems, for updates to itself,” he said.

In August, a consortium was launched to develop blockchain standards for freight movements.

By November, it had changed its name to the Blockchain in Transport Alliance after starting out as the Blockchain in Trucking Alliance.

The change was requested by key members, said Craig Fuller, CEO of TransRisk and BiTA’s co-founder.

“Companies like UPS Inc., FedEx Corp., YRC, BNSF and C.H. Robinson do more in transport than trucking. It felt like the organization was well-positioned for cross-­industry collaboration, regardless of mode,” Fuller said.

He added: “We love that TMW [also a member of BiTA] is starting to develop appli­cations inside their ecosystem, but the world of transportation is massive and collaboration with competitive platforms is necessary for the technology to proliferate.”

BiTA said it has 160 member companies and saw applications for membership surge to more than 900 as of January.

North America’s largest truck manufacturer, Daimler Trucks North America, is considering applying for membership.

“Joining BiTA is a talking point, right now, for the company,” Lori Heino-Royer, DTNA’s director of business innovation, told Transport Topics.

DTNA plans a pilot test of blockchain internally in the first quarter, she said, “before we start moving into how do we work with outside suppliers and vendors or our carriers. But I would definitely say that we will make a progression on those fronts.”

There are elements of blockchain she likes and parts she questions.

On the positive side, blockchain could become an agnostic means of linking companies currently using different operating systems. This would reduce the widespread inefficiency in the trucking industry, she said.

“Whenever there is a physical movement and a financial transaction that occurs with that physical movement, it is right for blockchain,” Heino-Royer said.

However, blockchain’s latency, or the time it takes to get all of the verifications out there and understood, needs to improve, she said. “It’s not instantaneous.”

Also, blockchain’s immutability concerns her since entering information correctly 100% of the time is not what happens in the real world, she said.

Lastly, there is a private and a public key to every blockchain transaction to control access to the information.

“If the private key that your organization has gets damaged, that blockchain is then null. It is no longer verifiable. So what happens then? I haven’t seen a good solution that solves that,” Heino-Royer said.

In August, IBM announced a globally focused blockchain to collaborate on food safety with Dole, Driscoll’s, Golden State Foods, Kroger, McCormick & Co., McLane Co., Nestlé, Tyson Foods, Unilever and Walmart.

Steve Rogers, IBM’s vice president of supply chain for blockchain, said the emergence of blockchain will be supported by cloud computing, the use of remote servers hosted on the internet to store and process data in lieu of on-premises computer systems.

“The good thing about this new technology is that it is coming after the cloud revolution so people don’t have to worry about fitting up that huge data center with equipment that they then are going to buy lots of software and storage for and have huge IT departments to run that,” Rogers said. “Most blockchain-related services are going to be cloud-based so people can get into blockchain-related solutions much, much easier.”

Transflo, a unit of Pegasus TransTech, is actively studying how it wants to position itself with this technology, Chief Technology Officer Salem ­Elnahwy said.

Transflo provides document scanning and delivery services at truck stops and via its mobile app.

The company handles millions of documents and performs automatic recognition and identification of data on these documents, Elnahwy said, “so we are in a very good position to start with automating some of that data gathering and using blockchain to create a better digitized standard protocol communication across the whole supply chain.”

Another area with big potential for blockchain is improving yet simplifying security challenges with driver identification, particularly given the broader use of mobile apps and electronic logging devices across the industry.

“There is more to be thought through there, at least from the transport side,” Elnahwy said.

Penske Logistics sees blockchain potentially benefiting its customers that operate in the manufacturing, food and beverage sectors, the company said in a statement.

Penske pointed to the benefits of further digitizing and securing supply chain and logistics processes, improving order ac­curacy, tracking physical assets such as vehicles, trailers, trucks and containers, and securing freight bill pay and audit transactions across its freight brokerage and ded­icated carriage operations.

Polaris Transportation Group is one fleet that believes blockchain could provide a competitive advantage.

“In terms of operational precision, blockchain pivots the traditional ‘waiting for an order’ to a more proactive relationship where a customer request is anticipated as early as when the raw materials are sourced in another part of the world,” company President Dave Cox said in a statement.

The Toronto-based fleet said it is the largest privately held Canadian cross-border LTL carrier serving every U.S. ZIP code and Canadian postal code on a daily basis.

“When you think about the ­value of knowing what orders you’ll have to execute tomorrow today, for an LTL operator, it ­allows the system to flow in a ­totally different and better way,” Cox said.

Meanwhile, blockchain and its distributed ledger technology will be here much sooner than later, predicted Jack Legler, technical director of American Trucking Associations’ Technology & Maintenance Council.

“I think we will see distributed ledger technology find its way into the mainstream of contract transactions in our industry,” he said. “As a consequence, warranty and truck parts supply chain transactions will adopt blockchain-based systems once the cost-savings potential becomes more identifiable and distributed ledger technology is proven in reliability,” he said.

When that happens, it will be “like Carfax on steroids,” said Mauricio Paredes, vice president of business technology at transportation firm PS Logistics, a BiTA charter member.

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