Data Quality to Drive Successful Trucking Operations

In today’s reporting-driven world, quality data has become increasingly important to running a successful business. In the trucking industry, having quality data at your fingertips can help to anticipate and address problems before they happen. According to a recent article by FreightWaves, data can point out advanced maintenance notices, such as tire or sensor issues.

Vishnu Rajamanickam, staff writer for FreighWaves, writes:

Every trucking fleet exists to make money, and sustaining itself in the market requires managers to keep freight hauling competitive and to seek methods to lower operational and maintenance costs.

Over the years, managers of successful fleets have figured this out by giving driver benefits to keep churn rates low and by sending trucks to the maintenance garage anticipating a potential breakdown. However, with the proliferation of technology, fleets are now gravitating towards data analytics and machine learning that can help predict their maintenance needs, equipment failure, and even refine driver behavior to improve truck safety.

FreightWaves discussed these issues with Rebecca Grollman, data scientist at Bsquare, to understand how data can be leveraged – irrespective of the size of the data set. “Before we start out, it is important to see if the collected data is actually of high quality. If the quality is not good, there is not much that you can do, even if you have a lot of it. Quality of data is more important than quantity,” said Grollman.

It helps fleet managers to have a clear idea of the questions they want to answer before data collection begins. This is critical because truck fleets generate several data streams from everyday operations – be it from the trucks or the back office. The importance of figuring out the issues that matter and devising means to collect data specific to that cannot be overstated.

For instance, a trucking company might have thousands of data points on the exact colors and paint jobs of all the trucks in its fleet. However, all that will be worth nothing if the company ultimately wants to predict when its trucks will need to schedule a maintenance visit to the garage.

Grollman explained that with relevant historical data, company management can look at predictive analytics and root-cause analysis – helping them pinpoint where their equipment failures originate and follow it up with measures that will stem such future scenarios.

For companies that are just a few months into their operations, data analytics might be a hard sell, as they lack historical data to drive meaningful insights. However, Grollman insisted that such companies can look towards anomaly detection, as its prerequisite does not include substantial data sets.

“Even if you have only been collecting data for a few months, it should be enough to gain insights on normal operating parameters. It helps with understanding what to expect with the data that you’re collecting on a daily or monthly basis,” said Grollman. “You may be able to see some trends and seasonality using anomaly detection. You can start to pick out different anomalies in your data and even make correlations to things that those anomalies indicate.”

For instance, data can point out a spike in tire pressure. This could be because there is a problem with the tire, or perhaps one of the sensors on the truck is malfunctioning. These are anomalies and figuring out a way to work on them will help weed out operational issues. Over time, with a considerable amount of historical data, machine learning algorithms can be used to push decisions. If the insights are not well-defined at the start, it will help to keep iterating on the data until there is definitive meaning.

“Apart from collecting quality data, it is important to have domain expertise to make sense of the data. Companies should discuss the possibilities with a subject matter expert and understand the filters to use on the data, how data streams relate to each other, and what can be expected from them,” said Grollman.

“For example, there might be a number that comes up which indicates median tire pressure, but if I don’t have an idea on the reasonable number, it would be of no use. For small companies, being able to have this collaboration and understanding the data that they are collecting would actually make a big difference,” she said.

To read the article on FreightWaves, click here.

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Transportation Agencies Re-open After Partial Government Shutdown

According to a recent article by Transport Topics, the DOT furloughed 16,501 workers. The government will shut down again in about three weeks if a fair deal on boarder security does not come to fruition.

The truce between congressional Democrats and President Donald Trump on Jan. 25 halting the longest federal government shutdown in history meant more than 16,000 staffers at the U.S. Department of Transportation will no longer be furloughed.

DOT furloughed 16,501 staffers across its agencies. The Federal Aviation Administration, for instance, furloughed the highest number of staffers at 13,944 during the shutdown. The Maritime Administration furloughed the fewest at 274, according to the department’s “Plan for Appropriation Lapse” guidance, revised as of Jan. 11.

Employees at the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration were not furloughed, due primarily to a funding structure backed by the Highway Trust Fund. The federal account operates on revenue generated from the 24.4-cents-per-gallon diesel tax and 18.4-cents-per-gallon gas tax.

DOT did not comment on the effect the 35-day partial shutdown may have had on transportation agencies.

The National Transportation Safety Board, an independent agency, announced its employees had resumed normal operations and were planning a way forward to conduct the work halted during the shutdown. It indicated 367 employees out of 397 employees had been furloughed.

After Trump announced the truce from the Rose Garden, members of Congress reported to the Capitol. The agreement to reopen the government for three weeks included establishing a bipartisan conference committee of senior lawmakers to negotiate a compromise on Trump’s $5.7 billion request for a border wall. The president insisted repeatedly Mexico would fund his campaign promise, before turning to taxpayers.

“Over the next 21 days, I expect that both Democrats and Republicans will operate in good faith. This is an opportunity for all parties to work together for the benefit of our whole beautiful, wonderful nation,” Trump said. “If we make a fair deal, the American people will be proud of their government for proving that we can put country before party. We can show all Americans, and people all around the world, that both political parties are united when it comes to protecting our country and protecting our people.”

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney indicated Trump would be ready to again shut agencies down if negotiations do not prove fruitful for the administration.

“Everybody wants to look at this and say the president lost. We’re still in the middle of these negotiations. He just agreed to open the government while that was going on. So the president takes this deadly seriously,” Mulvaney said on “Face The Nation” on Jan. 27.

On “Meet The Press” on Jan. 27, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries of New York indicated his party would welcome an opportunity to collaborate with Republicans on “21st century” border security and other policies during the 116th Congress.

“We’ve said we’re going to fight hard for lower health care costs, to increase pay for everyday Americans, strengthen the Affordable Care Act, protect people with pre-existing conditions, enact a real infrastructure plan. We want to do that in a bipartisan way. Trillion-dollar infrastructure plan,” Jeffries noted. “We think it’ll create 16 million good-paying jobs. Republicans, Democrats, even the president has supported the notion that we’ve got to fix our broken infrastructure.”

Assessing the shutdown’s economic impact, the Congressional Budget Office announced that the gross domestic product was reduced by $3 billion in the fourth quarter of 2018 “in relation to what it would have been otherwise,” while GDP is estimated to be $8 billion lower in the first quarter of 2019.

“In subsequent quarters, GDP will be temporarily higher than it would have been in the absence of a shutdown,” according to CBO.

National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow took issue with CBO’s assessment. Briefing reporters at the White House on Jan. 28, he said, “We frequently disagree with CBO.”

“I won’t acknowledge any of that right now. And, you know, in a $20 trillion economy, it’s awfully hard to make even the best guesstimates of those kinds of small fractions of numbers.”

To read the article on Transport Topics, click here.

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